Gnatcatcher and the Wren

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers usually arrive in the spring before the trees leaf-out and start building nests right away. The absence of leaves, and the fact that they are very vocal when building the nest, makes it fairly easy for people who want to find the nest to actually locate them. The birds are not very loud, but persistent in their squeaky, buzzy vocalizations.  Even so, I often have trouble locating the nest of these little, gray bundles of energy here at the Museum.

The trees filled out early this year so I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to find a nest this year. But stay in one spot long enough and you’re bound to see something interesting. I kept hearing a gnatcatcher as I walked by the split in the path near the restrooms in Explore the Wild (ETW), “there must be a nest around here somewhere.”

Then, I saw a gnatcatcher fly into a pine at the edge of the water, directly in front of the restrooms in ETW. There was a nest!

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest in a pine in Explore the Wild.

The nest looks much like a hummingbird nest except that it’s a bit larger (about 2.5 inches outside dia.). The nest is constructed of spider silk, plant down, plant and other fibers and lichens, a neat little nest.

It’s fun to watch these tiny birds settle into their nests. Often only the tip of the bill and the tail is visible above the rim of the nest, the tail usually straight up as if the nest were two sizes too small, the bird stuffed into it.

The view from the opposite side of the nest. The arrow points to the tail of the bird.

Once the nest is built and eggs are laid the birds quiet down some. The quiet posture of the birds and the advanced stage of the leaves make it more difficult to find a nest later in the season. Fortunately this nest is in a pine and leaves are not a factor. However, I tried to point out the nest to several people the other day and was unsuccessful in doing so.

One bird that never seems to quiet down is the Carolina Wren. These wrens will sing in the dead of winter if the spirit moves them, and it often does. But it’s now spring and they really let loose at this time of year.

A Carolina Wren belts out a song along the path on the Dinosaur Trail.

Some say the song sounds like tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle. Others think it sounds more like chirpity, chirpity, chirpity. The other day, someone said to me that they thought it sounded more like video, video, video. What do you think?

The song varies from singer to singer and even the same bird may sing a different tune from time to time. So yes, the wren’s song can remind you of different things at different times, but it’s always loud and persistent.

2 responses to Gnatcatcher and the Wren

  1. leslie says:

    We have wrens all around our house. They seem to battle over the right to sit on top of our grill and serenade us. They will also peek into our living room if we have the screen door open. We’ve never had one fly in but they definitely like to keep an eye on us.

    • Greg Dodge says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if you had one of the wrens come in and check your place out for nest sites!!

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