SIB “Bird of the Week” – Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Length:  5.5″; Wingspan: 7.5″; Weight: 0.74 oz.

Carolina Wren - Bob Hider
Carolina Wren – Bob Hider

Many of you guessed correctly:  the Carolina Wren is the state bird of South Carolina and sings  tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle tea.

It is a small but chunky bird with a round body and a long tail that it often cocks upward. The head is large with very little neck, and the distinctive bill marks it as a wren: long, slender, and down curved. Both males and females are a bright, unpatterned reddish-brown above and warm buffy-orange below, with a long white eyebrow stripe, dark bill, and white chin and throat.

Only male Carolina Wrens sing—a series of several quick, whistled notes, repeated a few times. The entire song usually lasts less than 2 seconds and the notes are usually described as three-parted, as in a repeated teakettle. Each male has a repertoire of up to several dozen different song variations. He’ll sing one of these about 15 times before changing his tune.  One captive male Carolina Wren sang nearly 3,000 times in a single day.

A pair bond may form between a male and a female at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair stay together on their territory year-round, and forage and move around the territory together.  They are described as non-migrating, or “permanent residents,” although they may wander north of their breeding range, especially in fall.

Carolina Wrens frequent vegetated habitats such as brushy thickets, lowland cypress swamps, bottomland woods, and ravines choked with hemlock and rhododendron. They gravitate toward shrubby, wooded residential areas, overgrown farmland, dilapidated buildings, and brushy suburban yards.  These small birds can be seen or heard frequently throughout Seabrook Island.  Keeping a brush pile in your yard is a great way of encouraging wrens to take up residence.

Insects and spiders make up the bulk of this wren’s diet. Common foods include caterpillars, moths, stick bugs, leafhoppers, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and cockroaches. Carolina Wrens occasionally eat lizards, frogs, or snakes. They also consume a small amount of plant matter, such as fruit pulp and seeds from bayberry, sweetgum, or poison ivy.

Several residents on Seabrook Island have mentioned they have Carolina Wrens nesting near their home.  Although described as shy birds, we find the pair that live near our home at Bohicket Marina quite curious and happy to sing on our deck and balcony for us each morning.  Be on the lookout and listen for this special state bird on our island.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown
Photographs provided by:  Bob Hider & Charley Moore

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

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