Four Seasons

Four Seasons
Blessed by the beauty of Creation ~ sharing what I see from my little place in His world.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wrens by the Numbers

I'm usually not much 'into' numbers.  But recently I've been reading about house wrens and some of the numbers associated with them amazed me.  

Such as that the parents may feed their young as many as 1,000 meals in a day!
Given that the babies stay in the nest for 15 to 17 days after hatching, that's a LOT of insects.  (Thank you, wrens, for keeping our sweet corn worm-free!)

House wrens usually raise 2 broods in a year and this year they did that here in our yard.  Their first nest was in a box in our hemlock tree (click here to read about it). The second was on our garden fence in a box that had just been vacated by a tree swallow family. 

So they have had a very busy summer!  I read that a house wren nest may contain over 700 twigs!  Since they use a new nest each time, I thought I would try counting the twigs in ours when I removed it from the box.  However, when I took it out of the box, I discovered that ants had made their nest in it... so I decided to take their word for it and say "700" is a good number!

Most of those small specks in the box are ants!
Add to this the fact that male house wrens build numerous nests to try to attract a female - between 2 to 7 is common and as many as 20 have been reported... that's a LOT of twigs! 

Once the female has chosen a nest, she puts the finishing touches on it by adding some soft grasses and feathers.  Then she lays between 5 and 8 eggs.  She will incubate them for about 12 to 15 days.  That's when the real work begins of bringing all that food!
Our father wren somehow lost all but 1 of his tail feathers, but, no matter, he still diligently brought food to the box!  While the mother typically landed on top of the box and worked her way down with short hops to the entryway, he usually flew directly in.  That might have had something to do with his lack of tail.
How do I know which was which?  They both look the same...
 but the male is the one who sings.  The female can make sounds, but she mostly squeaks or scolds.  You can listen to them here.
Mr. Wren singing on top of the box.
I tried peeking in the nest once to see the babies, but they were nestled so far down in that I couldn't even glimpse them.  So I didn't know how many there were until they fledged.  With brood number 1, I missed seeing them leaving the nest, so I really was hoping to catch these on their maiden flights.

Sunday morning, August 10th, I was getting ready for church when I happened to look out the window and see one of the parents clinging to the front of the box.  It stayed there for awhile, which I thought probably meant something was up!  Thankfully, I was about ready and had some time to spare, so I grabbed my camera and binoculars and went out on the kitchen deck to watch.  Here's what happened:
That was number 1 out of the nest!  Now for number 2...
Hold on a minute!  This is scary!
And, after awhile clinging to the outside of the box, its 'take off' goes more down than out -- and even backward...
But number 2 made it!

Now, it's down to 1!  Mama comes back to do a little encouraging (though I think baby number 3 may just be hoping she's going to feed it)
Baby brother or sister sits nearby in the corn.  
Finally, baby number 3 takes off and that was it!  From the first flight of Number 1 (at 7:23:23) to the last (at 7:35:58) it took about 12 and a half minutes -- and I was still on time for church!

If these babies are typical of house wrens, they will live 2 or 3 years.  The longest-lived wren on record was 9 years old.

There are more than 70 species of wrens in the world.  Mexico has over 30 kinds.  They are not known for having bright feathers but they are superb singers.  Some names of other species of wrens are  Flutist Wren, Nightengale Wren, and Musician Wren.  Some of them even sing duets, with the male and female singing different parts!  That's not 'by the numbers' but I thought it was so neat I couldn't resist sharing.  I would love to hear those sing!

My mother always hoped a house wren would nest in her yard (and they often did) because she loved hearing them and so do I!  This year I was blessed to have them raise 2 broods close by!