Teakettle – Teakettle! The Tale of the Carolina Wren

A Carolina Wren sits on the edge of a bird feeder. The Carolina wren has brown feathers with a slightly curved beak. It is a cloudy, snowy winter day.
A Carolina wren enjoys a meal at a bird feeder. (Photo: Amy Roell)

If you’ve heard this rapid song/call outside, then you have heard today’s featured guest, the Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). Carolina wrens are small, roundish birds, cinnamon-brown in color from above, with a buffy, whitish-orange belly. It looks like the edges of their wings and tails have black stripes and they have a marked, white eyebrow stripe and slightly curved beak, which looks a little on the long side for their size.

These little birds are very curious, and can be found in woodlands, parks and yards – just about anywhere there are trees and shrubby vegetation. Carolina wrens love to explore and can often find themselves trapped in houses or garages. In fact, a few years ago, one was in our upstairs bathroom, and to this day, I have no idea how it got in!


A Carolina Wren uses its feet to grasp onto a tree trunk. The bird is perpendicular to the tree.
This Carolina wren uses its tail to balance on a tree.

Carolina wrens measure between 4.5–5.5 inches with a wingspan of 11.4 inches. Their tails are usually held upright, except for when they use them to help maintain their balance on a feeder or when they are singing.

You can find Carolina wrens at all kinds of feeders in the winter, scooting around the trunk of a tree, or flitting in the tangled branches of shrubs. Carolina wrens are primarily insect eaters, eating things like caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers and cicadas, among others. They have even been known to eat small lizards and frogs! In winter, they eat suet, sunflowers seeds (especially if they are already hulled), peanut hearts and mealworms. They will also eat berries.


A male and female will form a bond at any time of year, and most likely stay together for life. They will remain on their territory all year long and aggressively defend it from intruders by scolding them and chasing them away.

Carolina wrens are known as cavity nesters, and any cavity will do! Sometimes, they won’t even choose a cavity, but a mere crevice and the nest itself will be shaped like a cavity! They have been known to nest in old woodpecker holes, naturally occurring tree cavities, or planters – either ones you’re not using and have stored off in some remote part of your yard, or ones that have flowering plants in them!

Both the male and female will build the main part of the nest: a domed-shaped, bulky contraption with a side entrance, constructed of twigs, leaves and weeds. The lining is built by the female and is made of softer materials such as moss, grass, animal fur and feathers. In our area, they may have two broods a season, the first one starting in April. The eggs are incubated for about two weeks and then the young are fed by both parents for another couple of weeks. After that, the young will follow the parents and learn how to find food on their own for a bit. The parents can then raise another brood if conditions are right, e.g., plenty of food resources.

Songs & Calls

A Carolina Wren sits on a tree branch. The tree branches have no leaves on them. The Carolina wren is looking toward the camera.

As we move into spring and you venture outdoors more, keep an ear out for the teakettle-teakettle call of the Carolina wren. Once you hear it, you can always then start to look for them flitting about in a tangle of branches or scooting around the trunk of a tree.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a Carolina wren, be still and watch it. Observe its behaviors and try to guess what the boundaries are for its territory, where its mate might be. They are great neighbors to have, so enjoy them!

Looking for another great winter birding find? See if you can spot the white-breasted nuthatch visiting your feeders or flying about at a park!

Amy Roell
Director of Programming