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Birds of SGG

Posted on: May 19th, 2014 by Smith-Gilbert Gardens 1 Comment
House Wren Photo courtesy of Cornell Labs

House Wren
Photo courtesy of Cornell Labs

As I got out of my car around 9am on Wednesday, May 14, at SGG, I was crossing my fingers that I would find a new bird to write about. I am into my third year of writing about the birds of SGG, so it is getting more difficult to find a bird I have not seen before in the gardens.

Mother Nature responded favorably to my crossed fingers as I immediately heard a bird I had not written about before. I followed the bubbly little song until I spotted the bird sitting atop the bare branches of the Eastern Red Cedar located by the rose garden.
I love those bare branches. I have spotted so many different birds, especially singing males, using those branches as their courting stage. They are the center of attention in that spot, not only for prospective mates but also for us. For those of you who have French manicured-garden sensibilities and would like to prune those dead branches, I hope you will think of them not as an eyesore but as a perch for a beautiful tree ornament—a bird.

I sat down on the lovely garden bench on the west side of the trail to watch and listen to the lively little House Wren. North Georgia is the southernmost breeding area for House Wrens. During non-breeding times, House Wrens like to stay low where they can quickly dart into tangled brush to escape predators, but love is a powerful motivator.

I witnessed this motivation to find a mate later in my walk when I heard another House Wren, or perhaps the same male I had seen earlier, singing high in the oak tree above the gazebo by the koi pond. What I marveled at was this male Wren did not stop singing even when a Red-shouldered Hawk landed in the same oak! Hawks eat songbirds. If that act of bravado didn’t win that feisty Wren a mate, then move over Scarlet O’Hara.

Feisty is a very appropriate adjective for the House Wren. This little bird is only 4.75” long and weighs about 0.39 oz., but he is disturbingly territorial. Once he has established his territory, he will not tolerate any other cavity nesters, like bluebirds, building their nests in his territory. He will lay sticks in other birds’ nests to disturb them and will even go so far as to poke holes in other birds’ eggs.
I did not see any bluebirds at the gardens, so hopefully no one will have to witness any avian infanticide. If you have a bluebird box in your yard and are having difficulty attracting bluebirds, you may want to look around or listen for the presence of a House Wren.
I heard and saw a House Wren on the fence in my backyard a couple of weeks ago. I have a bluebird box, but Chickadees moved into it. I have not seen any activity lately, so I’m anticipating the worst when I open the box. Such is the nature of Nature—not good or bad—just life.

You can help out the birds who come to your feeder, especially if you maintain a very orderly lawn and garden. Your feeder is a great temptation for birds looking for easy pickings. They risk being out in the open in order to feed, and we enjoy being able to see them out in the open. However, they need someplace to hide if a predator approaches your feeder. When you prune your bushes and trees, save some of the cuttings for a brush pile. This is a perfect hiding place for birds. I was very pleased to see that Callaway Gardens had an igloo-shaped brush pile near their feeders.

As a final note, you should learn the difference between the House Wren and the Carolina Wren so you will not worry about your bluebirds if you see a Carolina Wren. The Carolina Wren is more common in this area and will not harm the eggs of other birds. The Carolina Wren is larger than the House Wren and has a bold white eyebrow.

You might also like to compare the songs of these two Wrens:

Carolina Wren Photo courtesy of Cornell Labs

Carolina Wren
Photo courtesy of Cornell Labs

House Wren: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Wren/id
Carolina Wren: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Carolina_Wren/id

Happy Birding!

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One Response

  1. Claudia Constantine says:

    Great article, Pat. It may be the answer to why the bluebirds haven’t been using the nesting box the past couple of years and have been replaced by other species. I’ll have to keep my eyes and ears open.

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