Yvonne has been photographing and studying birds for 40+ years. She maintains bird and butterfly gardens in her Louisiana backyard habitat.
Carolina Wrens: The Farmer's Friend
Carolina Wrens will build a nest in just about any cavity, natural or man-made. They are perky, little cinnamon-brown birds with a loud voice and eat thousands of insects each year. They can be found in the North, but do better where winters are not so cold.
Pairs mate for life and will usually remain together all year long. They can raise as many as four broods a year here in Louisiana. When they are raising young, more insects are devoured. Unlike their cousin the House Wren, they get along well with other cavity-nesting birds like Bluebirds, Prothonotary Warblers, and others.
We've taken many pictures of the adult wrens as well as their nests and babies. This page is about their nesting habits, their young, and their value to the gardener or anyone who raises their own food.
Quirky Nesting Sites of Carolina Wrens
Building Nests in Unusual Places
Next to Prothonotary Warblers, Carolina Wrens should get the prize for creative choices in nesting sites. They can make any cavity work and have been known to nest in everything from motorcycle and bicycle helmets to the vents of boats and everywhere in between.
Of course, they will nest in normal places like birdhouses and tree cavities, but they seem to prefer places around buildings, homes, and other man-made structures.
Here's a quick list of some of the odd places that we know of:
Potting bench shelf
Open eaves of a house
Spare tire on the back of the van
Roll of carpet in the outbuilding
The pocket of clothes hanging on the line
Topsy turvy tomato planter
Large tin cans in a garage
Vents on a boat
Nesting in a Potted Plant
Eggs, Babies, and Fledglings
The male wren builds many "dummy" nests in different places in the pair's territory. The female inspects each and chooses one and finishes it. She lays 4–7 brown, speckled eggs in the dome-shaped nest. She incubates the eggs for 12 to 16 days.
When the chicks hatch, they have no feathers, only a little fuzz and are blind and helpless. They grow quickly because both parents take care of the young, making hundreds of trips back and forth to the nest bringing tasty insects.
When the babies are 12 to 14 days old, they leave the nest. The parents still feed them, but within 2 weeks, the pair has normally started building another nest.
Read More From Pethelpful
About Insectivores and a DIY Suet Recipe
Unlike the Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wrens don't have bright, striking coloration. Both males and females are a pretty cinnamon-brown with a buffy underside. What they lack in looks they make up for in insect-eating ability. They eat primarily members of the Hymenoptera family which includes sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants. I've also seen them eat crickets and grasshoppers.
They enjoy suet all year round, but especially in the winter and early spring. Down here where it is hot and humid, we make a "no drip" suet from equal parts of wet ingredients and dry.
"No Drip" Suet Recipe
- 2 cups animal lard
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1 cup oatmeal
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 wheat germ or shelled sunflower seeds
- Mix it all together and press into a pan lined with wax paper.
- Put it in the refrigerator or freezer to harden some.
- Cut into blocks to fit your feeder. The rest can be stored wrapped in the wax paper in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.
Both the male and the female feed the young. Most male wrens are excellent fathers. I have observed a male singing in the Mimosa tree after bringing food to the nest. When insects are in short supply, the parents often feed the young suet.
Songs and Calls of the Carolina Wren
You usually know when the Carolina Wrens are in the area. The males love to sing, and the females are constantly vocalizing. For their size, Carolina Wrens can sing exceptionally loud. If you weren't watching this small, brown bird sing, you wouldn't believe that the blasting song could have come from him.
They are also one of the first birds to send up the alarm when a predator is in the area. Then they will keep fussing even after all the other birds have gathered around.
More About Nesting Birds
- The Cardinal's Nest
Every bird watcher and most children recognize the male Northern Cardinal, a Christmas symbol, but many people know nothing about its nesting and courtship
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: We had a Carolina Wren nest in our outdoor recycling bin. There were five eggs, four of the babies have flown away. The fifth baby died yesterday, I think the parents keep returning and calling for it. When will these Carolina Wrens stop returning for the baby?
Answer: The parents will stop returning soon. Four out of five fledglings is wonderful. The last one was probably the youngest and smallest. The mother starts incubation when the next to last egg is laid.
