Overview

Brief Summary

Thryothorus ludovicianus

A medium-sized (5 ¾ inches) wren, the Carolina Wren is most easily identified by its plain reddish-brown back, buff breast, long tail (often held up at an angle), long curved bill, and conspicuous white eye-stripes. This species may be distinguished from the similar House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) by that species’ small size and fainter eye-stripes and from Bewick’s Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) by that species’ smaller size and paler plumage. Male and female Carolina Wrens are similar to one another in all seasons. The Carolina Wren occurs in much of the eastern United States, southern Canada, and northern Mexico, being absent only from northern New England and the upper Midwest. Isolated populations also occur in southern Mexico and Central America. The Carolina Wren is non-migratory in all parts of its range. Carolina Wrens inhabit a variety of well-vegetated habitats, including bushy fields, woodland undergrowth, and (in the southern part of its range) palmetto scrub. Where food and groundcover is available, this species is also present in suburban areas. Carolina Wrens primarily eat small insects, but may also eat small quantities of seeds and berries during the winter when insects are scarce. In appropriate habitat, Carolina Wrens may be seen foraging for food on the ground or in the branches of bushes and shrubs. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a series of “chirpity” phrases repeated in rapid succession. Carolina Wrens are most active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

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Distribution

Carolina wrens are year-round residents of the southeastern United States. The distribution of this species stretches from the Atlantic seashore to as far west as Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and eastern Oklahoma. It is bounded in the north by southern Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, and in extreme cases, Ontario Canada. The species has trickled as far southward as the northeast corner of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as parts of Central America. In unprecedented cases, Carolina wrens have been recorded as far west as New Mexico and Colorado, and as far north as Quebec, New Brunswick, and Maine.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 1999. "Carolina Wren (Thryothorus Ludovicianus)" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2001 at http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/speciesaccounts/CAROLINAWREN.htm.
  • Haggerty, T., E. Morton. 1995. Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). Pp. 1-20 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 188. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences, and Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Resident from eastern Nebraska east to southern Ontario and New England, south through eastern Mexico to Nicaragua, and to Gulf Coast and southern Florida. Northern range limit retracts after harsh winter, extends northward after mild winter.

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Geographic Range

Carolina wrens are year-round residents of the southeastern United States. They are found from the Atlantic seashore to as far west as Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and eastern Oklahoma. They are found as far north as southern Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, and Ontario Canada. This species is also found in the northeast corner of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, as well in a few spots in Central America.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 1999. "Carolina Wren (Thryothorus Ludovicianus)" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2001 at http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/speciesaccounts/CAROLINAWREN.htm.
  • Haggerty, T., E. Morton. 1995. Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). Pp. 1-20 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 188. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences, and Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Carolina wrens are small birds, though they are large relative to other wrens. They weigh about 20 g and are 12 to 14 cm long. Carolina wrens have a deep rusty-brown back and a lighter cinnamon-colored underside that is unbarred. The throat and chin are white, and the wings, tail and undertail are barred black (in addition to white barring on the wings). This distinct coloring along with a distinctive broad white stripe above each eye distinguish Carolina wrens from other wren species. Carolina wrens have long, thin, slightly decurved bills with a dark upper mandible and a light-yellow lower mandible. Their legs are pink, and their tails are relatively long.

Male and female Carolina wrens are very similar, though males are, on average, slightly heavier. Males often have somewhat more prominent features, including longer bills, wings and tails. Juveniles are very similar to adults, with slightly lighter plumage.

Four subspecies of Thryothorus ludovicianus are recognized by the American Ornithologists' Union. These subspecies are largely distinguished by size, plumage and geographic variation.

Average mass: 20 g.

Range length: 12 to 14 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; male larger; sexes shaped differently

Average mass: 17.5 g.

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Physical Description

Carolina wrens are small birds (though they larger than most Troglodytidae). They weigh about 20 g and are 12 to 14 cm long. Carolina wrens have a rusty-brown back and a lighter cinnamon-colored underside. Their throat and chin are white, and their wings and tail are brown with very fine black stripes. Carolina wrens also have a broad white stripe above each eye, which makes them easy to identify from other wrens. Carolina wrens have long, thin bills that curve downward. The top part of the bill (called the upper mandible) is dark, and the bottom part of the bill (called the lower mandible) is light-yellow. Carolina wrens have pink legs and long tails.

Male and female Carolina wrens are very similar. However, males are slightly heavier and often have longer bills, wings and tails. Young Carolina wrens look like adults, but are usually lighter colored.

Average mass: 20 g.

Range length: 12 to 14 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; male larger; sexes shaped differently

Average mass: 17.5 g.

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Size

Length: 14 cm

Weight: 21 grams

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Diagnostic Description

Differs from Bewick's wren in having buffy (vs. whitish) underparts and in lacking white on the tail.

