Wrens: Tiny Birds with Big Voices

I am convinced that the loudest voices in any forest belong to the wrens. These tiny birds are usually audible even when you can’t spot them in the foliage. We’re going to explore four different wrens that call the lowcountry home at various times of the year.  There are at least four videos below: one each for Carolina, House, Marsh, and Sedge Wrens. They can be hard to tell apart, so here are some hints.

Carolina Wren

The wren you’re most likely to spot is the Carolina Wren, the state bird of South Carolina.  With a rusty color, a bold eye stripe, and a plain chest, the Carolina Wren is happy to build a nest near homes (for some reason, they love golf cart chargers and hats on hooks).  They’ll come to feeders and birdbaths, and they’ll scold you from the relative safety of high bushes and porch railings.  We even had a family nest under the eaves of a screened porch, and the youngsters were incredibly safe inside the screens so long as we didn’t let the cat go out there.

House Wren

While House Wrens don’t nest here, they can be found here October through May.  They are much plainer than the Carolina Wren, and they make up for that with their loud voices.  We usually just hear their scolding, but where they nest, their song is a deep bubbling cascade of music.

Marsh Wren

Marsh wrens are year round residents in the lowcountry, but I have yet to discover a nest.  They are found in the salt marsh, sometimes foraging on the wrack and sometimes singing from within the fronds, invisible from outside the marsh.  Their bubbling song is the backdrop to many a summer creek float or fishing afternoon.  They are most easily identified by the dark cap: if you see a wren in the summer in the marsh, it’s most likely a marsh wren.  In winter, they share habitat with sedge wrens, and you should always look for that cap as an identifying feature.

Sedge Wren

Occupying a similar habitat to the marsh wren, the sedge wren is also a shy denizen of marsh edges in the winter.  They lack the distinctive dark cap of the marsh wren and the underside is buffier.  The other markings are more subdued, but they do have a slight eye stripe. They have short bills that are not quite as curved as the other wrens you’re likely to find here.