The Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is a highly common type of bird that is found in North America.
With population numbers that have only risen over the decades, it’s reasonable to wonder how many times these loud, vocal birds mate or “nest” during their lives.
While there is no hard-set number, most Carolina wrens can nest two to three times a year, or between 12 and 18 times in their lifetime.
However, the exact amount for each depends on several factors, from location and weather to food sources.
Table of Contents
- What do Carolina wrens look like?
- Where do Carolina wrens nest?
- What kinds of nesting habitats do Carolina wrens prefer?
- Do Carolina wrens ever re-use nests?
- How many eggs do Carolina wrens lay?
- What do Carolina wren eggs look like?
- How long does it take Carolina wren eggs to hatch?
- What times of the year do Carolina wrens build their nests?
- Do Carolina wrens always nest at the same times?
- What do Carolina wren nests look like?
- What do Carolina wrens make their nests out of?
- How large are Carolina wren nests?
- What should you do if you find a Carolina wren nest?
- Do Carolina wrens mate for life?
- How long do baby Carolina wrens stay in the nest?
- How many Carolina wren nests are there?
In order to successfully identify Carolina wren nests, it helps to be able to spot the birds themselves.
The Carolina wren is a small, rounded bird with a short neck and a squat, almost chubby appearance.
It has a light brown to reddish-brown back with a white throat, beige-yellow belly, and a white streak on its brow.
Despite their name, Carolina wrens are not just limited to the Carolinas. Their nests have been found in both the northern and southern regions of North America, from the southern states to Ontario Canada.
They tend to stick to the eastern side of the continent, but they have been found as far west as Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and parts of Texas.
Smaller populations of these birds have been found in select spots around Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Though the birds themselves spend most of their time in wooded areas, they are known for not being very picky when it comes to choosing locations for their nests.
In addition to the expected trees, roofs, gutters, and walls, their nests have been discovered inside of more unique spaces like shoes, car parts, bicycle helmets, windowsills, and even coat pockets.
As some bird experts have noted, it seems the Carolina wren is content to nest just about anywhere it will fit.
Carolina wrens also sometimes nest out in open areas, and they design their nests to have roofs and domes accordingly.
Nests are typically built between 3.3 and 9.8 feet above the ground and are rarely found higher up.
Some bird species have been observed tearing apart their old nests and rebuilding them or simply reusing what they have already built when it comes time to mate again.
However, this is not the case with Carolina wrens, who use each nest only once. They also do not re-purpose one another’s nests.
If you find a completely empty Carolina wren nest on your property, you can either leave it alone or clean it up, as the birds will be unlikely to return.
Female Carolina wrens are known to lay between three and seven eggs a mating season, with most laying around four.
They will typically lay one egg each morning during the laying period.
Though small, Carolina wren eggs are memorable in appearance. They are oval and about 18 mm (0.7 inches) long.
As far as color goes, they range from creamy white to pale pink and have dark spots dotting the ends (more concentrated on the wider side).
The average Carolina wren egg has an incubation period that lasts between 12 and 16 days before hatching.
The times of year that Carolina wrens build their nests can vary by region. In all cases, however, it will take place shortly before egg-laying begins.
In southern regions, this has been observed to be between late February and late August, while in northern regions this takes place between late April and early June.
Even experienced birds do not always nest at the same times year after year. Food scarcities and unexpectedly cold temperatures can affect this, as can a mate who has suddenly become sick or passed away.
The nests of these small wrens are generally rounded or arch-like in shape with sides angled up and outward.
They are loosely woven with visible clusters of twigs and other materials.
When built in a location with natural protection (like a box or windowsill corner), the nest will be open on top.
When constructed out in the open, a small roof or dome connected to the main portion is added, and a side entrance is left open.
Along with choosing a wide variety of unexpected locations for nests (like shoes, cans, pipes, and coat pockets), Carolina wrens are also not picky when it comes to building materials.
They are known to have a variety of go-to nest construction items like:
- Wood chips
- Pine needles
- Grasses and weeds
Even so, modern Carolina wrens have been observed using paper, shoelaces, plastic, and a wide range of other human items.
Whatever they can get ahold of at the time, it’ll do.
Carolina wren nests vary in size depending on whether they are constructed inside an enclosed space or cavity, or if they are out in the open.
Nests built inside a small, enclosed space tend to be between two and three inches across, while those that are out in the open are slightly larger with a dome-like top and side entrance hole just slightly wider than the birds.
If the nest is deserted, you can clean it up or leave it alone as you wish. Active Carolina wren nests (with eggs or visible birds) should be left alone if they are in a safe location.
Others may need to be moved if they were constructed in a hazardous area (like car parts) or are otherwise in the way.
It’s a good idea to contact local animal control or wildlife organizations first before trying to move the nest on your own.
If you need to touch it, always wear gloves, avoid touching the interior, and move it as gently as you can to a location as close as possible.
Carolina wren couples are known to mate for life. Seeing as the birds reach sexual maturity at one year of age and live to be around six years old, these relationships can last anywhere from a few to several years.
Because Carolina wrens tend to raise multiple broods throughout the year, these couples remain in each other’s company most months.
Like other bird parents, Carolina wrens build their nests to last throughout the egg-laying and incubation periods and on until their young are ready to leave and be on their own.
This period of maturity lasts between 12 and 14 days.
Within two weeks of their young leaving the nest, the parent wrens will begin construction on a new nest and move on.
It’s impossible to say exactly how many Carolina wren nests are in existence at any given time.
An estimated 14 million adult wrens with breeding capability live in the world today, but they build new nests with each new brood.
It’s also worth noting that male Carolina wrens often build “practice nests” in potential locations for their mate, after which the female mate selects one.
Even though old nests are typically dismantled by other birds or humans, there are likely several million nests in North America alone.