Nesting Habits of Wrens – Timing, Selection and Breeding Behavior

Do you enjoy the rich and varied calls of wrens in your backyard? If so, you may be wanting to learn more about the nesting habits of wrens in order to make your outdoors more attractive to the wrens that breed in your area.

There are many different types of wrens, and nesting habits vary from one species to another. In this guide, we will give you some general information that is applicable to a wide range of wren species, as well as some more specific details on House and Carolina Wrens.

Timing of the Nesting Season

Some species of wrens live permanently in one geographic area, while others migrate. Those that migrate tend to move north for the summer and south for the winter. House Wrens are a migrating species, while Carolina Wrens are full-time residents.

Breeding and nesting for Carolina Wrens spans March through October. For House Wrens, the majority of breeding takes place between April and May. But sometimes nesting will continue as late as July.

Building or Selecting Nests

mom feeding baby wren in house with dad nearby
Male and female wrens inspecting one of our hanging wren houses.

There is tremendous variety in terms of nest selection and construction from one species of wren to the next. For example, Cactus Wrens often nest in cacti. Sedge Wrens build nests out of balls of grass or sedge.

What about Carolina Wrens? All this species needs is a crevice or hollow of some sort in which to nest. You might find Carolina Wrens nesting in tree hollows, cracks in walls, or even inside drainpipes. It is rare for a nest to be more than 10 feet above the ground. House Wrens favor the same types of nesting environments.

Wren perched on the side of an old tree near his nest

Wrens build their nests in early spring. The male will scout out the location first to find an appropriate nesting site. He will select several locations then sing to the female, inviting her to come check out the potential sites.

For this reason some experts recommend hanging several wren houses in different locations of your yard to maximize the likelihood that the female will choose the location she likes the best.

Territorial Nature

Wrens are highly territorial. To protect their young from predators and other wrens, they tend to space their nests a fair distance apart, preferably close to ample cover (i.e. brush). They also like brush because insects tend to be abundant.

Wrens are aggressive in the defense of their territory; if they perceive another wren to be nesting in their territory, they may go so far as to puncture the eggs of the offending pair.

Hatching & Care

little wren peeking out of his nest built from twigs and feathers

For House Wrens, it takes an average of 12-14 days for eggs to hatch. It takes around 15-17 days after that for the baby birds to develop the ability to fly.

As for the Carolina Wrens, 12-16 days for hatching is typical. Average eggs per season is 5, whereas it is 7 for the House Wrens. It takes Carolina Wren fledglings around 12-14 days to be able to fly.

Keep in mind that adult wrens remain involved with the young birds for a while longer. For around 4 weeks, siblings will remain in a group, and the parents will keep feeding them while they learn what they need to in order to survive independently. So, during this time, they are still especially vulnerable to threats.

Multiple Broods

Earlier, we mentioned that House Wrens usually breed in April and May, but that sometimes this continues into June and July. This may be the case if a female got started early enough in the spring to have time to have a second brood after the first.

As to Carolina wrens, two broods per year is typical in more northern locations, while three broods per year may be possible in the more southern reaches of this bird’s habitat.

Tips for Attracting Wrens to Your Yard

Now that you know more about the nesting habits of wrens, you have some context for attracting them to your own lawn and garden.

Consider purchasing a wren house—or several, if you have a large property. Just remember not to put wren houses too close together, or the wrens may be hostile to one another. Get them ready before spring.

Wren peeking out of his HomePro Garden wren house
The HomePro Garden wren house with Navy roof and Weatherwood base.

Ideally, the wren house should not be higher than 10 feet off the ground, and it also should be near brush. Setting up a guard with your wren house will help to keep predators away. It also will encourage wrens to see it as a safe spot to nest.

Also, if you happen to see spider webs near any wren houses you have set up, consider leaving them be. Wrens actually want spiders around since they can help keep mites from infecting their nests. Indeed, they will even go so far as to track down spider egg sacs to put in with their nesting materials. Thus, discovering spiders near your wren nests may not be a coincidence.

Summary

Wrens may be humble-looking birds, but they are fascinating to observe as they build their nests, lay their eggs, and raise their young. Hopefully you will be successful in attracting some wrens to your yard this season. Enjoy listening to their complex calls!

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