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Ecology

Habitat

Carolina wrens inhabit a wide variety of habitat types from brushy clearcuts to wooded swamps. Moist woodlands are a preferred habitat type, and moderate to dense shrub or brushy cover is an important habitat requirement. Examples of Carolina wren habitats include wooded riparian zones, wooded swamps, thickets, shrubbery, undergrowth, masses of logs, decaying timber, farmyards, forests, suburban gardens, live oak and palmetto hummocks, isolated clumps of trees in prairies, and old sheds.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest

Wetlands: swamp

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

  • Hill Collins, Jr., H., N. Boyajian. 1965. Familiar Garden Birds of America. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Open deciduous woodland, mostly in undergrowth and thickets; parks; also shrubbery of residential areas, hammocks, swamps, pine barrens; humid forest edge and clearings.

Nests in small niche or cavity in tree trunk or stump, in a crotch, among roots, in a bank, or among low undergrowth, usually less than 3 m above ground; also nests in various cavities or niches around buildings (Harrison 1978), including potted plants.

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Carolina wrens can live in many different types of habitats. They prefer wooded areas that are moist rather than dry. They also need dense shrubs or brush for hiding and feeding. Some of the habitats where you might find Carolina wrens include wooded areas along streams and swamps, in thickets and shrubbery, in piles of logs or decaying wood, farmyards, forests, suburban gardens, live oak and palmetto hummocks, isolated clumps of trees in prairies, and old sheds.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest

Wetlands: swamp

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

  • Hill Collins, Jr., H., N. Boyajian. 1965. Familiar Garden Birds of America. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Carolina wrens are ground-foraging insectivores. They eat a large variety of insects and spiders opportunistically, without showing much preference. Carolina wrens search for food by using their bills to move brush and vegetation, to search under brush piles, in masses of logs and decaying timber, under upturned roots, under tree bark, and around the banks of swamps. As ground feeders, Carolina wrens are vulnerable to harsh winters. During long winters, this species is often forced to retreat to man-made feeding stations and brush piles. Though they primarily feed on the ground, Carolina wrens may also be seen climbing tree trunks in a manner similar to creepers, prying under bark and in crevices.

A study of the stomach contents of 291 Carolina wrens found that 94% of the food was animal matter, while the remaining 6% was vegetable matter. The stomach contents broke down as follows: 22% caterpillars and moths, 19% bugs (including stick bugs, soldier bugs, leaf-legged bugs, leaf hoppers, and chinch bugs), 14% beetles (including ground beetles, weevils, cucumber beetles, bean leaf beetles, and flea beetles), 13% grasshoppers, crickets, and cockroaches, 11% spiders, 5% ants, bees, and wasps, 3% flies. Millipedes, sowbugs, snails, and cotton-boll weevils made up a small percentage of stomach contents. In a few rare instances, lizard, frog and snake remains were also found. The 6% vegetable matter was composed of bayberry seeds, sweet gum, poison ivy, sumac, acorn mast and weeds.

Animal Foods: amphibians; reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )

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Comments: Eats mainly arthropods (Terres 1980); also sometimes small amphibians or reptiles, and some seeds. Picks food items from ground or gleans from foliage, logs, branches, and stems.

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Food Habits

Carolina wrens are insectivores. They eat many different insects and spiders. They feed mostly on the ground, and seem to eat whatever they insects and spiders they find. Carolina wrens search for food by using their bills to move brush and vegetation, to search under brush piles, in decaying logs and trees, under tree bark, and around the banks of swamps. As ground feeders, Carolina wrens have trouble surviving long winters with a lot of snow. During harsh winters, Carolina wrens depend on bird feeders for food.

Scientists found that 94% of the food that Carolina wrens eat comes from animals (mostly insects) and 6% comes from plants (mostly seeds and fruit). Lepidoptera, bugs, Coleoptera, Orthoptera, Blattaria, Aranaea, Apocrita were the most common animal foods that Carolina wrens ate. Bayberry seeds, sweet gum, poison ivy, sumac, acorns and weeds were some of the plant foods that Carolina wrens ate.

Animal Foods: amphibians; reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

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Associations

Carolina wrens affect the populations of the insects and spiders they eat, and provide valuable food for their predators. They compete with other cavity-nesting species for nest sites. They also provide habitat for various parasites, including mites, lice, ticks, and blowfly larvae.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • mites
  • lice
  • ticks
  • blowfly larvae

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Predation of adult carolina wrens has not been documented. However, birds such as blue jays, Cooper's hawks and sharp-shinned hawks are likely predators.

Carolina wren eggs and nestlings are vulnerable to predation by raccoons, black rat snakes, gray squirrels, mink, gray foxes and eastern chipmunks.

When approached by a predator, Carolina wrens may call in alarm or chase after the predator, sometimes pecking at it.

Known Predators:

  • blue jays
  • Cooper's hawks
  • sharp-shinned hawks
  • raccoons
  • black rat snakes
  • gray squirrels
  • mink
  • gray foxes
  • eastern chipmunks

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Ecosystem Roles

Carolina wrens affect the populations of the insects and spiders they eat, and provide valuable food for their predators. They compete with other cavity-nesting species for nest sites. They also provide habitat for various parasites, including mites, lice, ticks, and Protocalliphora.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • mites
  • lice
  • ticks
  • Protocalliphora

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Predation

Birds such as Cyanocitta cristata, Accipiter cooperii and Accipiter striatus are the most likely predators of adult Carolina wrens.

Carolina wren eggs and nestlings are eaten by Procyon lotor, Elaphe obsoleta, Sciurus carolinensis, Mustela vision, Urocyon cinereoargenteus and Tamia striatus.

When predators come near, Carolina wrens may call in alarm or chase after the predator, sometimes pecking at it.

Known Predators:

  • Cyanocitta cristata
  • Accipiter cooperii
  • Accipiter striatus
  • Procyon lotor
  • Elaphe obsoleta
  • Sciurus carolinensis
  • Mustela vision
  • Urocyon cinereoargenteus
  • Tamia striatus

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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General Ecology

Pairs stay together on territory after breeding season.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Carolina wrens communicate using physical displays and vocalizations. Examples of physical displays employed by Carolina wrens include courtship displays (described in "Mating Systems") and agonistic displays that involve holding the body horizontal with the wings held out, the tail fanned and the head and bill pointed at the intruder. Physical displays are often accompanied by vocalizations.

The song of Carolina wrens is loud and high pitched. It consists of varied sounds including: trills, clacks, chatters (mostly used by females) and rattles. Songs normally contain 3 to 5 identical syllables, each containing 2 to 12 notes. The frequency has an average range of 1.8-4.5 kHz. The phonetic translation of these songs has been described as: TEA-kettle, TWEEdle, SWEETheart, CHE-wortle, and CHOO-wee. While females produce the basic sounds, only male Carolina wrens produce songs. The sounds and songs of this species can be used in a number of situations. A few of these instances include: to threaten a predator or another wren, in interspecific mobbing, during territorial defense, to indicate mood, for appeasement between mates, as a "distress" call, to differentiate rivals by sex, etc. Carolina wrens sing at all times of the year and all times of the day, but they are heard most frequently during late winter and early spring.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

Carolina wrens communicate using body signals and calls and songs. For example, Carolina wrens may use body signals to threaten another wren that enters their territory. To do this, a Carolina wren will hold their wings out, fan their tail and point their bill at the intruder.

Carolina wrens' songs are loud and high pitched. They sound like TEA-kettle, TWEEdle, SWEETheart, CHE-wortle, or CHOO-wee. Females are able to make sounds, but only males are able to make songs. The sounds and songs are used in many different situations. For examples, Carolina wrens may call or sing when they threaten a predator or another wren, while defending their territory, or to signal distress. Carolina wrens sing and call year-round.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

The oldest known Carolina wren lived at least 6 years and 1 month.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
6.1 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
111 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

The oldest known Carolina wren lived at least 6 years and 1 month.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
6.1 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
111 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 9.2 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Carolina wrens are monogamous. Breeding pairs remain together for many years until one member of the pair dies or disappears. Male Carolina wrens put on an elaborate show in order to attract a mate. Their courtship involves encircling a female wren in a stiff, hopping, pattern while puffing out the feathers and fanning the tail. Occasionally a male will bring an offering of food to entice the female.

Mating System: monogamous

Carolina wrens breed between March and October. Both members of a breeding pair work together to build a suitable nest. Nest construction takes place in the morning hours, and lasts up to one week. The first nests of the season are often larger and more time consuming than later nests. Carolina wrens will build their nests in a wide variety of natural and artificial sites. These include upturned roots, tree stumps, vine tangles, conifer branches, overhangs, abandoned woodpecker holes, boxes, tin cans, old shoes, mailboxes, old articles of clothing and furniture, window sills and coffee pots. The nests are usually built of twigs, grasses, weeds, leaves, mosses, pine needles, bits of bark and found objects such as hair, string, feathers, etc. The average nest is 8 to 23 cm long and 8 to 15 cm wide, and is usually less than 1.8 m above the ground. Nests are not reused for additional broods.

Females lay 3 to 7 (average 4) eggs at a rate of one per day. Eggs are usually laid within 1 to 2 hours of sunrise. Egg laying can begin as early as March in southern populations, and can continue through the summer. Carolina wrens nesting in the northern part of the range generally raise two broods per year, while pairs in the souther part of the range can raise up to three broods. Eggs are generally light cream to pinkish-white and spotted with dark purple to brown flecks near the ends of the egg. Carolina wrens' eggs are oval shaped and about 18 mm long.

The female incubates the eggs for 12 to 16 days. Meanwhile, the male spends his time gathering and delivering food to the female. The eggs usually hatch within one hour of each other. The newly hatched young have closed eyes (which open in three days), pale gray down, translucent pink skin and a yellow bill. They are fed immediately upon emerging.

During the first four days after hatching, the young are brooded intensively by the female. After this, the female continues to brood the young at night. The young are fed butterfly and moth larvae, crickets, grasshoppers and beetles by both parents.

The chicks leave the nest 12 to 14 days after hatching. After much coaxing from parents (for instance, adults will decrease food deliveries) the young depart the nest by hopping and flying erratically. The parents continues to visit the young, who remain together, for feeding purposes for weeks after they depart. The young become independent about 4 weeks after fledging. The young Carolina wrens are able to breed the first spring following their birth.

Breeding interval: Carolina wrens may raise up to three broods per summer.

Breeding season: Carolina wrens breed between March and October.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 7.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Range time to hatching: 12 to 16 days.

Range fledging age: 12 to 14 days.

Average time to independence: 4 weeks.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average eggs per season: 5.

Carolina wrens share parental care. Both members of a breeding pair build the nest and feed the young. The female does all of the incubating of eggs and brooding of young. Meanwhile, the male brings food to the incubating female.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female)

  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 1999. "Carolina Wren (Thryothorus Ludovicianus)" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2001 at http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/speciesaccounts/CAROLINAWREN.htm.
  • Haggerty, T., E. Morton. 1995. Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). Pp. 1-20 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 188. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences, and Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.
  • Hill Collins, Jr., H., N. Boyajian. 1965. Familiar Garden Birds of America. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
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Clutch size is 4-8 (usually 5-6). Often produces two broods per year, sometimes three in the south. Incubation lasts 12-14 days, by female. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest at 12-14 days.

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Carolina wrens are monogamous. Males and females form breeding pairs that remain together for many years. Male Carolina wrens try to attract a mate by performing courtship displays for her. They may hop around the female in a circle while puffing out their feathers and fanning their tail. They may also bring food to a female to try to attract her. This is called courtship feeding.

Mating System: monogamous

Carolina wrens breed between March and October. The male and female work together to build a nest. The nest is built in the mornings, and takes up to a week to build. Carolina wrens will build their nests in a wide variety of sites. These include upturned roots, tree stumps, vine tangles, conifer branches, overhangs, abandoned woodpecker holes, boxes, tin cans, old shoes, mailboxes, old articles of clothing and furniture, window sills and coffee pots. The nests are usually built of twigs, grasses, weeds, leaves, mosses, pine needles, bits of bark and found objects such as hair, string, feathers, etc. The average nest is 8 to 23 cm long and 8 to 15 cm wide. Nests are usually less than 1.8 m above the ground. Each nest is only used once.

Females lay 3 to 7 (average 4) eggs. One egg is laid each day in the early morning. The eggs are light cream to pinkish-white with dark spots near the ends. They are oval shaped and about 18 mm long. Females can begin laying eggs as early as March in southern populations and as early as April in northern populations. Carolina wrens nesting in the northern part of the range generally raise two broods per year, while pairs in the souther part of the range can raise up to three broods.

The female incubates the eggs for 12 to 16 days. Meanwhile, the male spends his time gathering food and delivering it to the female. When the chicks hatch, they are helpless. They have closed eyes (which open after three days), pale gray down, translucent pink skin and a yellow bill.

The female broods the chicks for the first four days after hatching. This protects them and keeps them warm. After four days, the female broods the chicks mostly at night. Both parents feed the chicks butterfly and moth larvae, crickets, grasshoppers and beetles.

The chicks leave the nest after 12 to 14 days. After they leave the nest, the chicks stay together and the parents continue to feed them for about 4 weeks. The young Carolina wrens are able to breed the next spring when they are about a year old.

Breeding interval: Carolina wrens may raise up to three broods per summer.

Breeding season: Carolina wrens breed between March and October.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 7.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Range time to hatching: 12 to 16 days.

Range fledging age: 12 to 14 days.

Average time to independence: 4 weeks.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average eggs per season: 5.

Male and female Carolina wrens both care for their young. The male and female work together to build the nest and feed the chicks. The female incubates the eggs and broods the young herself. While she is doing this, the male brings food to her.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female)

  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 1999. "Carolina Wren (Thryothorus Ludovicianus)" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2001 at http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/speciesaccounts/CAROLINAWREN.htm.
  • Haggerty, T., E. Morton. 1995. Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). Pp. 1-20 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 188. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences, and Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.
  • Hill Collins, Jr., H., N. Boyajian. 1965. Familiar Garden Birds of America. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Thryothorus ludovicianus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 8 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CCTATACTTAATCTTTGGCGCATGAGCCGGGATAGTAGGCACTGCCCTAAGCCTTCTCATCCGAGCAGAGTTAGGCCAACCTGGCGCCCTGCTGGGAGACGACCAGGTCTACAACGTGATCGTCACAGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATTTTCTTCATAGTTATGCCAATTATAATCGGAGGGTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTAATAATCGGAGCCCCCGACATAGCATTCCCCCGAATAAACAACATGAGCTTCTGACTTCTCCCCCCATCCTTCCTGCTCCTACTAGCCTCCTCCACTGTCGAAGCAGGAGTAGGAACAGGCTGAACCGTCTACCCACCTCTAGCAGGCAACCTAGCTCACGCCGGAGCATCAGTCGACCTGGCCATCTTCTCCCTCCACCTGGCGGGTATCTCATCCATTTTAGGCGCAATCAACTTCATCACAACAGCAATCAACATAAAACCTCCTGCCCTATCCCAATACCAAACACCCCTATTTGTCTGATCAGTCCTAATCACCGCAGTCCTACTTCTTCTCTCCCTCCCTGTCCTCGCCGCGGGCATCACCATGCTGCTAACAGACCGAAACCTCAACACCACATTCTTTGACCCTGCCGGAGGAGGAGACCCAGTTCTTTACCAACATCTATTTTGATTCTTTGGCCACCCAGAAGTCTNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Thryothorus ludovicianus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 7
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Because Carolina wrens are highly adaptable and able to inhabit a range of habitats, this species is common and widespread. With an estimated global population of 17,000,000 individuals, this species is thriving, and its range is increasing. Humans do manage for Carolina wrens in the northern part of their range where harsh winters can severely impact populations. During harsh winters, conservation organizations may place nest boxes in the wrens' habitat to aid in survival. These boxes are used for roosting and nesting.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread and common; persists near human habitation.

