Wren Experinces in SE Virginia

by Jim
(SE Virginia)

Hasty Wren House

Hasty Wren House

For years we’ve had wrens. One year they put a nest on our front porch in a wooden Dutch shoe--another year on a side porch through a hole in the screen in a cardboard box.

Another year they put a nest in a flower box at the end of the front walk.

Another year they put a nest in a casement window between the window and the screen next to the kitchen sink (they didn’t seem bothered by our close proximity whatsoever). When the baby flew for the first time he wanted to fly into the kitchen through the screen.

We had to discourage it from doing that. Finally, it got the idea and flew off. Another year they put a nest under the eves close to the kitchen over a deck.

Then the next year they flew through an open window of our van and put a nest inside back under a wooden box.

Every time I went shopping the baby wrens came with us. One day I moved the van from the east side of the house to the west side of the house.

The mother wren flew onto the engine cowling (within reach) and started chirping (like I got babies in here—stop). Those young birds were successful.

This year we had a disaster. The wrens put a nest in a watering can on the front porch which rested on a generator. We had to move the generator and so we put the can on a short step stool. This did not bother the wrens at all.

They continued to raise the chicks. Several times a black snake came close and some squirrels but they didn’t spot the nest.

Finally the black snake had figured out there was a nest somewhere close and climbed up high and looked and spotted the opening in the top of the watering can.

He headed toward the watering can with the male trying to distract him. I grabbed a piece of EMT and tried to move him off but he was after food and wouldn’t be deterred.

Later I realized that I should have grabbed the watering can and moved it into the house and then got rid of the snake.

However, he got the babies and when he emerged from the can he got deceased promptly with a split personality.

Now, I realize what the alarm call is and will get rid of any snakes before anything can happen.

We then built a new house for the wrens and reasoned out that the best place was hanging from the ceiling of the porch away from all vertical surfaces.

We put two screw eyes in the ceiling and hung the nest with two pieces of twine. The house seems quite stable.

We reasoned that the snake can’t crawl upside down on a horizontal surface and we kept the house away from all vertical walls. We don’t think that either snakes or squirrels can get the house.

We needed a house in a hurry so we fashioned one from a plastic food container. We cut an opening in the lid and bent the flap down for an entrance perch. We drilled two holes in the top for the twine, fore and aft, and two holes in the bottom for drainage.

We don’t know if the wrens will come back this year or not, but feel that next year they’ll be back. If we make a similar house away from the porch we’ll add a sun shade and a snake spoiler at the bottom and point the entrance south.

When the snake killed the babies the mother wren cried piteously for two hours. We felt awful, ourselves. They brought food two more times after I dispatched the snake but the babies were dead.

Finally (believe it or not) one wren flew close to our overlooking door and perched on a power cord in front of the window of the door and looked in at us as if to say goodbye. We really felt a loss ourselves.

We also have some great chickadee experiences if anyone’s interested.

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Jul 07, 2009
Rotten snakes should stick to mice
by: Bonnie

I'm so impressed with your wren stories and the quickie plastic container nest site you made. Your wrens have really nested in a lot of odd spots. The story about the black snake getting the baby birds was so sad. I had to laugh about your giving the snake a "split personality" when it came back out of the watering can.

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Wren Sequel/Snake Story, " Experiences in SE Virginia"

by John (Jim's twin brother)
(SE Virginia)

Follow-on to the sad Wren story previously posted; the first part is somewhat repetitious, the second part is entirely new.

On July 4, 2009 a black snake ate our Carolina Wren babies which were in a nest within a galvanized watering can on the front porch about 3 feet from the front door.

The snake had been on the porch before, searching for the wrens, but the wrens were able to decoy the snake away from the can and off the porch.

Apparently the sneaky snake spent several days observing the comings and goings of the wrens and concluded that there had to be a fresh wren meal waiting for him somewhere around the can.

So he returned to the porch and climbed up a board that was just lying to one side of the front door and adjacent to the can so that he could see the top of the can where the fill hole was.

Spotting the hole in the top of the can, he knew instantly where the babies had to be and wasted no time in entering the hole.

The wrens were frantic to discourage him and one of us also tried to frighten the snake, but there is no frightening a snake within an easy reach of a baby bird meal.

It was a pretty unequal contest - there was nothing the parent wrens could do to save their babies. In a short time the snake emerged from the hole in the top of the can and got down onto the porch floor. At this time he lost his head.

The parent wrens kept attempting to bring food to their babies but it was no use, the headless snake had their babies.

Then the female went out to a tree stump in front of the porch and spent 2 hours crying for her babies. Wrens certainly have feelings.

The final act of the male was to light on a wire by a side door on the porch that looked into the room where he knew we were and look through a window in the door at us as if he was saying goodbye and thanks for all your help.

Eight days went by during which I would hear the male wren singing around the property starting at 5:15 AM in the morning and ending at 8:40 PM in the evening.

I think he was trying to keep the property reserved for another attempt at raising another brood. Then Sunday morning (7/12/09) at around 8 AM both the male and the female wrens arrived back on the front porch and landed on the watering can!

The male checked the area for snakes and then they flew off. They hadn't inspected inside the can.

At this point we are wondering if we should clean out the old nest, The wrens could do this or they could re-use the old nest.

Also we could suspend the can from the ceiling which would make it snake proof as long as it was far enough from the walls and anything else a snake could climb on.

We suspended 2 homemade wren houses from the ceiling, but the wrens didn't look up at the ceiling when they lighted on the can. We could gradually raise the can so they could get used to a raised can.

We are now keeping the area free of snakes. How do you tell a wren that?

The question is, why did the wrens return? Are they thinking of raising more wrens in the can or did they return for sentimental reasons?

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Jul 13, 2009
Reply to Bonnie concerning snake sequel
by: John

We feed birds all winter long using several feeders filled with sunflower seeds. We have used suet also.
I understand wrens go into the deep woods after the bird raising season is over. I don't see wrens here in SE Virginia until at least the end of April. The hummers come about 2 weeks later. Minimum temp in winter is usually about 12 degr F.
The wren nest is in constant shade on the porch.

Jul 13, 2009
One more try
by: Bonnie

Your wrens seem willing to give the watering can on the porch one more try. I believe I'd leave the nest in it, and if they want, they'll tear it all out and redo it. If you're sure of keeping the area snake-free, just leave it because if you start to hang the can from the ceiling, you might frighten the mother wren from the nest.

I don't know how hot it gets there, but I hope the metal can is protected from direct sun all the time. If this second brood died of heat, I couldn't stand it.

You may not know that wrens aren't migratory and will stay there in winter. Without provision, they either freeze or starve. Please consider putting up a "winter roost" house with perches for several wrens to share body heat in, along with suet and seed.

Administrator Says:
Bonnie is speaking of Carolina Wrens. House Wrens are migratory birds.

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