Carolina Wren: Back Yard Birds of North Carolina

Updated on June 8, 2017
Carolina Wrens have a distinctive white eyebrow and upturned tail. Similar species include Bewicks Wren and House Wren.
Carolina Wrens have a distinctive white eyebrow and upturned tail. Similar species include Bewicks Wren and House Wren. | Source

Carolina Wrens Are a Distinctive Bird in Carolina Backyards

Carolina wrens are one of the most distinctive birds in North Carolina back yards. The small birds belt out one of the loudest calls and can be heard from far away. The small brown birds have a bold white eye stripe that distinguishes them from most other types of wrens and is the first thing you notice when one is around. Carolina wrens are one of the largest wrens but are still a small bird. They compensate for their small size by sitting on a favorite perch and singing for all to hear.

Though small, Carolina Wrens are stout for their size. The little birds almost appear to be pudgy and their short neck aids this appearance. Some guidebooks will lead you to believe that these birds are shy but that is not the case. Their small size makes them hard to see if you don't know what you are looking for but they are very common. Carolina wrens can be found in scrub forests, marshland, parks and back yards across their range. In fact, Carolina Wrens are often seen on back porches singing away or even building a nest in an old shoe.

Carolina Wren Singing on Back Porch

Where Can You Find a Carolina Wren

Carolina Wrens are typically a southern species but in recent years they have been expanding their range. This is perhaps due to global warming or just because they want to. Carolina wrens can be found in scrub forests and other semi-open areas where they can hunt for food. The range extends from the Mississippi valley up to lower Michigan and south to the Texas coastline all the way east to the Atlantic Seaboard. Some populations also exist in the Yucatan of Mexico.

Brush Piles

Wrens prefer to eat insects and can be found poking around the forest floor or crawling up the sides of trees in their search for tasty morsels. They are attracted to brush piles where they can hunt and build a nest. They are also attracted to slits rather than holes for some reason. This makes a stack of old shipping pallets a great spot to find Carolina Wrens. This can be applied to bird boxes as well. Make a box or two with a slit for an entrance and hang it near the house. Odds are you will get a nice family of these beautiful birds living there soon.

Carolina Wren Range Is Expanding

The Carolina Wrens range has been expanding in recent years. It can be found in scrub forest, marshland, back yards and parks throughout the eastern U.S.
The Carolina Wrens range has been expanding in recent years. It can be found in scrub forest, marshland, back yards and parks throughout the eastern U.S. | Source

Year-Round Residents

Carolina Wrens are year-round residents within their range. In summer they nest and raise young. They feed on insects they find on the ground and on the bark of trees. They rarely come to feed boxes in summer but can be found there during the winter when Suet is the preferred food. The richness of the cakes helps them make it through the long cold winter months. Winter is also the time you will most likely find them in a bird box. They like to shelter in cozy grass lined boxes, especially with slitted windows. In the spring when they are nesting you are as likely to find them building inside an old flower pot or in a hanging plant as you are to find them anywhere else. These birds like to nest in man-made hollows for some reason.

Carolina Wrens Visiting Winter Feed Station

Carolina Wrens will visit feeding stations, especially in winter. They love to snack on suet during the cold months.
Carolina Wrens will visit feeding stations, especially in winter. They love to snack on suet during the cold months. | Source

Tips for Attracting Wrens

  • Wrens hunt for food. Wrens hunt for their food on the ground, in bushes or on the trunks of trees. Put a feeder in a similar location in order to attract more wrens. Be careful of squirrels and cats. Wrens are more likely to found at a feeder station in winter. Use suet with small seeds and fruit for extra nutrition.
  • Wrens like brush piles. Create a brush pile in your yard with large sticks or even old shipping pallets. Be sure to check the pallets for an HT stamp, this means they are heat treated and safe to use. Piles should be open and spacious, with lots of room for the birds to move around. Remember, your making a condominium for your birds. Leaf piles won't work.
  • Wrens prefer slits to holes. For some reason, wrens don't like bird boxes with holes as much as they do ones with slits. Make a box with slits and see if a wren nests in it. This preference may explain why they are attracted to a pile of pallets. Wrens will also seek shelter in bird boxes over the winter if they are lined with grass.
  • Wrens defend their territory with song. One reason wrens sing so loud is to defend and mark their territory. Use the call of another bird or even an owl "scarecrow" to bring wrens out of the brush and sing you a song. If you hear a wren look for it sitting on top of a brush pile, fence post or other low hanging prominence.

Bewicks wren closely resembles Carolina Wren. Bewicks wren has a longer tail and is lighter in color on the breast. Bewicks wren is also limited to the western U.S.
Bewicks wren closely resembles Carolina Wren. Bewicks wren has a longer tail and is lighter in color on the breast. Bewicks wren is also limited to the western U.S. | Source

Bewicks Wren Is a Close Cousin

Bewicks Wren is perhaps the wren that most closely matches the Carolina Wren. Bewicks Wren is nearly identical except for a longer tail with distinctive barring and lighter colored chest feathers. Don't worry though, you will probably never have the chance to confuse them. The Bewicks Wren's range was once much larger but has retreated over the years. This wren is now commonly found in the southwestern part of the U.S.and rarely overlaps with the range of its cousin. Bewicks Wren likes dessert scrubland and chaparral where they can hunt and nest in the brush. It is a noisy, hyperactive bird with a loud call that dances about.

House Wren Shares Range With Carolina Wren

The house wren shares some range with the Carolina Wren. The two birds also share some physical characteristics but are easy to distinguis.
The house wren shares some range with the Carolina Wren. The two birds also share some physical characteristics but are easy to distinguis. | Source

House Wrens Span the Continent

The House Wren is the most widespread of the wrens. It ranges across the Western Hemisphere from South America north into Canada and coast to coast. It is absent in the far north the extreme northern population migrates south in the winter.

These wrens are smaller and darker than the either the Carolina or the Bewicks Wren and are drab in comparison. They have a shorter tail and lack the distinctive stripe over the eye. Their song is more of a warble but is comparably loud to the other wrens.

House Wren Call

Questions & Answers

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      • aviannovice profile image

        Deb Hirt 

        5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

        This is terrific. I'm happy to hear about this wonderful bird. Perhaps I will encounter the Carolina Wren this year.

      • TMHughes profile imageAUTHOR

        TMHughes 

        5 years ago from Asheville, NC

        That's awesome! Thanks for the story! I have a pair living in my stack of pallets. . . Hence the pallet comments :-)

      • sallieannluvslife profile image

        sallieannluvslife 

        5 years ago from Eastern Shore

        Awesome Hub! We had a Carolina Wren build its nest under the lid of our propane tank and once when I went out to check the gauge it flew out and scared the life out of me! You should have heard the Mom and Dad once the babies were all over the yard learning to fly....we couldn't go out on our porch without them telling us off...it was so funny and cute! Voted up and interesting!

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