Question: One of the breeding pair of wrens was killed by a cat. It’s knocked down the best also. ( motorcycle helmet) we put the nest back up and spotted one parent sat watching us. We are hoping that it still comes back and can takes care of the babies. Will it abandon the nest since it’s mate was killed?
Answer: If the cat is still a problem then the remaining parent may abandon the nest. If not, then there is a good chance that it will continue to feed the young.
Question: Once Carolina Wren babies begin learning how to fly, will they return to the nest?
Answer: No, the babies will not return to the nest once they learn to fly. They will follow their parents (usually the male for the first two broods) around learning how to find food and keep away from predators.
Question: I have 4 baby Wren in a pail in my garage. They are around 7 days old. We have not seen the mother in a day and a half. Is this normal?
Answer: These wrens can scoot in and out of the nest quickly especially when feeding young. It's not uncommon to miss seeing the adults.
Question: There has been no mamma or papa all day with 4 babies in the nest. Will the parent Carolina Wrens come back to take care of the chicks?
Answer: With four mouths to feed, the parents have to move quickly. It's easy to miss them as the feed and fly to find more food.
Question: There is a Carolina Wren nest next to my window air conditioner. Will they be okay if I turn it on?
Answer: I had a pair of wrens build a nest and raise babies by a window unit, but we only used it during emergencies like hurricanes. If that's your only source of cool air, then use it. If the hot air doesn't blow out on the nest they should be okay.
Question: My little wrens have left the nest and are foraging around in some bushes by my yard. I went to look in the nest and found one out or four dead. Is that normal? Do they leave early if one dies?
Answer: The young leave the nest when they are mature enough to survive. The dead one was probably the youngest/ smallest baby and was not strong enough to survive. This is normal.
Question: Do Carolina Wren parents remove the waste product of the babies?
Answer: Yes, parents remove the "poop sac" of the young after they bring food. They dump it far away from the nesting site.
Question: Why would a pair of Carolina wrens abandon a nest with two healthy chicks in it? Two days ago they were feeding the chicks and have not done so since. The Chicks are still alive.
Answer: Something could have happened to one or both of the parents. If the chicks are healthy, that is the only reason I can think of for them to suddenly stop feeding them.
Question: I believe that the two baby Carolina Wrens in our nest, who were alive just yesterday, or at least one of them was, are now both dead. The mother and father keep coming to the nest box and looking in, but never have food, so they must know the babies are dead. What should I do?
Answer: The parents will probably build another nest somewhere else and try again. Many things can cause death in young chicks: cool weather, ants, house sparrows, poison on the insects the parents brought, and snakes. It's also best not to check a nest too often. You could remove the little dead bodies and check the box for ants or other problems.
Question: One of the pair of Carolina Wrens died. Will the other one seek a new mate?
Answer: Carolina wrens mate for life, but if the surviving one is healthy he/she will probably seek a new mate.
Question: We had 3 baby wrens in a nest and today they all left and were hopping around the backyard and learning to fly. I left for a few hours and 2 of the 3 are dead! They just looked like they fell over and died. I don’t understand what happened. They seemed fine and fluttering around when I left. What could make them just die? I hear the 3rd one cheaping with the mom answering. Nothing attacked the babies. Why?
Answer: That's a tough one. The only thing I can think of is that was some sort or toxin (herbicide, pesticide, etc) in the lawn and yard.
Question: There is one dead egg in my Carolina Wrens nest. Should I remove this dead Carolina Wren egg?
Answer: If the babies are still in the nest, let the parents take care of any eggs that didn't hatch. If the young have fledged, then the parents have finished with the nest. They often leave unhatched eggs in used nests.
Question: I keep finding the wren nest with 3 babies about a week old on the ground below the eaves it was built in. I have put it back twice today. The babies are alive and the parents return to feed each time. Any idea why this might be happening?
Answer: Perhaps it is not anchored well in the eaves or maybe a rodent of some kind is removing it.
Question: Carolina wrens built a nest in my nesting box but did not use it should I remove the nest?
Answer: They may still come back later and use it. The male builds many nests each season and the female chooses the ones to nest in. Carolina wrens can nest 3-4 times a season. I'd wait until fall to remove it, just in case.
