A vibrant birdsong rings through the air as the Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) throws its head back and belts out a lusty call that belies its diminutive size. Various wrien translations of this lively song include tea kettle-tea kettle-tea kettle-tea! and liberty-liberty-liberty-whew. This is the largest of the four breeding wren species in the state, though at only five-and-a-half inches long and weighing just over half an ounce, no one would argue that the Carolina Wren is a tiny bird. A deep russet back and tail with a warm buff belly and white eye stripe can be seen as this feisty little dynamo flits to favorite singing perches. The tail is a bit longer than our other wrens’, but it will readily point it skyward in true wren fashion. Like other wrens, its bill is slightly decurved, which aids in teasing insect morsels from crevices in bark and other hard-to-reach spots.
The Carolina Wren is a southern species that has moved north into Connecticut over the past century. It began breeding in our coastal and river towns in the late 1800s and continues to expand its range in our state, though harsh winters can decimate local populations for a time. The Carolina Wren’s winter survival in our area is due, in part, to winter bird feeders that offer suet and sunflower seeds. It prefers a habitat of dense undergrowth, including thickets, overgrown fields, shrubby edges of forests and “wild” backyards. If you hear Carolina Wrens singing (or incessantly scolding a neighborhood cat), keep an eye out for nest building activity.
The wrens will build their nest less than ten feet off the ground. They find a wide assortment of locations suitable, including a natural cavity, nest box, crevice in a stone wall or woodpile, an overturned bucket or open mailbox, even a shelf or nook inside an accessible garage or porch. They fill the space with dried leaves, twigs, strips of bark and grasses, and then line it with materials such as feathers, hair and moss. The entrance is in the side of the nest. Carolina Wrens are known to incorporate snakeskin into their nests, which can be a startling find. Strips of cellophane have also have been discovered in Carolina Wren nests - our discarded trash a poor substitute for real snakeskin.
Sound file from xeno-canto.org.