Monday, August 3, 2009
In the Garden.... House Wrens
By Catherine Dougherty
Sometimes it is delightful to see August arrive for now is the time to venture out and look for the darling House Wren who has possibly made her nest in some odd place nearby. They come here in the spring with the male signaling his arrival with an almost incessant stream of burbles, warbles, buzzes and rattling churrs. Native Americans called this bird o-du-na-mis-sug-ud-da-we-shi, meaning ‘making a big noise for its size’. They are considered a songbird even though their wonderful song is heard only during the nesting season and rarely afterwards. Since the diet of the House Wren consists almost entirely of insects, spiders, snails, flies, ticks, plant lice, gypsy moth larvae, ants, bees, beetles, and grasshoppers they are a valuable asset to the gardener for natural control of pests.
As indicated by their common name, they are intensely interested in humans and often nest where they receive attention. They will make a cup sized nest of various materials including string and pieces of plastic and sit on three to seven creamy white eggs. They famously choose unusual sites for their nests, including door wreaths, lamp posts, garage shelving, and even old shoes. Both parents will raise their young and the family will leave here for winter quarters in Mexico by early October.
Small and overly confident, the brown House Wren is extremely territorial and will make efforts to destroy the nest of competitive birds. It is said they will occasionally destroy the eggs of other birds by breaking the egg shell. They have also been known to vandalize the cavity of other bird nests by placing sharp sticks in them therefore rendering them unusable. To encourage this valuable little bird to nest in your garden, boxes with a hole small enough to prevent competitive cavity nesters is an option.
When their sociable behavior is added to their abilities to control pests, it is no wonder this dear little bird is among the all time American favorites. The photo, taken by John Dougherty Monday evening, shows the little Wren nesting in his porch plant! Adorable!