For the Birds: Bewick’s Wren, neighborhood singer and chatterbox

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Singing Bewick's Wren
Photo by Elaine Chuang
By Christine Southwick

Some Bewick’s Wrens are nesting now. Since our Bewick’s Wrens are residents, and many stay paired, they are usually the first passerines (perching birds) to nest here in our area.

Their lively buzzes, trills, warbles and bubbly songs bring such joy to my ears. 

Plus, these happy notes and contact sounds help me find these brown little birds with the bright white eyebrow.

The male Bewick’s Wren sings to protect his territory, and to attract a mate. This is a full-time effort, especially since he must endeavor to win a mate by excelling melodiously.

Bewick's Wren with grub
Photo by Craig Kerns

And once he has won the affection of this year’s mate, the male fashions three to four nests for the female’s approval. 

When the female has selected the preferred nest, she will finish it with feathers, hair, leaves and mosses.

These wrens nest in the most unusual places, boots, pockets, hose bib covers, nest boxes, usually near to human habitation.

While the female sits on her 4-6 eggs the male brings food to her, and then helps feed their offspring. Usually monogamous, the female often has a second brood.

Bewick's Wren with small butterfly
Photo by Craig Kerns

These spunky hyperactive little birds, with their tails cocked over their backs, can be found climbing on branches, skulking in blackberry brambles, and investigating the leaves on the ground, looking for their buggy delicacies, especially those tasty spiders.

They can even hang upside down to reach their next meal. 

If you go too close to them while they are searching for food, they may scold you.

I have an active nest on my front porch — nestlings are already being fed. I’m looking forward to seeing the four or so nestlings fledge.

Bewick's Wren fledgling
Photo by Elaine Chuang

Unlike ducks, passerines are the same size or slightly larger than their parents when they leave their nests, only their tail feathers still need to finish growing. 

Fledgling Bewick’s molt their body feathers after about a month and start to look more like the adults. 

The eyebrow of a first year Bewick’s is rough and uneven, not well defined like the adults.

If you hear a bubbly song that seems to change, or a loud scolding buzz, you probably have a Bewick’s Wren in your yard.


LobbyLou April 1, 2020 at 5:14 PM  

Many thanks to the 3 of you for Berwick Wren information & great photos. These adorable wrens are in my yard and give me so much pleasure. I've found Nest Watch (a newsletter from Cornell Univ. Ornithology Lab) with more particulars and downloadable instructions for building a wren box (bird house) that meets their specific needs.

Unknown May 10, 2020 at 6:37 PM  

A pair of Bewick's Wrens built their nest in birdhouse on a long pole I had leaning against my back deck. I'd intended to make some repairs to the wooden birdhouse but before I got to that, the B's had moved in. There has been twittering coming from inside the birdhouse for several days now and just this afternoon two little ones took their fledgling flights! The second fledgling was accompanied by one of the parent birds, who flew right alongside it. They flew right past my head as I was watering a large potted azalea. I stopped watering and stood very still. Both fledges took shelter under a sword fern. The parent who'd accompanied the fledge, immediately flew to otherside of the patio/deck area, about 30+ feet, to an area where I have 60 year rhododendrons, a mature holly tree, more ferns, all under a stand of Douglas firs. It began calling to the fledges and fly back and forth. As this was going on, the other parent returned to the bird house with a beak full of bugs. It popped into the house and then popped right back out, beak still full. After listenting for a few seconds, it joined its mate and also began making different calls. The fledges were responding with their own calls. After about 5 minutes, one fledge made a swooping flight to the edge of the garden area. It hopped up three,tiered, landscape timbers and onto a lower branch of a rhodie. It was immediately joined by a parent. The other parent resumed flying back and forth from the remaining fledge. After several more minutes, that fledge flew to the holly tree. Now far enough way for me to move again, I left the area so the family could unite without interference. I stepped back out after about an hour and found them perched on my all-weather wicker chairs near the rhododendrons. I left them be. It's a lovely evening to be outdoors, but we'll have dinner inside and let them enjoy their first night out.

Two hours later: I don't know how many eggs were laid or hatched, but I didn't hear anymore peeps coming from the birdhouse and haven't seen the parents return yet.

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