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Carolina wrens are very adaptable and are able to live in many different habitats. This ability has helped Carolina wrens to remain common and widespread. There are about 17,000,000 Carolina wrens in the world.

Humans do help Carolina wrens in the northern part of their range where harsh winters can kill a lot of birds. In northern areas, people build nest boxes that the wrens can use for roosting and nesting.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Population

Population Trend
Increasing
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known negative effects of Carolina wrens on humans.

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We do not know of any way in which Carolina wrens affect humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative effects of Carolina wrens on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

We do not know of any way in which Carolina wrens affect humans.

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Wikipedia

Carolina wren

The Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is a common species of wren that is a resident in the eastern half of the United States of America, the extreme south of Ontario, Canada, and the extreme northeast of Mexico. Severe winters restrict the northern limits of their range while favorable weather conditions lead to a northward extension of their breeding range. Their preferred habitat is in dense cover in forests, farm edges and suburban areas. This wren is the state bird of South Carolina.

There are seven recognized subspecies across the range of these wrens and they differ slightly in song and appearance. The birds are generally inconspicuous, avoiding the open for extended periods of time. When out in the open, they investigate their surroundings and are rarely stationary. After finding a mate, pairs maintain a territory and stay together for several years. Both sexes give out alarm calls, but only males sing to advertize territory. Carolina wrens raise multiple broods during the summer breeding season, but can fall victim to brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds, among other species. Some populations have been affected by mercury contamination.

Taxonomy[edit]

The Carolina wren was first described under the name of Sylvia ludoviciana by John Latham in 1790.[4][note 1] Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot considered all wrens under the genus Troglodytes and called the Carolina wren Troglodytes arundinaceus but placed it subsequently in a separate genus Thryothorus (initially misspelled Thriothorus [2]) that he created in 1816.[7] Thryothorus is of Greek origin from the combination of thryon (rush, reed) and thouros (derivative of verb throskein to leap up, spring, jump at) which means 'Reed Jumper'; its specific name ludovicianus is a post-classical Latin term for Ludovicus (derivative from Louis XIV) that means 'of Louisiana' that identifies the locality of the specimen collected near New Orleans.[8][9]

There are seven recognized subspecies of the Carolina wren:[4][10]

T. l. ludovicianus (Latham, 1790) - Southeast Canada (Southern Ontario, irregularly in Eastern and Southern Quebec) and the eastern United States (Southern Wisconsin and New England southward to Texas and northern Florida).

T. l. miamensis Florida wren (Ridgway, 1875) - Florida from approximately 30 degrees (Gainesville) region southward through the rest of the state.

T. l. nesophilus (Stevenson, 1973) - Dog Island in Northwestern Florida.

T. l. burleighi - Burleigh's Carolina wren (Lowery, 1940) Offshore islands off of the Mississippi coast: Cat Island, Ship Island (Mississippi), and Horn Island.

T. l. lomitensis - Lomita wren (Sennett, 1890) southern Texas to the extreme northeast of Mexico (Tamaulipas).

T. l. berlandieri - Berlandier's wren (S. F. Baird, 1858) Northeastern Mexico (eastern Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and southwestern Tamaulipas)

T. l. tropicalis - Northeastern Mexico (eastern San Luis Potosi and southern Tamaulipas).

T. ludovicianus is traditionally placed within its own genus as its only representative of North America, but recent DNA work suggests it is closely allied with the Bewick's wren.[11] A distinct population in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, and in Guatemala is treated as a separate species, either known as Cabot's wren or white-browed wren (Thryothorus albinucha).[4][12] It is considered a subspecies of T. ludovicianus by some authors, however.[10]





Campylorhynchus megalopterus



Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus





Thryomanes bewicki




Thryothorus ludovicianus ludivicianus



T. l. albinucha








Cinnycerthia peruana




Thryothorus guarayanus



Thryothorus leucotis










Henicorhina leucosticta



Henicorhina leucophrys




Uropsila leucogastra




Cyphorhinus arada





Thryothorus maculipectus



Thryothorus coraya





Thryothorus sinaloa





Description[edit]

At 12.5 to 14 cm (4.9 to 5.5 in) long, with a 29 cm (11 in) wingspan and a weight of about 18 to 23 g (0.63 to 0.81 oz), the Carolina wren is a fairly large wren; the second largest in the United States species after the cactus wren. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 5.4 to 6.4 cm (2.1 to 2.5 in), the tail is 4.5 to 5.6 cm (1.8 to 2.2 in), the culmen is 1.4 to 1.8 cm (0.55 to 0.71 in) and the tarsus is 2 to 2.3 cm (0.79 to 0.91 in).[4] Sexual dimorphism is slight with males being larger than their mates. A study indicated that out of 42 mated pairs, all but one of male was larger than the female of the pair. The males were on average 11 percent heavier along with having longer wing chords.[13]

