Julie Craves explains why Carolina Wren may be present one winter, absent the next

Carolina Wren in Spring Hill, Florida, by S. Hunter Spenceley.
Carolina Wren in Spring Hill, Florida, by S. Hunter Spenceley.

In the column “Since You Asked” in every issue of BirdWatching, Contributing Editor Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and bird behavior. Here’s a question from our February 2014 issue:

A few winters ago, Carolina Wrens visited my yard, but I have not seen them the past two years. Was that just a fluke, or is there a way to attract them to my feeders this winter? — Kimball Slow, Syracuse, New York

Carolina Wrens are found over a wide portion of the eastern United States. They don’t migrate, and pairs keep a territory year­-round. Since they eat mostly insects, tough winters can make their usual food sources scarce. The warmer winters of recent decades are thought to be responsible for a northward expansion of the species’ range. Severe winters with very cold temperatures and lots of snow tend to knock back populations, and this may explain their presence, then absence, at your latitude.

To help wintering Carolina Wrens at your feeding station, provide suet, sunflower­-seed hearts, small peanut pieces, and mealworms. Like other wrens, Carolinas like to have a secure place to hide, so a brush pile may help entice them to your yard. The brush pile may also shelter small insects that would supplement the wrens’ diets.

See photos of Carolina Wren.

Contributing Editor Jule Craves.
Contributing Editor Jule Craves.

About Julie Craves

Julie is supervisor of avian research at the Rouge River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan Dearborn and a research associate at the university’s Environmental Interpretive Center. She writes about her research on the blog Net Results, and she maintains the website Coffee & Conservation, a thorough resource on where coffee comes from and its impact on wild birds.

Read other questions that Julie has answered in “Since You Asked.”

If you have a question about birds for Julie, send it to [email protected] or visit our Contact page.


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