I had no idea what a house wren was until Conall caught a baby wren in the yard two years ago, spitting it out unharmed. That’s when I noticed an upset adult wren on the other side of the fence, in the wildflower garden. Wrens were using a small hole in the siding of my house (left after I disconnected a propane generator in 2006, soon after moving in ). They’ve returned every year since. Clearly this has become their annual summer home.
I blogged about my Conall and the fledgling here.
I like that the wrens return to this nest every year. This spring I first noticed the parents flying about the lupine and columbine in my wildflower garden. Later, they chittered at me when I was taking photos and video of the bumblebees before disappearing into their home inside the siding of my home. That’s when I knew they had chicks to protect.
This year I discovered that the adult wrens doing a great imitation of killdeer birds. Killdeer fake an injury (a bad wing, which they drag along the ground in dramatic fashion) while running on the ground, hoping to get a potential nest raider to find them an attractive target and follow them away from their nest. The house wren parents do something similar when they see me, flying from the wildflowers near the nest and landing on the concrete walkway, making themselves obvious and appearing vulnerable, chirping up a storm to ensure I notice them. As I get closer they fly and land again a few feet away, a bit farther from the nest, begging me to follow, repeating this until I’m past their nest, then flying away.
When you’re that small compared to your adversary (me), distraction is probably your best defense.
On the evening of June 23rd I was on dog bomb patrol (the daily chore of shoveling the boys’ poop from the yard over the fence into the field) when I saw a tiny bird fly out of some daisies growing against the house on the dog side of the yard fence. It landed on the wire of the yard fence a couple feet away. It was quickly followed by a second tiny bird. Recognizing them as house wren fledglings from my experience in this very spot two years ago – remembering instantly how Conall found a fledgling in this very spot and caught it in his mouth – I went to retrieve my phone for photos/video. I was pleasantly surprised to see they were where I left them when I returned. (Conall followed me. You can hear his panting in the videos.)
House wren fledglings are either remarkably fearless, letting me get quite close, or they think their best defense is to remain in place because their flying skills are still rough and they’ve never ventured far from the nest. Hard to tell. But one of their parents was nearby in the lupine as I was moving in for a video closeup, making a lot of noise. Probably screaming like any protective parent, “Come here right now! Get away from that human and those dogs!”
A bit later, I came around that side of the house again and saw three fledglings on the fence.
It’s clear this area of fence and yard/garden, close to their nest, has become their proving ground. Can they fly? Can they avoid danger? They’re still under instruction and supervision, getting stronger every day. The amount of bird poop on the wire attests to the time they spend there. It appears they’re on their way to a successful adulthood.
Some information about house wrens:
Paraphrasing from Birds of Idaho – Field Guide by Stan Tekiela: A small all-brown bird with lighter brown markings on tail and wings. Slightly curved brown bill. Often holds its tail erect. They summer all over Idaho, migrating to southern states and Mexico in winter. Female and male line just about any nest cavity; two broods per year. Female and male both incubate and feed young. They eat insects.
And quoting Stan, “A prolific songster, it will sing from dawn until dusk during the mating season. …In spring, the male chooses several prospective nesting cavities and places a few small twigs in each. Female inspects each, chooses one, and finishes the nest building. She will completely fill the next cavity with uniformly small twigs, then line a small depression at the back of cavity with pine needles and grass. Often has trouble fitting long twigs through next cavity hole. Tries many different directions and approaches until successful.”
From the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum’s website Journey North, a list of places house wrens have been known to nest:
empty cow skulls
abandoned hornet nests
deserted swallow nests
nozzle of a pump
iron pipe railing
holes in a wall
axle of an automobile that was driven every day
Such a versatile and enterprising bird!
If you’re into taxonomy, for the house wren:
Class: Aves (bird)
Order: Passeriformes (perching bird)
Family: Troglodytidae (from the Greek words for those who enter a cave or hole)
Genus: Troglodytes (Troglodytes are reclusive mythical people who live in caves or holes.)
Species: aedon (Aedon in Greek mythology was the Queen of Thebes, whom Zeus changed into a nightingale.)
House wrens are troglodytes! With a connection to Greek mythology! How cool is that?
One banded house wren lived to be nine years old. I like to think this particular pair will keep returning to their nest in the side of my house, producing broods, for years to come. And their progeny will continue after they’re gone.
I hope so. I enjoy having them around.