Question: Will Carolina Wren babies know how to get out of my bbq or do I need to open it?
Answer: The parents found a way into the barbeque. They should show the babies how to get out.
Question: The Wren chicks left the nest in the last couple of days. The nest is in an active flower pot in my back yard. I need to add soil and fertilize. Should I leave the nest in place or remove it?
Answer: Now that the babies have fledged, you can add soil and fertilize the flower pot. Congratulations on a successful nesting.
Question: Will a Wren reuse the same nest again?
Answer: In my yard, they usually build a new nest each time. It's normally not far away from the first, though.
Question: Will Carolina Wrens return to a nest in a flower container with one egg that got rained in?
Answer: If there is only 1 egg, then the mother has not finished laying. She doesn't start brooding until the next to last egg is laid.
Question: I have watched daddy Carolina Wren bring food all week to momma sitting in a nest in my flower pot. I have not seen the daddy in almost two days, but mom is still there. Is it common for the dad to desert the mom?
Answer: Hopefully, he's still around, and perhaps he's visiting at different times or less frequently. Of course, there is always the possibility that he was killed or injured by a predator. The eggs should be hatching soon. If he is around you will be seeing a lot of both parents feeding the young.
Question: How do I tell if a baby Carolina wren is a boy or a girl?
Answer: I don't think a laymen can. The only way I can tell male and female adult Carolina wrens apart is that the male sings. They are identical in color.
Question: There is a nest in an old hanging pot on our patio. We noticed the wren pair a month or two ago and noticed the male bringing food for the last two weeks. We thought maybe he was bringing the female food while she sits on the eggs. Three days ago we heard babies and now today everyone is gone...the nest is empty. Is there a chance that they have moved their babies? I can't imagine that they were old enough to leave the nest, unless they hatched sooner than we thought and maybe they are quiet?
Answer: It sounds like they did hatch sooner than you thought. The male was bringing food to the young. The babies are very quiet for the first week.
Question: I mistook a Carolina Wren fledgling for a fallen baby bird on the ground and returned it to its nest. Unfortunately this was just after sunset. Will the parents return in the morning or have I ruined it’s chance of survival?
Answer: The parents probably watched you put the baby bird back. Hopefully the little family will be reunited.
Question: Yesterday, the last two baby wrens left the nest and were on my front porch. One then disappeared but the other stayed, calling the parents. The parents have always been very attentive, but they never came back. The wrens looked healthy although they had very short tails. Then the rains came. And I have worried ever since. Saw both parents today looking around the porch. Don't know why they are looking now, but ignored them yesterday. Is this unusual?
Answer: Every thing you describe is normal. All the young do not leave the nest at the same instant. The parents round the babies up and keep them together once they jump out. As the young birds get stronger you may see them chasing the parents around, begging for food.
Question: I have a Carolina Wren's nest on my deck, on a shelf, in an old candle holder lantern, next to my door. There are four maybe five fledglings in the nest, doing quite well. I have a cat and am concerned about when they start to try and fly. I keep the cat in the house during the day and let him out at night. I live in the country. Can I move the nest, how far, and will the parents continue to care for them?
Answer: If you move the nest the parents will probably abandon it. I would leave the cat inside day and night until the young leave the nest.
Question: I’ve found an egg just outside the nest completely intact can I put it back inside?
Answer: Yes, but don't be surprised if you find it outside the nest again.
Question: I have a small opening where my weather stripping is gone at the bottom of my garage door. Some wrens have built a nest on a shelf inside and the eggs have hatched. Do I need to keep one of my cars out of the garage? Should I or when should I leave the door open for them to be able to fly?
Answer: The parents don't seem to have trouble going in and out but as the young get close to fledging, cracking the garage door during the day will help.
Question: Can I move the Carolina Wren nest when the fledglings are one week old?
Answer: I wouldn't disturb the nest by moving it. The parents will probably abandon it and the young will die. It won't be long before they will leave the nest on their own. I would wait.
Question: There is a wren nest next to my front door. Three days after the eggs hatched, the nest is completely empty. Can Wren parents relocate hatchlings? or should I suspect something more sinister?
