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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Sharing with house wrens

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I read in the Missouri Conservationist Special Events Calendar that today is the day that house wrens will begin to arrive in Missouri. That brought back many memories.

In our rented home in Washington, D.C., we had a wonderful back porch that was high enough to need a long flight of steps (around 15 I would guess) to reach the ground in the backyard. A lot of activity happened on that porch. I could play there and watch the boys in the neighboring houses to see if they were doing anything I would like to join in on. We also had a good view of all the lawns around, and since it ran the full width of the house, there was plenty of room for several activities.

My sister Gertrude left that porch and came down those long steps (which were covered for the occasion) to meet her husband at their wedding under the apple trees in the backyard. For that event the big upright piano was pushed through the house to provide the music for the wedding march from the back porch.

So what does this have to do with wrens? In the light fixture in the middle of the ceiling of the porch, each year some wrens set up housekeeping. I was surprised that papa did not object to the mess made by the birds, but he enjoyed their activity and gave us much information about the value of the little friendly birds.

Last year, after we had put a new roof on our house here in Vernon County, we found that a family of wrens had established their nest under the end of the new roof. I was glad to see them join our family and when I do see them flying in and out of their home I always remember their distant cousins that we enjoyed years ago on Western Avenue in Washington.

I thought I would do some research and find out more details about this bird that our father enjoyed. First, and probably one of the most important reason he liked the bird, the wren eats 98 percent of its food from animal matter, mainly spiders, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants and other bugs.

Its cheery song is another plus. The male sings three to 11 times a minute while courting, but continues to sing after mating.

The bird is very territorial, keeping active nests 100-130 feet apart. After the five to eight eggs hatch and the baby birds leave the nest, they are fully independent after 12 to 13 days and the mother can start renesting then.

I doubt if this is one of the reasons that Papa liked the bird, but I discovered that the female rebuilds the nest after the male has first built it to entice its mate.

That shows that many females have their own ideas about how a house should be set up. That vision may differ from the thoughts of the male.

The wren does not mate for life, and the male may even change mates within one breeding season. In fact, research has found it is not rare for one male to be serving two females within their nests.

It would seem that we should soon be overrun with wrens with the birds having from three up to 10 clutches of little ones each year, but so far we have only seen the one nest at our home.

I will welcome any wrens who do come house hunting this week, and hope at least one pair chooses to build.

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus