We’ve had a long strange trip of a winter here in PA. More snow than in the last few years combined. Now we’re getting to see the ground for the first time in about a month.
There are signs….things to wait on. Around the first of May, there is a little bird called a Jenny Wren, also called a house wren, who comes and sings. My father had an affinity for these birds and did some research about them, and I followed on behind him. Seems the male needs to go ahead from where ever the mated-for-life couple spent the winter. He comes to choose the homestead, and most of them return to where they nested in the years before. He comes and inspects the nesting site of the year before, and if it is no longer appropriate in some way, he will start to build another nest. Then Mrs. Wren comes and gives her approval by settling in and helping with the nest.
These birds are extremely protective of their young, starting with protecting their eggs. They show that protectiveness in the way they choose where to nest. They do like man-made bird boxes, but I’ve also seen a pair nesting on a big gourd hung right on a back porch. They will nest in a box or other suitable enclosed object, pretty near to human beings. They seem to get used to us. My box hangs on the clothes line pole, pretty near the house. They do growl at me and fuss when I go to hang things on the line, and one even dive-bombed me once last year. But they still come back each year.
The box must not be painted. They don’t want other birds coming and pecking the eggs in their nest, and bright colors seem to attract other birds. Also, they may not like the paint smell. The hole in the box must be no bigger than a nickle. Birds can get their head in a bigger hole and peck the eggs. Also, no perch can be on the box. It makes it too easy for other birds to have a convenient place to sit and peck the eggs. They are also suspicous of alterations to their box: you shouldn’t clean the box out; they wil clean it out themselves.
When the babies hatch there is a flurry of activity for several weeks. Two tiny birds trying to feed as many as eight hungry babies. I’ve watched this activity and seen both adults flying out with eggshell at first, then beginning to bring in food. Sometimes there is not a minute goes by between trips in with food. Good, dedicated parents they are!
This little tiny bird, several ounces of bird, makes the largest and most wonderful, complicated song. They arrive usually around 5/1, tho they were about a week earlier last year. I have been known to run to the door and outside when I hear the first song, to make sure I heard correctly. This is my sure sign of spring! Some visitors have thought I was wacky at times when I go out saying: Jenny Wren is Here! But I don’t care, it’s a hallmark for me after all these years. There is no more pleasant sound than waking up hearing that beautiful song on a summer morning. I’m always glad to have her and her family as backyard residents at my house.
Here is a link to an article from sNature.com: (http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/detail.asp?sortBy=has+audio&curFamilyID=250&curGroupID=1&lgfromWhere=&curPageNum=8)
This article says they are sometimes nasty to other birds that build nests in holes in things. I have not seen that happen, but have only ever had one nesting pair here at a time. The article also includes a yellow button at the top left of the page, where you can hear the amazing song that comes from this tiny little bird.
Spring will come!
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