Answer: Definitely something more sinister... probably a predator got them.
Question: We have been outside near our porch where our Carolina wrens are nesting. I noticed there were egg shells below the nest. How long can the babies go without food?
Answer: The parents usually take the egg shells far away from the nest. It could be that the nest was preyed upon, especially if the parents are nowhere to be seen.
Question: There’s a nest in my garage with 2 chicks in it. I went on vacation and when I came back I heard chirping. This morning I checked and can see two chicks laying with eyes closed and not moving. The mother just came in and was singing for 6 minutes or so. Is it possible the birds are dead? Do baby chicks sleep a lot?
Answer: The dad was the one singing. They both feed the young. When the babies are small they sleep alot, but wake up when a parent comes with food.
Question: My house wrens were hatching yesterday and today they are all gone, what could have happened?
Answer: Sadly, it sounds like a predator of some kind ate the young.
Question: I have a wren nest in one of my potted plants on my deck. One of the eggs fell out of the nest into the plant. Can I pick it up and put it back in the nest?
Question: There is a wren nest in a flower pot on a rack right outside my front door. It had 5 eggs laid in it. I went out of town for the night and the whole flower rack was turned over and the flower pot with the nest was on the ground. One of the eggs cracked but other 4 seem fine. Will the parents keep tending to the other eggs?
Answer: You could try to put it back together, but it's possible that a cat or another predator knocked the nest over. The parents may be leery of using the nest in that location.
Question: What happens to the eggs of abandoned nests?
Answer: The eggs of abandoned nests will remain there until the nest falls apart or a predator eats them.
© 2011 Yvonne L. B.
Tell us about your Carolina Wren nests or just leave a comment.
D+D on August 22, 2020:
We have a Carolina Wren nest in wall planter. Four eggs laid, but looks like only two hatched about six days ago. Parents are feeding them....fun to watch them zoom back and forth with food for babies! Today, day six, we do hear slight chirping in the nest. You mentioned the loud song of the male during this period, but we have not heard any wren songs nearby. Could he be gone and only the female is feeding the babies? Last question...the nest has a strong, foul oder. Could the failed eggs be the reason? Have seem parents removing egg shells, but still the oder remains. Could one of the eggs have hatched, the chick died and the body is still in the nest with the two living babies? Thank you for your website! Very helpful and informative!!
Deb on August 22, 2020:
I have a baby wren that is not developing enough feathers to fly. He left the nest when mama came back. Had to put the nest in a large cardboard box. Been feeding him canned dog food w/egg yolk and milk. He's not eating much now. Has flapped his wings but barely lifts off. Will he eat suet if I put it in the box? Mama still comes back to visit him and brings bugs, but only once or twice a day. What do I do?
Michelle on August 18, 2020:
momma wren i see her feeding her 4 babies and she is usually in her nest with them all night but she isn't they are all alone. They do not have enough feathers to fly yet and typically she isn't bothered by us. They are about a week old
steve brittain on August 09, 2020:
We experienced a pair of Carolina Wrens nesting in z blue bird box we put up on a brick wall just outside our den. The reflection on the glass would not allow the pair to see us.
Nesting went well, we enjoyed watching the feeding cycles.
We will miss the birds when the babies leave the nest.
Meg on August 02, 2020:
4 babies in a nest (in flower box) but found a dead wren on the deck this morning :(
Hopefully other parent still around but we haven’t seen an adult visit the nest in about 30 mins or more Probably a week from fledging. Should we let nature take its course or try to help the babies?
Elizabeth on July 29, 2020:
I have a wren nest in a flower pot on my patio railing. There are 3 babies that are likely at least one week old (maybe older) and mom and dad are still bringing bugs regularly. Last night two of them hopped out of the pot. the first one was able to sort of flail away from me, but I put it back in the nest so dogs wouldn't get it. the second one landed on the ground and was barely moving. This morning I see one is laying outside of the nest in the plant. It is still breathing, but I'm wondering if that means it is hurt. What should I do?
Diane on July 26, 2020:
Mom seems to have her mouth open all the time. Found 2 babies dead under the terra cotta nest earlier and another one dead this afternoon. Whats happening. I feel so bad for the mourner.
