For the Birds: Bewick's Wren

Monday, February 28, 2011

In the backyard. Photo by Christine Southwick.
by Christine Southwick

When first heard, the Bewick’s Wren’s song can be mistaken for that of a Song Sparrow. But it is a little too bubbly and liquid. There is no mistaking the harsh scolding warning when you come too close to one, or a pair, of these little wrens as they forage in amongst the leaves and branches of shrubs and trunks of trees. They are insectivores incarnate, with 97% of their diet coming from the insects, larvae, and spiders they glean from vegetation in a two-to-ten acre territory. They use their long thin bills to probe far into crevices.

The male sings his song to defend his territory, and attract a female. Once mated, he builds two to four starter nests for the female’s approval. She selects and finishes one, and lays 5-6 eggs. The male stays attentive and feeds her while she is on the nest, and both parents continue to feed their young for a couple of weeks after they have fledged (left the nest).

In the night roost. Photo by Christine Southwick.
Bewick’s Wrens, pronounced Buick’s, are named after Audubon’s naturalist friend, Thomas Bewick. Here in the Puget Sound area most Bewick’s Wrens are year-round residents. Seasonally monogamous, they are solitary the rest of the year, although some pairs do stay together all year. Wrens are known for nesting in unusual places, and it is fairly common to find one wedged in a corner or small opening on your front porch where it has decided to roost on a cold wet night.

Brush piles, rhododendrons, red-twig dogwoods, twinberry, snowberry, quince, really almost any many-twigged native bush will bring them into your yard. Don’t use insecticides. It will make them sick, and you won’t need insecticides anyway, once they make your yard their home.

Because Bewick’s Wrens forage and nest usually less than ten feet from the ground, cats can be a real danger to these birds.

Banding a Bewick's wren. Photo by Christine Southwick.
When it finally gets warmer outside, and you’re surveying your yard for spring gardening, with a cup of your favorite beverage in hand, stop when you hear a harsh buzzy scolding sound. Look low into nearby bushes, and see if you can spot a dark brown bird with a white eyebrow and white throat, with its tail cocked up over its back, moving along the branches. If so, you have just found a Bewick’s Wren. Maybe it will stay, and help you take care of your garden.

Christine Southwick is on the Board of the Puget Sound Bird Observatory and is their Winter Urban Color-banding Project Manager. She is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat Steward, having completed their forty hour class. We're happy that she's sharing her expertise with us about the birds in our backyards.


Angie March 7, 2022 at 4:50 PM  

I believe our mated male Bewick Wren is roosting in our low-lying bushes nearby the nest box. Seems dangerous and I’m surprised. They fledged 7 babies from the box last summer. 2021

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