Carolina Wrens

Our resident Carolina Wrens provided us with 3 broods this year. For the last brood they decided to nest in a hanging basket that we have right outside our screened porch. Faith and I enjoyed sitting on the porch on weekend mornings watching mom and dad build the nest. After about 2 weeks of little activity, the adults started bringing in food. We knew then that we had a successful clutch. Although we couldn’t see them, we knew there were a few chicks in there based on the amount of food coming in. As the chicks grew, mom and dad spent most of their time providing the nutrition these little guys needed to grow.

Carolina Wrens typically lay 4-8 eggs and incubate them 12-14 days. The chicks stay in the nest an additional 2 weeks before they fledge. They grow up very quickly, so opportunities to observe them are short-lived. An interesting fact, a group of wrens have many collective nouns including “chime, “flight”, “flock” and “herd”. So today’s post is about the herd of Carolina Wrens that grew up right outside our door.

The hanging basket was just 3 feet from the screened porch and the light was very poor. The plant receives no direct sunlight, and being that it is a big, beautiful begonia, there was just no way I was going to get a camera angle to take any photos. The adults built the nest on the backside of the basket and it was too close for both a short and long lens. However, the nest was perfectly placed so that I could mount my GoPro camera on a tripod and set it up for remote control with my iPad.

I’ve been frustrated with my attempts to do some decent video with the GoPro in the past due to the fact that it has an extremely wide angle lens. The wide angle lens requires that you get close to your subject for any decent video. The placement of this nest was the perfect opportunity to place the camera close to the nest for great images, but far enough away so as not to disturb the birds.

I positioned the camera with a decent view early one morning and set everything up so as not to disturb the nest. I then sat on the porch and controlled the camera remotely while the adults and chicks went about their daily routine. The GoPro is a great video camera, and it takes good still shots too. However, I can’t control the shutter speed for still shots, so getting sharp still images is nearly impossible with a moving subject. Click the images to view larger.

Carolina Wrens
Carolina Wrens

Notice that the chicks have a bright yellow mouth. That makes it easier for the adults to find the right spot to drop in the food in the dark nest.

Carolina Wrens
Carolina Wrens

This first video shows a typical feeding sequence. All day long the adults would climb the pole that supports the hanging basket and enter the nest with another meal for the chicks. At the end of the video, you can see how the adults keep the nest clean and tidy so as not to spread disease to the chicks. Yuck!

Wrens 2 from Michael Libbe on Vimeo.

This next video shows another feeding sequence, but it is also the first time you can see for certain just how many chicks are in the nest. Pay close attention to the beginning of the video. How many chicks do you see in the nest?

Wrens 6 from Michael Libbe on Vimeo.

Finally this last video shows a very curious chick that looks like he is ready to fledge and leave the nest. I thought he might while I was filming their activity, but they were all content to stay put while I sat on the porch. One of the lucky chicks got a nice lizard for lunch in this video. I’m pretty sure that my yard no longer hosts any bugs or small lizards.

Wrens 8 from Michael Libbe on Vimeo.

I gave up filming at noon that day. After 5 hours of working the camera remotely I was ready for a break (and some lunch). Later that evening I checked on the nest again thinking the chicks would all still be snug in the nest for the night. Unfortunately my plans to do more filming the next morning were dashed when I found the nest empty. Seems the chicks were ready to fledge after all and took off on their new adventure sometime during the afternoon. On the plus side, I was able to participate in a unique experience which I wrote about in this blog post.

It is unlikely that the adults will breed again this year, but hopefully they will be back next year and will choose to build a nest in our yard again. I’m pretty sure that they have nested in the yard before, but the nests are not easy to spot (by design). We were fortunate that the site they selected this time was just beyond where we spend some mornings and evenings, so it was easy to figure out what was happening in the hanging basket and so much fun to watch.

Good luck little Carolina Wrens!


  • Margaret Kelly

    July 24, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Love the Carolina Wrens. They set up a nest in one of my hanging baskets on my porch and the basket was low enough that I could see the birds. I dared not water the plant, so in the area away from the nest, I would put an ice cube or two. Every time I did this, the baby birds would think I was coming to feed them and open mouths and cheeps would start. Who needs television?

    I loved your stills and your videos. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Michael

      July 24, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      Thanks, Margaret! They were a lot of fun to watch!

  • Jess Yarnell

    July 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Two blog posts in a week! and such fun little videos!!

    • Michael

      July 24, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks, Jess! It’s not like I don’t have plenty of material. Just lacking time.

  • Kin Baker

    July 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Michael, what neat experience seeing the chicks. I think I counted four little mouths. Who ever ate the lizards got a real treat! Thanks again for the videos.