Wren houses

The weekend of April 15-16th, I spent a couple hours building two new wren houses. I was thinking I had plenty of time before the house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) migrated back to Oregon with it being so cold and whatnot. I found a few free patterns online, made the measurements, and cut everything to size. In particular, I wanted a hanging, five-sided house, like the one my grandmother used to have on the Schwedler maple back at our old family farm in rural Wisconsin. Now, every time I hear a house wren singing, it brings back memories of a warm, sunny Wisconsin summer morning spent gardening and exploring the woods.

Aside…Troglodyte. Now there’s an interesting word I haven’t heard in a long time. A troglodyte is defined as: 1) a person who lived in a cave, especially in prehistoric times, 2) a hermit, or 3): a person who is being deliberately ignorant or old-fashioned. Looking for further connection between the word and the bird, I found this in one of my grandmother’s old bird books. “Many of the wrens nest in cavities fashioned by nature or man. This trait explains the family name Troglodytidae, or cave dwellers.”

Now that folks, is the type of intellectual tidbittery that will help me remember a scientific name.

As I was cutting the pieces, I didn’t notice that the measurements on the hanging house pattern were slightly off (wrong) and, upon assembly, the floor of the house ended up a little higher than it should be and one side of the roof is longer than the other. But, it all fit together snugly and I doubt the birds will care. As a perfectionist, though, this bugs me, and I am guessing every time I walk by, a little weentzy subconscious part of me will think about it. Next time, I will make my own house wren house plans.

I also made a standard box wren house to replace the one I made years ago from scrap wood. This time, I just plain wasn’t paying attention and the entrance hole is about half an inch off center. Sigh. Should have double checked, but I was in a hurry to get to the next garden task.

Two new wren houses and the old wren house in the middle
Two new wren houses flanking the old one

As mentioned, I thought I had more time before the house wrens returned, maybe late May or early June.

Our old water shed, the house wrens have nested here for years.

I was wrong. On the morning of 4/25 I heard the unmistakable bubbling, trilling notes of a house wren outside the door during my morning meditation. I couldn’t believe it. Checking back through my records on Botanica Chaotica, last year I heard our first house wren on 4/24/2022. Looks like I completed the houses right on time, imperfect as they may be.

I've hung bird houses from the large apple tree before. No one ever used them. Let's see if this one does the trick.

I thought I would get a picture of the wren while I was out in the yard one morning before heading to work. But the fidgety thing wouldn’t sit still. Photographing birds is hard.

I did snag a photo of this chestnut-backed chickadee though. These little guys don’t visit the feeders like the black-capped chickadees did back in Wisconsin, so I rarely get to see them up close. Instead, they tend to stay up high in the trees, picking and flitting about, which makes me a little sad because chickadees are among my favorite birds. Nice to see them that morning – they made my day.

I did manage to catch a few photos of the wren the next morning. I watched him for a few minutes, scavenging for twigs, taking them up to the roof, tipping over the edge, and then dropping each and every one.

House wren with a twig on top of a wren house
House wren with a twig on top of a wren house
House wren dropping the twig

Clumsy bird. He ended up dropping quite a few. It almost looked deliberate. He didn’t even try to fly them down to the hole.

Worried maybe the roof was too long, I did check and there are some twigs inside, so he has had some success. Tempted to trim the roof down, but maybe it’s best to just leave things alone.

One last bit of nature out in the garden. I found a couple baby salamanders or newts, maybe about an inch and a half long, crawling about in the leaf litter. I’ve only ever seen rough-skinned newts around here, so maybe it’s one of those? I can’t find many good photos online, so not sure.

That’s it! This was supposed to be a short post, but I ended up spending more time than I thought. Off to do chores.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. danger garden

    I like the slightly off kilter hanging house, the roofline has a midcentury modern sort of vibe.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Wow, now I feel like a classy carpenter!

  2. hb

    How cool to make homes for birds, and to find a newt in your garden! A fine way to spend a spring day.

    Here there are acorn woodpeckers nesting in a eucalyptus by a bend in the road. We see their little heads sticking out of the cavities. Funny birds!

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Woodpeckers are funny birds. Thank goodness the weather is finally warming up enough to be outside to enjoy the garden and wildlife.

  3. Anna K

    Oh, how fun to build bird houses! I’ve always thought that might be a fun thing to do, but know so very little about birds and their various needs. It would be an entirely new rabbit hole to get lost in…

    I wonder why the wren kept dropping the twigs below the new house…? Such odd behavior. Maybe it’s some kind of mise en place ritual for nest building?

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Maybe the wren was gauging the size of the hole and thinking, ‘Nope, that’s not going to fit’, and then dropping it to go find a different size. It’s packed with twigs now, so he obviously was able to fit other twigs through. Meanwhile, the hanging house remains vacant. I’ve never gotten anyone to nest over there. I’m tempted to attach some sort of fake bird on top.

      Ooh, and thanks for the new vocabulary – mise en place – to gather, or put in place, everything you will need for cooking.

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