Housing House Wrens

Last fall I bought a lovely gourd from a local farm, to decorate my doorstep. By mistake, I left it out all winter, and come spring it was hard and dry. So I googled “How to make a bird house”, landed on https://www.thespruce.com/gourd-bird-houses-4070291 , and this was the result (my son drilled the big 1 1/4″ inch hole, I did the rest!). I hung it from some bushes near my vegetable garden, where I could see it, and waited.

As you can see, to my delight a pair of House Wrens, Troglodytes aedon, moved in, and this is their story. As you enjoy these photos, remember that the nest-hole is only 1 1/4 inch in diameter !

It was quickly clear there were young inside, and both adults came every few minutes with food.

They brought a huge range of delicacies. A bright orange grub or pupa:

a grasshopper:

which fought an unsuccessful rearguard action:


a rather large spider:

(They brought two of these in quick succession!).

Also moths:

some of which were the awful Spongy Moth, of which see my footnote!

bright green caterpillars

and other things I can’t identify:

On one occasion she excelled herself by bringing in two bugs in a single delivery, albeit rather small ones:

After handing over the food, the parent usually went back into the nest for a diaper (nappy!) change. Baby birds’ excretions come packaged in a convenient membrane called a fecal sac (oh, how I wish human babies had the same tradition) and the adult just picks it up and carries it off:

They had a sort of musical routine. They flew in to the clump of bushes, and made a call. Then they moved to a closer branch and called again. Sometimes it took more than one of these rest-stops, but eventually they moved to the branch the nest was hanging from, and called again. and then they launched themselves, landed very briefly on the tiny perch I had thoughtfully provided for them, and then leant in and proffered the morsel.

The “perch-to-mouth” time frame was usually only a second, unless the prey fought back.

For most of the time I was watching the nest, the actual young were invisible, deep inside their appropriately womb-like gourd. But one day they peeked out:

There were in fact three, glimpsed but not photographed. They got braver:

and braver:

and braver

Until one morning I photographed this one gripping the edge of the nest, poised to conquer the world:

I left for two hours, and when I came back, they were gone, launched, fledged. Well done those parents.

PS House Wrens are really tiny, and very successful. Adults weigh about 10 to 12 g (0.35 to 0.42 oz). are 11 to 13 cm (4.3 to 5.1 in) long, with a 15 cm (5.9 in) wingspan.  They are found the full length of the Americas, from Canada to southernmost South America, and are the most widely distributed native bird in the Americas

PPS One of their catches was a Spongy Moth, Lymantria dispar, and I cheered. Formerly known as Gypsy Moth, they came from Europe, and they erupt in locust-like infestations that last several years. Right now they are stripping our trees down to skeletons. Much as I love nature, they are stretching the limits of my tolerance. If you can bear to read about them, here you are https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymantria_dispar_dispar

8 thoughts on “Housing House Wrens”

  1. Could we have a blog about wrens both sides of the pond developing in similar ways? You know our here are troglodytes troglodytes. Love the gourd.
    Heat gone but need rain. Xxx


  2. Great sequence. When I was growing up in New York, my father would hang out several hand-crafted bird houses in our large backyard. Every year, two more more would have wren families, and some pairs would actually raise two in the season. There were often 4-6 young raised! In the fall we would open the houses (if you knew my father you would appreciate the fact that removing two screws let the bottom fall out, simple to clean and reassemble).


  3. This is such a wonderful bird story. All your photos are great. Did you sit in a chair with a zoom lens? Watering at a neighbor’s, there was a noisy wren…she/he seemed very annoyed with me. Yes, there was a bird house hanging in the tree, where I was watering. I thought the bird was getting used to me, but on day 6, my neck was dive bombed 3 times. I have an almost identical gourd to yours. It should be put to better use.


  4. I put up a chair and a tripod and sat there clicking away. This is a first for me: all my previous photos are taken handheld, because very few animals stay in one place, but a nest is different. Also the House Wrens were very tolerant of my presence, so for the first 2 or 3 days I’d move the chair closer in the evening, so when they woke up next morning it was nearer than before, but familiar. It worked! Oh, and because they flew in, perched nearby, and made a distinctive call, I started photographing before they came into my shot, in the hope of capturing one in mid-air carrying food, and it worked. Of course, I deleted a large number of photos of empty space too.


  5. This project brings a huge smile to my face! All the different foods that are brought to their babies. Having a feeder, filled with yummy bird food, suction cupped to the kitchen sink window & suet inches away, has given me a wonderful front row seat to many birds. And communicating with them.


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