Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Carolina Wren

Thryothorus ludovicianus

More brightly colored than most wrens, and with a rich musical song, Carolina Wrens are common in open woods and backyards in the southeast. There they busily explore brushpiles and low tangles. The adults live in pairs all year, and they may "duet" at any season, with the female giving a chattering note while the male sings. The northern edge of this species' range varies over time: it gradually expands northward during series of mild years, then gets knocked southward again by very severe winters.
Conservation status Populations rise and fall in northern part of range, decreasing after harsh winters. Overall population probably stable, perhaps even expanding.
Family Wrens
Habitat Tangles, undergrowth, suburbs, gardens, towns. Common in the undergrowth of deciduous or mixed woods, and in thickets along forest edges. Also lives in suburban areas, especially where some dense low growth and tangles have been left undisturbed.
More brightly colored than most wrens, and with a rich musical song, Carolina Wrens are common in open woods and backyards in the southeast. There they busily explore brushpiles and low tangles. The adults live in pairs all year, and they may "duet" at any season, with the female giving a chattering note while the male sings. The northern edge of this species' range varies over time: it gradually expands northward during series of mild years, then gets knocked southward again by very severe winters.
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  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Usually forages in pairs, actively exploring low tangles, foliage, bark of trunks and branches, and the ground. Sometimes comes to bird feeders for suet, peanuts, other items.


Eggs

5-6,, sometimes 4-8. White, with brown blotches usually concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female only, 12-16 days; male may feed female during incubation. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 12-14 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, or 3 in south.


Young

Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 12-14 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, or 3 in south.

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds primarily on insects of many kinds, especially caterpillars, beetles, true bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, and many others. Also feeds on many spiders, some millipedes and snails. Sometimes catches and eats small lizards or tree frogs. Also eats berries and small fruits, especially in winter, and some seeds.


Nesting

May mate for life. Pairs remain together all year, defending permanent territories; male and female often sing in duet. Nest site is in any kind of cavity, including natural hollows in trees or stumps, old woodpecker holes, crevices among upturned roots of fallen trees, sometimes in middle of brushpile; also in nest boxes, crevices in buildings, on shelf in garage, many other artificial sites. Usually less than 10' above the ground. Nest is bulky mass of twigs, leaves, weeds, with lining of softer material such as moss, grass, animal hair, feathers. A piece of snakeskin is frequently added. Often a domed nest, with entrance on side. Both sexes help build, female adds most of lining.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Permanent resident. May wander north of breeding range, especially in fall.

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Migration

Permanent resident. May wander north of breeding range, especially in fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Loud whistled tweedle-tweedle-tweedle or tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle tea, sung all day long in all seasons.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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