Linda Gonzenbach on July 21, 2020:
Not sure if babies are alive, the parent’s keep going to the nest with food but when I looked in the nest no babies moved, nest is in my hanging plant on my house. Is it also ok to water plant, I only water one side to try not to get nest wet
Sara Rivera on July 11, 2020:
I have a Carolina wren nesting in a teapot I hung up in my gazebo. She started incubation 7 days ago but when the male visits she leaves with him then comes back to her eggs after about 30min, Is this normal behavior, especially since she started incubating her eggs a week ago?
Vergie Opdycke on July 08, 2020:
A wren nest in our flower pot has 3 eggs. I haven't seen any more eggs or the adults for 2 days. What's up?
Ellis and Leta Coan on July 07, 2020:
We had a Carolina Wren build a nest in the cavity of our weed eater while the battery was charging inside the porch. We watched the family finish building the nest hatch the eggs, feed the babies, leave the nest. What a great experience
Renee on July 07, 2020:
I noticed a Carolina Wren building a nest in a flowerpot on our front porch. I also observed 2 wrens hopping around on the driveway near the same flowerpot, so I know they are a married couple. I very gingerly added water to the flowerpot, and I haven’t seen the birds since. The nest is still there, but empty. Have I scared them off? Can I entice them back somehow? I was so excited to have babies in my flowerpot to watch thru the window...
Sharon Guyer on July 06, 2020:
We had one Caroline wren baby born yesterday and 3 eggs still left. Today we do not see the baby but the 3 eggs are still there. What happened to the baby and do you think the eggs will still hatch.
Janet L on July 04, 2020:
I’ve never had a bird nest before that I know of. This year they made a nest in my flower pot. I see one not so little bird. I have no idea when they arrived so I don’t know what to expect. I hope it is ok. I guess nature will take care of it. Thanks for being so informative
Yolanda on July 03, 2020:
Hi, we have a nest in our porch babies were born yesterday it’s late at nite and mama is not in the nest it’s July 3rd and fireworks may have scared mama? She had not return to her babies.is this common ? Thank you
barbara zarret on June 18, 2020:
I have had a Carolina wren sitting on 5 eggs for about 3 weeks now. Isn't this unusual? It seems longer than it should be taking. She keeps coming back to sit on the eggs every day. Will they ever hatch?
Kim on June 17, 2020:
Hello if anyone is there! Wondering if anyone knows if an English Sparrow will overtake a Carolina wren nest without adding in their usual crap to "feather" the nest? I have a nest which is most certainly a wren's that I am pretty sure now has sparrow eggs in it as I have seen sparrow parents in and out of the nest area although I can't be sure they have actually come from inside the nest, at least not yet. The eggs look like sparrow, not with the usual chestnut brown spots. Spots are darker brown and sprinkled all over them. Just want to be very sure before I dismantle the nest. There is another wren nest in very close proximity with youngsters who are doing well and I would hate for these darn sparrows to do them any harm as I have seen what sparrows can do when they are ticked off and competing for nest spots. Thanks in advance for those who are helping! :)
Valerie on June 16, 2020:
We had 3 babies being fed by parents yesterday but today the nest is completely empty. Will the whole family leave? I didn’t think the babies were old enough to leave. They nested in a birdhouse .
Marjorie on June 12, 2020:
I have a Carolina wren nest outside my front door in a wreath. I think the babies are about to leave the nest. I’m worried they could fall to the concrete bellow and get injured. Can they fly right away or can I put a blanket or something below for padding?
Kathleen Riddle on June 05, 2020:
I am wondering about two baby Carolina Wrens in a nest in my garage. They are one week old today. We are frequently in our garage, my kids are out of school so they are in there a lot, and we have seen both mom and dad in the nest during the day and in the evenings. Although I am growing concerned because I have not seen the mom/dad in the nest at all in the last two days. I have seen them (assume its them) around my house and backyard but not in the nest. Its possible I'm missing them, but it seems though they spent much more time in the nest than they are now. Is this normal?
Shawn on May 23, 2020:
Do mother or father carolina wrens roost in the nest with baby wrens at night?
