Carolina Wrens

Carolina wren © Ken Thomas
Carolina wren © Ken Thomas

Although once limited to the southeastern United States, Carolina wrens have spread north all the way to New England, where they can be found in all seasons. With its tail cocked at a jaunty angle and its bold white eyebrow-stripe lending a rakish air, a Carolina wren is a vocal and active visitor to any suburban neighborhood.

Identification

Like most wrens, Carolina wrens are small (5.5”) brown birds with fairly short tails that they often hold cocked upward. Their bills are well-suited for probing for insects, being long, pointed, and slightly decurved.

Their plumage is more reddish than that of the other common suburban wren (the House Wren), and their underparts are a warm buff rather than gray or white. Most conspicuously, Carolina Wrens have a bright white eyebrow-stripe (known as a supercilium), while house wrens have no eyebrow-stripe at all.

Behavior

Carolina wrens are a curious combination of shy and bold. Much of the time, they prefer to stay hidden, hopping from twig to twig in dense foliage and picking insects from within a tangled briar patch. On the other hand, Carolina wrens are exceptionally vocal, singing their loud, ringing songs tirelessly and chasing any intruders that come into their territory.

Although they do not flock, Carolina wrens have strong pair-bonds, and a mated pair will often remain together on the same territory year-round. They do take fruits and weed seeds (from plants like smartweeds and sumacs) in winter, though they seldom come to bird feeders.

Status

Carolina Wrens have taken full advantage of milder winters, and have increased substantially as both breeding and wintering birds in Massachusetts over the past few decades. Even high mortality during cold, snowy winters does not seem to have lasting negative impacts on the more northern segments of the population. Learn more in the Breeding Bird Atlas 2