Last year, Elizabeth bought I what I thought was a somewhat, how should I say this…over-engineered wren house. She asked me to hang it under the pergola on the back deck. It subsequently attracted some wrenly attention, but I couldn’t confirm that any avians occupants
As it turns out, the female house wren is…how can I put this politely? She’s a high maintenance little bird.. She expects that the male wren will carry loads and loads of heavy sticks to multiple potential nesting sites, all while singing like a canary at the top of his little lungs. While he warbles away, she’ll inspect the foundations, and if she likes one of them, and she likes him, and if she’s you know, really serious about the whole thing, she’ll approve it. At this point, the male house wren is expected to continue hauling lumber, singing his little tail feathers off, and the female will line the nest with soft things. (For some of you, this might seem like a familiar story at this point).
This year’s nesting drama has been going on for awhile. I’d heard the male’s beautiful of waterfall of song for a couple of days, and noticed Saturday a week ago that he was starting to gather twigs and pull them into the bird house. Then it seemed to go quiet for awhile. I figured that for a second year in a row, it just wasn’t going to work out for him.
Meanwhile, a pair of robins decided that our particular form of bloom-free Wisteria (Compson’s Fruitless, I believe), made the perfect environment for a nest. Located only a few feet from my office window, but hidden by the wisteria leaves, a pair of robins very quietly, methodically, and undramatically began building a nest atop a 2×8, only 10 feet away from the wren house. I wasn’t even sure it was a pair of robins, because they both look exactly alike, and make the exact same noise. Which is no noise.
Towards the end of the week, it was getting noisier. Not from the robins. No, they had finished their nest, and were very quietly and methodically roosting. No, it was the damn house wrens. The male had definitely attracted a female, and by last Saturday, the two of them had worked themselves into a tizzy, singing, flying, shaking their tail feathers, and waggling their wings in a way that I could not honestly interpret as being anything but extremely suggestive. Everybody in the neighborhood was subjected to this in your face display. The sleek velvety catbirds thinking about returning to their mid-yard nesting bush were looking at the wrens out of the corners of their beady little eyes. The family of crows that fill up the nearby birdbath with chunks of stale bread and nameless animal parts, they remarked on the wrenish display. Even a carolina wren, second only to the house wren in volume/mass, thought it was a bit over the top.
Things seemed to have reached a peak about the time I looked out the sliding door Monday morning during breakfast. The two house wrens were shaking their wings, their tails, they were singing, they were popping in and out of the nest box, and they were chasing each other around the pergola. They both flew down to the ground together, when suddenly, one of the robins, patiently waiting along the top of the pergola to relieve the other robin on roost duty, dropped onto the wrens like a ton of bricks. Whomp! Grateful peace descended on the backyard stage as the robins quietly resumed roosting, and the wrens left to lick their wounds. They recovered.
I can still hear the descending musical notes of the male house wren’s spring call from my office. It might be disturbing the unhatched robin babies, but I think it’s a pretty song. What’s different now is that the female seems to have made her choice. At breakfast today, I saw her carry in a few token tiny bits of straw, while the male continued to haul in trailer loads of nesting material. This morning, there was some long stringy thing hanging out the hole, and its gone now. I’m assuming its inside. I think we can soon look forward to the pitter patter of wrenlet feet.