There are several differences among the subspecies. For T. l. ludovicianus, the crown is rich brown that appears more chestnut-colored on its rump and uppertail-coverts. Shoulders and greater coverts are a rich brown, with a series of small white dots on the lesser primary coverts. The secondary coverts are rich brown with a darker brown barring on both webs; the bars on the primaries are on the outerwebs only, but darker and more noticeable. The retrices are brown with 18 to 20 bars that span across the tail. The white supercilious streak borders thinly with a black above and below, and extends above and beyond its shoulders. The ear coverts are speckled gray and grayish-black. Its chin and throat are grey that becomes buff on its chest, flank and belly, though the latter two are of a warmer color. The underwing coverts sport a grayish buff color. Its iris is reddish-brown, the upper mandible is lemon-colored and paler at the base and lower mandible. The legs are flesh-colored.[4]

As for the other subspecies in contrast to T. l. ludovicianus, T. l. berlandieri is of a slightly smaller build, but possesses a larger bill, the upperparts are duller brown with deeper colored underparts, T. l. lomitensis is of a duller color (than either ludovicianus or berlandieri) with its underparts either pale or almost white, T. l. miamensis contains darker rusty chestnut upperparts and deeper colored below. T. l. burleighi is duller and sootier with less distinct tail markings, T. l. mesophilus has paler underparts and a whiter supercilium, and T. l. tropicalis is darker than all races, and contains heavier bars than T. l. berlandieri.[4]

Plumage[edit]

The juvenile T.l. ludovicianus is similar in appearance, but the plumage is generally paler with a softer texture with buff-tipped wing coverts, a superciliary streak is less white, a fluffy vent and crissum (flanks) without bars.[4][14] In August and September, the partial plumage molt for the post-juvenile wrens is darker in color and affects the contour plumage, wing coverts, tail and develops a whiter superciliary stripe. The post-nuptial molt for adults in the same time period is more pronounced in color than the spring molt, with both sexes similar in appearance.[14]

Life span[edit]

Sketches of Thryothorus ludovicianus, T.l. lomitensis, and Thryomanes bewickii (Bewick's wren) and one of its subspecies.

Survival rates differ by region. A male captured in Arkansas lived to be at least 73 months old, and in Alabama, the oldest female and male captured were six and ten years old, respectively. A mark-and-recapture analysis of the wrens analyzing survival probability within the Southeastern United States captured was monitored from 1992 to 2003. Roughly 90 percent of the banded wrens died within 10 years.[15]

Similar species[edit]

The easiest species to confuse with the Carolina wren is Bewick's wren,[16] which differs in being smaller but with a longer tail, grayer-brown above and whiter below. The Carolina and white-browed wrens differ from the house wren in being larger, with a decidedly longer bill and hind toe; their culmen has a notch behind the tip.[17]

Habitat and distribution[edit]

These birds are largely resident, and will only disperse beyond their range after mild winters.[4] Carolina wrens sporadically breed as far north as Maine and Quebec after mild winters.[4][18] In certain parts of their range, such as most of Iowa, prolonged periods of snow can curtail potential expansion.[19] Permanent breeding locations range from eastern Nebraska, southern Michigan, southeast Ontario and the New England states to Mexican states such as Coahuila, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas and the Gulf Coast of the United States.[15] Local occurrences with infrequent and likely breeding locations include southeast South Dakota, central Kansas, eastern Colorado, western Oklahoma and Texas as far as Maine and New Brunswick.[15] There have been occasional vagrants spotted in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.[4][18]

Carolina wren at feeder

The range of the wrens increased northward and westward in several regions over the past few centuries. In Massachusetts, the wrens had expanded westward and northeastward from its former southeastern location in approximately 35 years, in New York the population increased three-fold in roughly 25 years, while in midwest states such as Ohio and Michigan have seen numbers of the birds increase since the mid-1800s and early 1900s, respectively.[15] Expansion around Ontario occurred since early reports in 1890 and 1905. Explanations given include infrequent winter storms in the 20th century, expanded forest habitats, and the wrens taking advantage of urban areas containing feeders, especially in winter.[15]

Carolina wrens adapt to various habitats. Natural habitats include various types of woodland such as oak hardwoods and mixed oak-pine woodlands, ash and elmwoods, hickory-oak woodlands with a healthy amount of tangled undergrowth.[4][20] The preferred habitats are riparian forests, brushy edges, swamps, overgrown farmlands, and suburban yards with abundant thick shrubs and trees, and parks.[4][20] It has an affinity for dilapidated buildings and unkempt yards in man-made areas.[20] Subspecies burleighi and neophilus inhabit slash pine and palmettos.[4][20]

Behavior[edit]

Song and calls[edit]

