Friday, December 30, 2011

Unusual Groceries

The other day, as I was unloading groceries from my van, I was reminded why the Carolina Wren is one of my favorite birds.
A Carolina Wren perched in a Hawthorn tree in full bloom
As a matter of course, I always request paper bags at the grocery store.  I can reuse them at least once (sometimes more) before consigning them to the trash, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that they will decompose and are compostible.  Another big plus for me is that I know they will stay upright in my van and not spew their contents at every turn, like plastic bags.  What does this have to do with wrens?  You’ll see where this is going in just a minute.

I had just carried in the first bag of groceries, leaving the hatchback door on my van open in anticipation of returning to unload the rest of the groceries.  Since the first bag was my frozen products I took the 3-4 minutes necessary to stow them in my freezer.  Upon returning to my van I discovered that in that short 3-4 minute time period my grocery bags had become bird habitat!

As I approached the van a Carolina Wren erupted from my bag of produce with a startled squawk and began to flit around the interior of the van, ending up perched on the driver’s seat.  After I stopped chuckling I opened the van doors and went on with the task of unloading my groceries, certain that my unexpected tenant would find his or her way out through one of the doors. 

Sure enough, when I returned on my next trip, the van was no longer occupied—however, from the Holly tree next to the driveway came the unmistakable scolding cry of an angry Wren.  Apparently it had vacated the premises, but was definitely not happy about the situation, even dive-bombing me a couple of times as I continued my trips back and forth.
Ounce for ounce, Carolina Wrens are one of the feistiest little birds I know.  At times like these I’m thankful they’re not the size of an Eagle. 

Carolina Wrens are one of the most entertaining and opportunistic little birds at my backyard feeders.  These little dynamos have been known to build nests in just about anything you can think of.  We personally have had them nest in a barbecue grill, a hose reel and in a hat my husband had sitting on a shelf in the garage.  They can build a nest in a matter of a couple of hours.  Before my husband leaves our lake cabin he has now learned that he must do a walk-through of the garage to make sure he doesn’t trap an erstwhile nest-builder inside.
Some co-ops in the area carry a nut blend known only by the term "tree nuts"--a favorite winter food
Carolina Wrens are indigenous to the New World, being found in the United States, Canada and as far south as the northern part of Guatemala.  This little bird with the long binomial (species) name, Thyrothorus ludovicianus, is the state bird of South Carolina.  If you are lucky enough to have a pair of resident Carolina Wrens in your yard you may be entertained by their antics throughout the year, as they go about their job of catching insects in your garden.  In winter they will occasionally eat seeds, berries, and other small fruits, but you can help their winter survival rate by filling your feeders with nuts and suet, as these birds do not migrate.
I never tire of hearing a Carolina Wren's joyful song
In the summer this little bird’s joyful song seems to fill my backyard.   One captive male Carolina Wren was recorded as singing 3,000 times in one day according to a National Geographic web page. 

If you are not lucky enough to have these little mighty mites in your yard, be sure to stop by the bird feeders in the triangle area at the World Bird Sanctuary on your next visit.  You can make use of the benches placed strategically near the feeders to enjoy a short rest, and will most likely see some of these entertaining little birds in action.

If you love watching the birds, come join us on January 2 for a new event—the WBS Christmas Bird Count.  We will meet about 100 yards inside the main gate (on the triangle) at 7 A.M.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer



Anne Higgins said...

I love your story of the Carolina Wren and the groceries! I am very fond of these wrens, too, and love to listen to their song. I have one who comes to the "suction cup" window feeder on my bedroom window - but only in the winter. I have a birdseed bell that sits on the windowsill, and the wren comes to that as well. It's such a delight to see her up close. Why do I think it's a "her"?

Best wishes from Anne

Amanda Wilson said...

I have rescued one of these from one of my cats before. Now I have one in my house when I woke up this morning and they VERY hard to catch! The look of that sharp beak possible getting me doesnt help either. lol

Photog said...

@ Amanda -- I hope you were successful in rescuing the wren that got into your house. Sometimes the easiest way to help one of these little guys "escape" is to turn off all lights and draw your drapes so that the interior of the building is relatively dark and then open an outside door. They will usually fly toward the light from outside. If this works it eliminates the stress on the bird--and the rescuer.