GAYS MILLS - One of Wisconsin’s smaller birds, the house wren, never fails to add its enjoyable song to the summertime chorus.
The house wren has one of the largest ranges of any songbird in North America. In fact, the little fluttering bird breeds throughout the West Indies, as well as Central America and even southward to the southern most point of South America.
Arriving right around the first of May and departing the later part of August, their visits are short, but widely loved by many who enjoy their song.
“They’re bubbly, active, and friendly little birds,” was how local DNR Wildlife Biologist Dave Matheys described the Wren.
The house wren is considered a cavity nester, often finding itself in tree holes and provided nesting boxes. However it isn’t uncommon to find the bird invading unusual places like old boots or discarded tins.
“They do well in proximity to humans,” Matheys observed. “They just need a little cavity to make their nest. The male birds will build a number of nest sites and the female will select which she likes best to lay her eggs in.”
Wrens will pile twigs into their chosen cavity to make a bed. From there they will build a soft lined cup. The cup us usually built into a depression in the twigs and lined with just a few grams of feathers, grasses, animal hair, spider egg sacs, string, snakeskin and sometimes even discarded plastic.
The melodious little bird has also even been known to make its hole in old woodpecker holes. It rarely uses nest sites more than 100 feet from woody vegetation, but also avoids heavily wooded nest sites where its hard to see predators coming.
At times, nests can become infested with mites and other parasites that feed on the wren nestlings. It is thought that wrens add spider egg sacks to the material that they build their nest from to combat this problem. It was found in lab studies once the spiders hatch, they helped the wrens by devouring the nest parasites.
Although only the size of about two quarters, this little bird is no match for any other bird trying to invade its space.
“They’re feisty little buggers,” Matheys noted. “With their piercing little bill they can perform a cardiac puncture and kill a much larger bird. Unfortunately, often times bluebirds can fall victim to the wren. So many people go to great lengths to attract the bluebirds and along comes the pugnacious little wren and does the dirty deed on them.”
Aside from using their beaks to piece the chest of an opposing bird, wrens will also at times drag eggs and young out of a nest site they want. In some areas, they are the main source of nest failure for bluebirds, tree swallows, prothonotary warblers and chickadees.
Bugs seem to be the main diet for the wren, as they eat a wide variety of them. Their diet primarily consists of beetles, caterpillars, earwigs, and daddy long legs. One interesting snack seems to be bees.
“Often we think of bees as being safe from bird predation, but wrens will go right after all types of bees and wasps, not just the larvae but the large stinging ones,” Matheys explained.
If you’re lucky enough to have one of these delightful tiny birds in your yard, you must enjoy their special energy.