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Carolina Wren

(Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Banded February 2, 1998 Carmel, Indiana

General Information

The Carolina Wren occurs in the eastern half of the USA and Mexico. It is one of nine species of wrens that occur in North America. Six subspecies of Carolina Wrens are recognized in the USA (Pyle 1997). Its loud call rings through the forest, sounding like it is saying "tea-kettle tea-kettle tea-kettle." Males call all year round. Winter calls sound more like a series of churry buzzes. It is a year round resident, with mated pairs remaining together on permanent territories.


The Carolina Wren is deep rusty brown, but has a buff chest and belly. They are common in wet wooded areas and suburbs with well developed woods.

Adult Carolina Wren
Figure 1 - Adult Carolina Wren


Adult Carolina Wren
Figure 2 - Adult Carolina Wren

The long down curved bill is especially adapted for feeding on invertebrates, small vertebrates and some seeds. Note the white throat and white stripe above the eye. The Carolina Wren is similar to the Bewick’s Wren, but is heavier bodied, more buff underneath, and lacks the white spots on the outer tail feathers.


This individual was banded a year before on the same territory. Some are concerned that a band will hurt a bird, but a properly applied band is not harmful to the bird. As can be seen here, the leg of this individual shows no damage after wearing this band for a year.


Carolina Wren Band
Figure 3 - Carolina Wren Band

Carolina Wren Primary Feathers
Figure 4 - Carolina Wren Primary Feathers


Wrens have 10 primary flight feathers. The 10th, shown in the upper part of this photo, is smaller than the others.

The primary and greater coverts are rufous and show some buff on the tips. Buff tips may be more extensive on younger birds.

Carolina Wren Covert Feathers
Figure 5 - Carolina Wren Covert Feathers


Carolina Wren Tail Feathers
Figure 6 - Carolina Wren Tail Feathers


The tail is rufous brown with dark bands. The outer tail feathers of the Carolina Wren lack the white spots of the similar Bewick’s Wren.

Carolina Wren Under Tail Feathers

Carolina Wren Under Tail Feathers
Figure 7 - Carolina Wren Under Tail Feathers


Nesting Behavior

Carolina Wrens remain paired even during the non breeding season. They prefer to nest in natural cavities, and often will find their way into a garage or porch and build their bulky domed nest into a niche such as behind some cans on a shelf. From 4 to 6 eggs are incubated by the female for about two weeks. Young are tended by both parents, and often by the male only as the female begins a new clutch.


Carolina Wrens often build their nest on a shelf in a garage among items on the shelf. This pair chose to build their nest in a plastic 2 quart pitcher that was lying on its side.

Carolina Wren Nest
Figure 9 - Carolina Wren nest


Carolina Wren chicks about two days old
Figure 10 - Carolina Wren chicks about two days old


The wrens here are newly hatched and still blind. They are partially covered with their natal down feathers. The nest is constructed of needles and twigs and from a nearby White Pine tree. Some green moss is woven into the nest along with a little strip of plastic.

Carolina Wren chicks about to fledge
Figure 11 - Carolina Wren chicks about to fledge


These chicks are now almost two weeks old. They are wide eyed, covered with their first plumage and about to one day away from fledging from the nest. The home owner was gracious and left the garage door ajar to allow the parents access to the nest until the young birds fledged.

Banding Recoveries

The Bird Banding Lab web site reports that since 1955, a total of 39,432 Carolina Wrens have been banded. Of these, 583 have been recovered, a recovery rate of 1.48%.

If you should recover a banded bird, please report the band number to the Bird Banding Lab by calling 1-800-327-BAND.

Conservation Status

Populations of Carolina Wrens are increasing in most areas of their range. During mild winters, these birds extend their range further north, but harsh winters drive their range southward.

A drastic drop in populations occurred in 1978. The extremely harsh winter of 1978 no doubt had a very detrimental impact on Carolina Wren populations, but populations have increased steadily since then. Overall, population densities are larger in the southeastern US.

Literature Cited

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part 1. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, CA 730 Pp.

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