Sunday, April 20, 2014

Carolina Wren Nesting

 It's rare when we see a Carolina Wren but last winter I noticed one a few times. She was interested in the other birds at our suet but I don't think I ever saw her move closer than the trunk of the maple tree.
 A Carolina is unmistakable with that vivid white line above and behind her eyes. She's also of a reddish-brown that is different from the other birds, particularly when viewed in direct sunlight.
 I'd see her every now and then and then I'd go long periods without noticing her.
 Now, though, I find she is nesting in a hollowed-our birdhouse gourd we have hung from a nail on the brick wall of the garage.

 Can you see her sitting on her clutch of eggs though the small opening? When she is not there (she flies away if I forget and pass too close to the nest) I see a clutch of off-white eggs, speckled with brown. There are perhaps five.
 She's chosen a bad spot. I pass the nest whenever I walk to the garden. Our sidewalk passes right beside the nest. It is, perhaps, five feet off the ground. Above her is the ample overhang of the garage, offering good protection from storms. Also the nest is on the east side of the garage.
 Here's a closer view of her sitting on her nest:

 She is buried down in the moss. It's a wonder she can get in and out of the nest with ease. I see debris spilling from the opening so perhaps she is not as good at it as I'd hope.
 It'll be fun watching the young hatch and fledge. I'm going to have to stay away as much as possible until that happens.

Later: The eggs are hatching on April 30. "Carol" is being assisted by the father, carrying food to the nest.

May 1: Carol and her mate - we'll call him Carl - have been making feeding trips to the nest. I only saw one baby bird when I looked in yesterday but I'd guess all five will be hatched within the day. When I got ready to have lunch, I stood at the back door with my camera in hand. It took perhaps five minutes before one of the birds came with a beak-full of something.

May 1

May 5: Though I don't see Mama making as many feeding trips as I'd have expected, when she is gone I'm able to walk up to the nest and see the babies squirming. They have grown from jelly bean size to real honest-to-goodness miniature birds. They are balls of gray fluff. Most prominent is their eyes (not open, at least not when I'm looking at them) and wide mouths. Here's a view from a couple of feet away ...

 ... and then in for a closer look ...

May 6:

May 9: I noticed the babies (I now see four) have their eyes open this morning. Now that they can see me, they seem much more afraid. So I won't be bothering them much with a camera. But I had my camera with me this morning, though, and used the opportunity for this shot. Look how much they've changed in a mere three days ...

 While I was working in the yard, digging dandelions, and not far from the nest, I saw an egg shell had been discarded there. There is no bird inside, only a little bit of yellow yolk, so I suppose this is the shell from one of the surviving babies. Mama probably dumped the shell there. This is indeed a Carolina Wren egg and I know of no other nearby nests.

May 13: This morning when I walked to the garden the baby birds were alert and active. By noon they were gone, fledged while we weren't looking! So, 23 days start to finish.

Later: June 28, 2014: Carol's back. I saw her flying from this same nest about a week ago. During the past week I've watched as one egg became five. So she's beginning to sit on a second brood. Here's a shot I took this morning ...

July 8, 2014: This morning I saw that the first of this clutch of eggs had hatched. This afternoon (2 pm) I noticed that all five appear to have hatched. Carol's sitting most of the time but leaves regularly for short breaks.

July 12, 2014: Carol has been busy feeding the brood, often already making rounds before I get up. This morning I walked to the garden with compost at about 7:15 am and she had already left the nest. Later, I saw where she stopped at our concrete bench to rest. That's when I took this shot.

July 13, 2014: While Mama was away I managed to get a shot of two of the babies (these hogs dominate the front of the nest, the perfect spot to grab the next meal from). I see that the one is just now beginning to open his eyes. What big mouths they have ...

July 14, 2014: This evening, as thunderstorms began to arrive from the northwest, the little Carolina Wren sat on the back of a wooden chair on our back porch and just sang her little heart out. Such a songstress. It is a simple trill, repeated endlessly. The next morning she repeated the performance from the same spot. Mom thinks she's calling for the babies to leave the nest. They are no more than ten feet away from her singing spot. The babies seem fully-formed and feathered and they are packed into the tiny gourd like sardines in a can. Mama doesn't have room any longer for herself. So what else is there to do but sing, hope they'll take the clue and join her in the wide wild world?

July 18, 2014: Carol has been trying for days to get the babies out of the nest. Every time I walk by, their sound asleep. Easy life! She'll perch on the chair or the concrete bench near the nest and just sing and sing. Today she's taken to the maple above the nest. She seems quite nervous. "Why won't they fledge?" she seems to be singing. Here's how she sounds:

July 21, 2014: The babies fledged this morning. When I walked to the garden compost pile at 7:30 am they were still in the nest. When we came home from a walk in the late morning, they were all gone. It's been three weeks from start to finish this time. So, 21 days this time; 23 the time before.
 Thus ends the Carolina Wren story for this year. It's certainly too late for a third brood, isn't it?


  1. How exciting!
    Surprising the mom opted to something that was not completely stationary!?! Anyway, neat photos and hope to see more.
    Going to be a fun month ahead to see the progress :)

  2. I truly enjoyed this story! I actually had no idea birds had more than one brood in a season. Wonderful photos, especially the final of Carol. Job well done! Thanks for sharing this adventure
    Question: did you ever hear her sing?