Carolina wrens sing year round and at any point during the daytime, with the exception of performing during the most harsh weather conditions.[20] The birds are also the only species in the Certhiidae family that neither sings in duet nor has their song control regions affect repertoire size.[21] Males alone sing, and have a repertoire of at least twenty different phrase patterns and on average, thirty two.[21][22] One of these patterns is repeated for several minutes, and although the male's song can be repeated up to twelve times, the general amount of songs range from three to five times in repetition. While singing, the tail of the birds is pointed downward. Some general vocalizations have been transcribed as teakettle-teakettle-teakettle and cheery-cheery-cheery.[20][14] Various descriptions of the teakettle song include whee-udel, whee-udel, whee-udel, che-wortel, che-wortel and túrtee-túrtee-túrtee and familiar names and phrases such as sweet heart, sweet heart, come to me, come to me, sweet William, and Richelieu, Richelieu.[14]

Males are capable of increasing their repertoire through song learning, but due to their sedentary nature and territorial defense habits, the song learning must occur within the first three months of life.[23] Geographic barriers affect song repertoire size from male wrens, as one study indicated that distances separated as close as 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) by water barriers can have the same effect as that of a distance of 145 kilometres (90 mi) in the mainland with no barriers.[23]

Female Carolina wrens possess song control regions that would appear to make them capable of singing with repertoires like the male. Due to vocalizations that they occasionally make with the male, it has been suggested that song perception plays a role and is of behavioral relevance.[21]

Carolina wren on Rutland Township Forest Preserve

Different subspecies have variations in songs and calls, such as miamensis having a more rapid song that contains more notes than the races that are further north.[4]

Their songs can be confused with the Kentucky warbler. The song patterns are similar, but is of a different quality, as the warbler's songs is described as richer, with more ringing and a hurried pace.[20] Other bird species that have their songs described as akin to the wrens are the flicker, Baltimore oriole, gray catbird, and more specifically the peto, peto, peto calls of the tufted titmouse, and whistles of the northern cardinal.[14] Occasionally, the wrens mimic other species, and in Pennsylvania it has led for it to be also known as the 'Mocking wren'.[4]

Sexual selection[edit]

A 2006 study suggested that the correlation of tail length and body size in males, wing length in females, and lifespan for both sexes were signs of individual quality, and the wrens of high quality tend to mate with like individuals. The courting and antagonistic encounters that involve the tail fanning and wing drooping was suggested to be a possible signaling use. Age and life experience are not thought of as significant for potential mates due to their relatively short lifespan and sedentary lifestyle. Due to the large size of male wrens and the male's vigor in defending its territory, intrasexual selection was given as a possible explanation for the sexual dimorphism.[13]

Territorial and predator defense[edit]

Both sexes are involved in defending the territory. One aspect of territorial defense involves identifying the proximity of the threat based on the loudness of bird song as well as the level of degradation of the calls. In experiments involving playback, the wrens are capable of discriminating between degraded and undegraded songs, as well as degraded songs in the same acoustic conditions, and can detect changes of acoustic properties within their territories, such as songs under foliage.[24] Song degradation can also be used to determine the proximity of potential intruders. If the song of a bird appears to be degraded, the wrens will assume that the threat is distant not respond; if the song is not degraded, they respond by attacking.[25] Not all birds within their territory are potential enemies. Some species of birds that are neighbors are designated as 'dear-enemies' by the wrens, and the responses to neighbors and intruders in their territories differ by the season. In spring, the wrens respond more aggressively toward neighbors, though in the fall, no major discrepancy in responses is shown.[26] When protecting their nest, alarm calls are the general response. The wrens judge the size of the potential threat, such as a blue jay and avoid the risk of injury when attacking.[27] Countersinging produced by intruder birds is more likely to be taken as an aggressive threat to male Carolina wrens.[28]

Both males and females utilize calls in alarm situations, especially in territorial disputes and encounters with predators. Males alone produce the cheer call, which can sound indistinct. In southern regions of their range, the sound males use in alarm disputes is a ringing pink or p'dink sound. Females are the only ones that can perform the paired dit-dit or chatter sounds. The former can be used in territorial disputes with predators, and with at least northern populations the songs are used in alternation with the males cheer chant. The chatter is used exclusively with territorial encounters with male song, and the song can either follow or overlap her mate's song.[21][29]

Feeding[edit]

Carolina wrens spend the majority of their time on or near the ground searching for food, or in tangles of vegetation and vines. They also probe bark crevices on lower tree levels, or pick up leaf-litter in order to search for prey. Their diet consists of invertebrates, such as beetles, true bugs, grasshoppers, katydids, spiders, ants, bees, and wasps. Small lizards and tree frogs also make up the carnivorous portion of their diet. Vegetable matter makes up a small percentage of their diets, such as fruit pulp and various seeds. In the northern portion of their range, they frequent bird feeders.[4][20]

Movement[edit]

Carolina wrens are wary, and are more often heard than seen. When on the ground, they move in jerky hops pillaging through various objects, whether man-made or natural.[20] While moving abruptly, they pause momentarily for chattering or singing.[14] When stationary, they move in twitched motions, jerking their breast around.[20] They also sun- or sand-bathe.[30] The wrens also displays a skittish behavior when encountered by humans, as they can be seen thrusting off into cover slowly if approaching is detected. However, they occasionally seek out humans that are near, so long as there is no movement from them.[14] Other movements involve being capable of crawling like a creeper and hanging upside-down like a nuthatch.[20]

Flights are generally of short duration, rapid, low-leveled, and wavelike. The wings during flight are flapped rapidly, and are frequently used during foraging. They are also capable of flying vertically from the base of a tree to the top in a single wing assisted bound.[4][20]

Breeding[edit]

Carolina wren nesting in a duck nestbox.

