Friday, April 26, 2013

Hidden Wren

Carolina Wren- Wikimedia
The last few weeks we have been hearing this shrill call in the trees off our deck. We and our friends scanned the trees but although they hadn't leafed out yet, we could never locate the bird. Finally in desperation I made this recording of the song and sent it off to friends in Audubon. Each responded that it was a Carolina Wren.
Lisa Berger explained our failure to see the bird. We were searching the high tree tops where we thought the sound was coming from. In addition to being small, the wren wasn't that high.
"Human ears are good at discerning sound direction horizontally, but not so great vertically. Humans all interpret this as a shortcoming, and it can make us feel insane. Universally we all suffer from it.
You recorded a male Carolina Wren's song. While these guys can travel and sing about anywhere in two dimensions, they are most often found less than 8 feet off the ground. This is mid season for their first brood, so watch for them carrying food to the nest."
Carolina Wrens are sedentary--don't migrate, and are one of the few species here that maintains their territory year-round, with males singing all year. Listen for the females, who combine a buzzy, melodic trill (pair, synchronous or duet sing) with the male's song." (see Cornell's avian duetting link)
The recordings we found on line didn't match with what we were hearing.  Again, Audubon to the rescue.  Jan Horton described this call as "one of his many songs, jiminy jiminy jiminy jun.  Another is teakettle, teakettle, etch." 

There is a lot of regional dialect in birds, and, really, only a few recordings for each species.  According to,
"Only male Carolina Wrens sing—a series of several quick, whistled notes, repeated a few times. The entire song usually lasts less than 2 seconds and the notes are usually described as three-parted, as in a repeated teakettle or germany. Each male has a repertoire of up to several dozen different song variations. He'll sing one of these about 15 times before changing his tune."
Notice the "his"- only the male wrens call.  Barb says that being loud and repetitive like my recording above is a male trait which has been passed on to higher species of bipeds.  I think I may be hurt.