Backyard Birding: Carolina Wren Babies and Nests
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.
Carolina Wrens Will Nest Almost Anywhere
Quirky Nesting Sites of Carolina WrensClick thumbnail to view full-size
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:
- Cinder blocks
- Plastic bowls
- Hanging baskets
- Bicycle helmets
- Motorcycle helmets
- Christmas wreaths
- 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
- Flower pots
- Topsy turvy tomato planter
- Large tin cans in a garage
- Vents on a boat
Nest With Abandoned Eggs
Nest in a Hanging BasketClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Both Parents Feed the Young
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.
Here's Our "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
Don't substitute vegetable shortening; they need the real, high cholesterol, old-fashioned lard made from animal fat.
- 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.
Male Carolina Wren Singing
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
Carolina Wren Babies Napping
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
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?
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.Helpful 79
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?
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.Helpful 32
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?
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.Helpful 27
Once Carolina Wren babies begin learning how to fly, will they return to the nest?
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.Helpful 24
Carolina wrens built a nest in my nesting box but did not use it should I remove the nest?
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.Helpful 8
© 2011 Yvonne L. B.