The Carolina wren is a rotund, warm-brown bird that often carries its tail cocked. Leading with its longish, curved bill, it resembles a little brown teapot. The bright white line over its eye and its warm buffy underparts (paler in summer) help clinch the identification. Males and females are alike.
Often heard before it is seen, the Carolina Wren’s most common call is teakettle, teakettle, teakettle. Pairs stay together all year and keep in touch throughout the day by vocalizing back and forth. Carolinas also give a variety of chink calls as well as a harsh, rolling metallic scold— cheerrrrrr-rrr-rrr!
Wherever it occurs, the Carolina wren stays as a year-round resident. Creeping and exploring around door stoops, garages, and tool sheds, Carolina wrens adopt a “mi casa, su casa” policy when it comes to nesting. If you find a nest cleverly hidden on a cluttered shelf or in a hanging flower basket, it’s likely that of a Carolina wren.
It’s most common in swampy, mixed hardwood forests that are thick with vines, shrubs, and tangles, but it is happy in yards and gardens with plenty of shrubbery and outbuildings. Carolina wrens love poking about stacks of firewood, and they’ll help themselves to the shelter of an open porch, garage, or shed, cleverly concealing their nests in our clutter.
Insects and spiders make up virtually all the Carolina wren’s natural food diet, which they capture while gleaning on or near the ground. At times, they will climb trees to glean insects hidden in bark or toss aside leaf litter while searching for prey. They’ll bash large prey, such as katydids and moths, into manageable pieces and hunt cobwebby corners for spiders. In snowy winters, Carolina wrens resort to visiting feeders.
Carolina wrens weave a surprisingly complex and bulky nest, hauling volumes of bark strips, fine twigs, leaves, grasses, green moss, and rubbish into a hidden nook, thick intertwining of vines, natural tree cavity, or cranny in an outbuilding.
They often make a “porch” of such material leading to the nest. The entire affair is domed, and the finely-woven inner cup holds four eggs. The female incubates for 14 days, while the male feeds her. The young leave the nest from 12 to 19 days later.
Carolina Wrens seem to love nesting near humans. Nests have been found inside garages, in old shoes and empty cans, and even in clothespin bags hanging on well-used clotheslines.