Phil Hardy: A bird’s-eye view — the tea kettle bird
Published 1:00 pm Monday, February 6, 2017
A bird’s-eye view: the tea kettle bird
In this column, I want to remind you of one of our smaller birds that you are almost certainly familiar with. Their activities bring them into close contact with humans on an almost daily basis. I’m talkig about the always busy Carolina Wren.
This oddly shaped bird is a pleasure to observe as they are almost always actively feeding, probing their head into cracks and crevices with their long bill, searching out insects. The Carolina Wren’s large head causes them to appear almost comical. With almost no neck it’s like a head was stuck on a body, two feet and wings were added and a tail that sticks almost straight up like my hair does when I get out of bed.
If you have a carport, porch, shop, greenhouse, or shed, you more than likely encounter this small bird either actively searching for spiders and insects or building a nest in anything that resembles a cavity. They have been known to nest in hanging flower baskets, old boots, buckets, propane tank covers, watering cans, and clothes pin bags that hang on clothes lines.
Because Carolina Wrens are non-migratory, you will often hear them singing throughout the year as they go about their daily activities defending their territories and foraging for food. And I must say, for such a tiny bird, the amount of decibels they can pour forth is amazing. His rolling trill can be heard for great distances often with his mate responding.
Only the male Carolina Wren sings the song. They may have up to several dozen variations which they will change up every so often. The song has been described as having three-parts or syllables as if the bird were singing, “tea ket-tle, tea ket-tle, tea ket-tle”. In addition to the familiar song they sing, Carolina Wrens have several other calls they make for other purposes such as making contact with other birds and alerting others to predators nearby. One captive male Carolina Wren sang nearly 3,000 times in one day. When a pair bond is formed the male and female will stay together for life.
You can recognize this wren by its small size, the beautiful cinnamon coloration on the back, the long supercilium (eyebrow), decurved beak, and tail often raised or cocked in an upright position. They often forage on or very near the ground. Abandoned buildings and vine tangles are places to find this species. Should you want to attract Carolina Wrens to your yard, build a brush pile and add some suet to your bird feeders. Not only do my Carolina Wrens devour shelled black-oil sunflower seeds, they also have a discriminating taste for peanuts (pieces and splits) only from Williams’ Peanut Warehouse in Plains!
Several years ago, my mother gave me a new mailbox and post as a birthday gift. It was just what I wanted! Actually, mom was tired of seeing my old rusted mailbox. Since she wanted to see a new one in my front yard she naturally assumed I wanted one also. So, I decided to recycle my old mailbox. I mounted it under the eve of my lawnmower shed. The Carolina Wrens were investigating it the very next day and have not failed to raise at least one brood of young birds every year since in it. I even took an artis’s brush and painted “The Wren’s Nest” on the side of the mailbox in honor of Joel Chandler Harris. Perhaps I should refer to the occupants of my recycled mailbox as Br’er Wren.
Recently I had an up-close encounter with a Carolina Wren in my backyard. While inside one of my blinds I use for bird photography, I heard the scratching of little feet on the roof. Soon, from my peripheral vision, I caught movement of the bird as it searched around my stool for insects as I reminded motionless. It then hopped up on my left boot, looked directly up at me, then continued on his merry little way. I remember laughing out loud at the incident after he departed, leaving no forwarding address or thank you other than his brief visit.
If you don’t already know this native bird, take some time to learn it. They remind me of happiness as I watch them in my yard. If they don’t bring a smile to your face, you have my word of receiving a full refund with no questions asked. Enjoy our native birds this year.
Some information in this article is taken from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. Learn more at www.allaboutbirds.org.
Phil Hardy, a bird watcher and bird photographer, lives in Americus.