Bird Identification – The Carolina Wren
The house wrens have a tiny cousin, a mite of a bird, called the winter wren, that is so shy and retiring you will probably never become well acquainted with it. It delights in mossy, rocky woods near running water. But a larger chestnut brown cousin, the Carolina wren, with a prominent white eyebrow, a bird which is quite common in the Middle and Southern States, sometimes nests in outbuildings and in all sorts of places about the farm. However, he too really prefers the forest undergrowths near water, fallen logs, half decayed stumps, and mossy rocks where insects lurk but cannot hide from his sharp, peering eyes. Now here, now there, appearing and disappearing, never at rest, even his expressive tail being in constant motion, he seems more nervously active than Jenny Wren’s fidgety husband.
Some people call him the mocking wren, but I think he never deliberately tries to imitate other birds. Why should he? It is true that his loud-ringing, three-syllabled whistle, “Tea-ket-tle, Tea-ket-tle, Tea-ket-tle” suggests the crested titmouse’s “peto” of two syllables, but in quality only; and some have thought that his whistled notes are difficult to distinguish from the one-syllabled, but oft-repeated, long-drawn quoit of the cardinal. These three birds are frequently to be heard in the same neighbourhood and you may easily compare their voices; but if you listen carefully, I think you will not accuse the wren of trying to mock either of the others. In addition to his ringing, whistled notes, he can make other sounds peculiarly his own: trills and quavers, scolding cacks, rattling kringggs, something like the tree toad’s, besides the joyful, lyrical melody that has given him his reputation as a musician. Even these do not complete his repertoire. To deliver his famous song, he chooses a conspicuous position in the top of some bush or low tree; then, with head uplifted and tail drooping—a favourite posture of all these lively singers—he makes us very glad indeed that we heard him. Happily he sings almost as many months in the year as the most cheerful bird we have, the song sparrow.