The House Wren is chittering and chattering, trilling and chirping away this morning. I’m so happy he’s returned. I had worried for the ravens came this week. The murder of four swept down and swooped low over our pasture grasses, delivering an ominous message and threats. The little guy had to lie low for a time and I had missed seeing him perched on the roof of his box in the morning, beak filled with smashed mosquitoes for his family. Weighing about as much as two quarters, (Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology,) I can’t say I blame him.
House Wrens are among the tiniest of birds, their babies, miniscule. The breeding pair has taken up residence in the nesting box my husband, Frank, built this past winter. We saw the male first, flying in with grasses and twigs in his beak, building a nest to attract a female. Now, we have at least three inhabiting our bluebird boxes.
But this tiny songbird doesn’t always need a nesting box, although they do provide safety from predators. I suspect one of the reasons for their success is that they are nesting generalists, which means they make their homes just about anywhere. From tree cavities to decommissioned radiators to boots to brush piles to woodpiles, these songbirds have one of the largest ranges in the Western Hemisphere of any other songbird. Their high level of adaptability, habituation to humans and versatility allows them to persist despite some of the challenges other more fragile species may face; they are fiercely aggressive and have been reported to be master thieves of nesting sites otherwise belonging to Bluebirds and Chickadees, Tree Swallows and Warblers. Unlike other birds that may pair for a while, the male House Wren has reputed commitment issues – his Baby, it’s been fun, but now it’s over – behavior precedes him, leaving weepy females alone at the end of the mating season to find another mate with which to reproduce the following spring.
Our high altitude pasture in the Rocky Mountains has been the habitat for an entire population of House Wrens this summer season. Each morning stroll through the woodlands along the week is graced by their chittering and calling, singing and trilling. The songs of summertime go along with a morning coffee on the front porch and nearly always include a melodious performance by the male in particular, who is also reputed to sing up to 600 songs an hour for hours on end.
I’m relieved that at least for this one little songbird, they are thriving and celebrating their way through life.
Peterson Field Guide to Birds