Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Wrens Are Coming

Hanging an ancient wren house

The wrens will arrive on May 5, my dad always said, as he cleaned out his wren house in anticipation of a new nesting season.

I’m not absolutely certain that house wrens arrived in my hometown, Alloway, N.J., every year on May 5, but every year in early May they did return, the males first. One would stake out our wren house and warble away morning, noon, and into the evening, apparently trying to attract a mate. Or was he singing for the absolute joy of it?

If you wouldn’t recognize a house wren from an American robin, take 30 seconds right now and link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” page for the house wren and see an excellent photograph. Just below, under the silhouette of a house wren, click on “Typical Voice” and listen. Ah, yes, the “bubbly” song of the house wren. To link to the wren page, CLICK HERE.

In this week’s “Urban Jungle” column in the Washington Post, Patterson Clark notes that house wrens will be arriving soon in the Washington area. His column has a sketch of how to saw a 1”x6”x48” piece of lumber to make a wren house, if your hankering for a do-it-yourself project. The plan calls for a 1.25” entrance hole. Online charts specify diameters from 1” to 1.5”. Dad always insisted that 1” is best, to help keep out other birds, such as English sparrows.

In addition to the house plan and interesting information about wrens, “Urban Jungle” includes a “Nest Survival” chart for five common birds in the Washington area. There’s nearly an 80% chance that at least one house-wren nestling will fledge—leave the nest safely when it can fly. You may be surprised at the chance of that happening for other species—catbirds, mockingbirds, robins, and cardinals—that use open nests, not houses.

To read Patterson Clark’s “Success in the City,” CLICK HERE.

And, oh, yes, I’ve got to get the wren house out of the garage and get it hung.

The wrens are coming.

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