Wrens wreticent

A story from last year:

Some years back, house wrens conducting reconnaissance in the area discovered that the underside of the second building’s full-width metal awning would accommodate their particular nesting style with ease, and gradually they took over the place, defending the premises with great vigor and carefully disassembling the nests before migration, lest some interlopers take over.

A few birds had been wandering in over the last couple of weeks, but yesterday they were back on site in full force. About a dozen were perched on the edge of the building like small grey gargoyles, standing watch; others were gathering straw for nest construction; still others occupied the bank of trees along where the curb would be if we had a curb, presumably to make sure no one else got the idea of settling in this zone.

Yesterday around noon, a platoon’s worth was lined up in the parking lot, which is not the usual place for flying creatures generally. I was somewhat puzzled by this until I’d reached a stretch of sidewalk, when it became obvious what they were watching: a member of the family Colubridae, slithering its way along the concrete. I don’t think your garden-variety Snake on the Plains can climb painted brick walls all that well, so I doubt the nests were in any particular danger, but the wrens weren’t going to let this farging reptile out of their sight for a moment. Just the same, they kept their distance: six feet away from the five-foot snake.


  1. fillyjonk »

    2 May 2009 · 1:41 pm

    You’d be surprised at what snakes CAN climb. My colleague the ornithologist winds up losing a few of the research-nests every summer to snakes (and more to raccoons), despite the nest boxes being on metal poles, some with “snake guards.”

    And yeah, wrens – at least house wrens – are one of the most aggressive birds, gram for gram, that I’ve ever encountered. I remember as a kid having to give the wren box in the back yard a wide berth because the mother wren would actually CHASE people who came within about 15 feet of the box. (The Carolina wrens that I get nesting in my backyard from time to time seem to be more mellow, maybe that’s because they’re larger)

  2. CGHill »

    2 May 2009 · 3:19 pm

    On the way away from the premises, I kept my head down, looking for that snake; I don’t even want to imagine what I might have done had it turned up above me. (Cue voice of Samuel L. Jackson.)

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