Carolina wrens are both genetically and socially monogamous and will usually mate for life. Mate changing is rare,[13] and there has been one possible instance of polygamy.[4] During the winter season, males are more responsible for guarding the territory. Females vary in succeeding to maintain winter territories without a mate.[4] It has been suggested that the possibility of desertion and decline in care-taking from males along with the need for security in resources year-round prevent extra pair copulations from females, as the mortality rate for Carolina wrens peaks during the winter.[31] Along with thermoregulatory benefits, roosting is thought to reinforce pair-bonding and prevent divorce between mates.[32]

The nests are arch-shaped structures with a side entrance and built of dried plants or strips of bark, as well as horsehair, string, wool and snake sloughs. Males obtain nesting materials while the females remains at the site to construct the nest. Nests are located in fragmented or complete cavities in trees, or in man-made structures such as bird-boxes, buildings, tin cans, mailboxes or unorthodox places such as pockets of hanging jackets in sheds or in a tractor in everyday use.[14][4] Nests are from 1–3 m (3.3–9.8 ft) from the ground and are rarely higher. They occasionally can be built in sloping locations or at ground level.[4]

Egg laying dates and clutch size vary by region; in Texas the time period is from late February to late August, in Iowa it ranges from late April to June.[12][19] The clutch size is generally 3 to 6 eggs, but can reach as high as seven in Texas.[4][12] The eggs are creamy white with brown or reddish-brown spots, and are more heavily marked at the broad end.[4] The eggs are incubated by the female for 12–16 days. After the young hatch, they are fed exclusively on invertebrates and they fledge in 12–14 days. As many as three broods may be raised by a pair in a single breeding season.[4] In one study, three of the 70 fledglings remained or defended territory adjacent to the natal area.[15]

Male and females are involved in the process of provisioning at similar rates throughout most nest stages, with the males providing slightly more in the nestling stages. Both sexes increase their provision rates as the nestlings grow in age.[33]

Predation and threats[edit]

Brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds is common, with up to 25% of Carolina wren nests being affected in certain regions such as Oklahoma and Alabama.[4][15] Cowbird parasitism peaks in April at 41%, and is as low as 8% and 0% in July and August, respectively. Female cowbirds sometimes eject Carolina wren eggs before laying their own, and even if host eggs are retained, the size of cowbird eggs negatively affect the hatching success of wren eggs. As a result, cowbirds may have a significant impact on the reproductive success of wrens.[4][15] The feeding rate for cowbird nestlings is higher than wren feeding rates, and some have been raised to independence.[15] This also can be detrimental to the survival of wren nestlings.[15] A rare instance of brood-parasitism by a House finch has been recorded.[15][34] The rate of brood parasitism is thought to be lower in more natural and concealed nesting locations.[15] Body parasites such as the larvae of blowflies feed on nestlings and the blood loss weakens nestlings.[15] Fellow species of wren such as Bewick's wren and the winter wren compete for nesting locations and food, respectively.[15]

In Virginia, some Carolina wrens populations show high levels of mercury in their blood and this is acquired from feeding all-year-round on spiders.[35][note 2] Spiders being at a higher trophic levels contain a higher concentrations of mercury (through biomagnification) than herbivorous invertebrates. As these wrens are year-round residents, they are at a higher risk than other species to acquire mercury in its blood. Nest abandonment and failure to raise young were more common with higher mercury content.[35] Exposure, and prolonged periods of cold, ice, and snow is thought to affect the wren nestling and adult populations, respectively.[15] Wrens that outlast those winters reside in sheltered areas during the season.[14]

Among the top predators of adult Carolina wrens are domestic cats, and snakes such as the canebrake rattlesnake.[36][37] Racoons and black rat snakes also feed on wren eggs and nestlings.[15]

In Culture[edit]

South Carolina state quarter

In 1930, the South Carolina Federated Women's club adopted the Carolina wren as the unofficial state bird over the eastern mourning dove and pushed for its official state adoption until 1939, when the South Carolina Legislature named the northern mockingbird as the state bird. In 1948, the legislature repealed their previous decision, and the wren became the official state bird.[38]

In 2000, the Carolina wren was featured on the back of the South Carolina edition of the 50 State Quarters.[39]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Johann Friedrich Gmelin wrongly associated the Carolina wren with the European wrens under the name Motacilla troglodytes (originally coined by Carl Linnaeus in Systema Naturae)[5] in 1788.[4][6]
  2. ^ The North Folk Holston and South Rivers were used in the study and were both contaminated by industrial activity.

References[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Population in Middle America (Yucatan Penninsula, plus isolated localities in Guatemala and Nicaragua) sometimes has been regarded as a distinct species, T. ALBINUCHA (e.g., Phillips 1986, who suspected that ALBINUCHA belongs in the genus TROGLODYTES).

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