Beth Klein on May 21, 2020:
My mama wren left two chicks in the nest and three flew away. The remaining ones are smaller. Will mama come back to feed them? If not, is there anything I can do? They are peeping.
Jeanne on May 11, 2020:
My husband was too close taking pictures do you think he made the babies leave too soon.
Jane, N. Louisiana on May 07, 2020:
I have a Carolina wren nest in a plant by my front door. I did peep inside last week when the parents were away and saw the babies with their mouths open. I watch the parents flying in and out from the window. Today I thought I’d look at the nest again. The top was completely open and not a baby to be seen. Could they have fledged s our soon, and could the parents have pulled the top of the nest open? I have a neighbors cat who comes around. I hope that was not what happened. No sign of feathers or bodies on the ground.
Joe B on May 05, 2020:
We have a nest on our screened in back porch. The wrens found a small hole in the screen. We had four chicks until today. I found three of the four on the floor dead. One’s leg had been broken and was a bit mauled. The other two were dead but had no apparent marks. What could have killed them and not eaten them? A stray cat couldn’t fit through the hole in the screen. Would the male or possibly another bird have killed them?
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on May 05, 2020:
They should be able to climb on the nest and fly/ jump out when it's time to fledge. The parents will coax them out with food.
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on May 05, 2020:
The mother bird has a bare patch of skin on her breast where she places the newly hatched babies to keep them warm. The feathers around them provide insulation.
Taylor on April 20, 2020:
I have a cylindrical candle holder on my patio table. It is about 16 inches tall. A bird built a next in the BOTTOM of the holder. There are now baby birds in the next. My question is how will the babies be able fly up 16" to get out of the cylinder since they don't know how to fly? I worry that they will perish if I don't dump them out. Please advise.
Donna on April 19, 2020:
Will a parent use their own feathers to keep newly hatched babies warm. We had a few nights of frost.
Jeffro on March 22, 2020:
Wrens built a nest in a wreath near the front door. Concrete is about 6 feet below do I need to worry about the babies when they decide to jump out
Valmichy on March 13, 2020:
I have a wren couple nesting in a large pot on my front porch. So exciting. They are still building the nest I think.
CBandK on July 19, 2019:
Hi Yvonne. I apologize for being all over the place. In my attempt to thank you and offer updated information on the family in my window box, I accidentally sent it before finishing. Thank you for easing my anxiety. I have tried everything possible to catch a glimpse of the babies from inside the house with no luck. The entry faces outward so all I see is the top of the nest. However, I am now seeing the parents fly in and out after spending even more time tending the gardens. My friend also reassured me that newborns sleep a lot their first week between feedings. Something I’d completely overlooked in my frantic thoughts after that first glimpse of the (sleepy) babies. I can’t thank you enough for this subject and your knowledge. And especially for responding so quickly. Most definitely easing my mind and heart. I’ve learned more here than any other searches online. I believe all is going perfectly with my new extended family.
CBandK on July 19, 2019:
I’m struggling with where to respond, I hope you, Yvonne, are able to follow me. I, first, wanted to thank you for helping to ease my anxiety about my apparently wrong conclusion. Second, I’ve all but stood on my head
Yvonne L. B. (author) from South Louisiana on July 18, 2019:
When it is warm outside mother wren will leave the babies unattended to search for food. They sleep a lot during the first week of life, but will awaken and beg for food when the parents land on the nest. Both male and female feed them and they go in and out so fast that it's easy to miss them. When they are tiny the noise is not loud. The older they get, the louder they get. Is there a way that you can see them through the window from inside the house? Things sound normal, but you could put your mind at ease that way. I have even "observed" using a game or wildlife camera placed on a tripod several feet away so as not to disturb the birds or attract predators. Good luck.
CBandK on July 17, 2019:
I have a nest of brand new Carolina Wren hatchlings in a window box. I’ve only checked it twice, the first time was accidentally when I believed it had been abandoned after not seeing the parents around after they finished building and I watered the plants in the box. I frightened the poor bird and she flew into my chest leaving, allowing me to see 5 tiny eggs. I’ve made a point of not scaring them again, not even watering those flowers, but after the allotted time for hatching and no noise coming from the nest, I checked today. The parents were not there and there are now babies, but there appears to be little if any