The Coastal Gardener: Invite a couple to share your garden

April 08, 2011|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • Every year, a male house wren announces his claim to my yard with a rollicking, bubbling song. Wrens are tiny, but they can sing big. By adding a wren house now, they are easy to attract.
Every year, a male house wren announces his claim to my… (Ron Vanderhoff,…)

You will usually hear them before you see them. House wrens are small birds, but they are a great addition to almost any garden.

I'm standing in my garden watching a tiny brownish bird streak from the orange tree to the fence top. Once there it pauses, looks around for a moment, then begins singing. The song is melodious and wonderful, the way a songbird is supposed to sound, not chirpy, but musical.

After a brief recital the tiny bird flits over to the vegetables, broccoli leaves quiver and off comes a small caterpillar. He takes it to another fence row and devours it.

Every garden needs a couple of house wrens. They're the perfect backyard bird: tame, highly energetic, insect eating, neat and fastidious, and they give the garden a voice.

Wrens shouldn't be confused with sparrows or finches, which differ in many important ways. Sparrows and finches are seed eaters, are almost twice a wren's size, arrive in groups, have little if any song and often leave a mess for the gardener to clean up. In addition to their beautiful voice, wrens however appear in pairs, don't need birdseed, are courteous gardeners and are delightfully entertaining. A garden seems to do better with wrens in it.


Now is the time to attract a pair of wrens to your garden — and it couldn't be easier; just add a wren house. I repeat, if you want wrens, don't add a "birdhouse," add a wren house. Generic birdhouses will soon be filled with ever-present house sparrows, house finches or even starlings.

Get a wren house, one specially made for the requirements of these little birds. Wren houses are a little smaller and have an entrance hole of between 1-inch and 1.25 inches; any larger and sparrows, finches and starlings will fill it instead.

The first wren to arrive in your garden will be a male. After thoroughly exploring your whole garden, the male wren will investigate its potential new home. I hang my wren house off the patio cover with a chain, but wrens aren't too choosy about location. You can hang your wren house from a tree, mount it on a wall or place it just about anywhere and since wrens are quite approachable little birds you can place the house near a window or in a lace where you will enjoy their antics. Once the male wren finds the wren house he will stand on top of it, swell his chest, and sing at the top of his beautiful voice.

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