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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Dead house wren nestlings (1 Viewer)

newtonj111

New member
Hi all,
First time poster, so bear with me. I've been an enthusiastic backyard birder for decades and I always have a selection of season feeders up year round and as a family we enjoying watching the crowds come and go. But this year, for the first time, we put up a nest box. Got a pair of house wrens (which I loved because I'd never had them before). Mom and dad were great parents, built a cozy nest, and had their babies. We loved watching this take place. At first the babies were barely audible but they got louder and louder every day. We could never see then, they were too far into the box, and we gave them space. The parents were run ragged and were constantly bringing various worms and bugs to the young ones who were clearly loud and enthusiastic eaters. We were really looking forward to seeing the babies when they finally appeared.

But yesterday, my husband found the two nestlings on the ground under the box, dead. The parents have abandoned the nest and after seeing them every 10 minutes for weeks, they're now nowhere to be seen. I am super bummed out by this, and I may never know what went wrong, but I want to make sure it wasn't something that we did in our ignorance.

The nest box was hung on a solid and stable fence post in my garden, about ten feet from my feeders (not knowing that I'd get birds that didn't eat seed or suet). But being in my garden, we were in the area. I watered and planted with feet of the nest box. We cut the grass in the area, so we made noise. We ate on the patio, fifteen feet away. We had our dog and cats out in the yard (dog was uninterested, the cats were in harnesses and on leashes and never got close). Occasionally the parents would come and sit on the fence and yell at the animals, but would always continue to feed their young because no one got near them. I never saw any predators in the area. Everything seemed fine until it wasn't? Did we cause this somehow? My husband said they looked like they were only a few days away from coming out of the box to try flying. Did they just try to do that too early? Did they somehow get ejected from the box by their parents or a predator?

And when something like this happens, do parents ever return to attempt a second clutch in the year? Would they reuse the next box or should I be cleaning it out (pretty sure it doesn't open so that will be interesting) so someone can start fresh again?

As I said, I'm really disappointed by the loss of these little nestlings. I'd just like to see whoever gets in there next is successful. Sorry for all the questions, and many thanks for your insight.
 

newtonj111

New member
About an 1 1/2", maybe up to 2". And we've got a ton of sparrows. I'm sure one could nip in there. So an adult sparrow would go in and force the babies out? If so, there's no way to keep that from happening again. :(
 

Maroon Jay

Airborne
Canada
House Sparrow will enter a nest box and kill entire families of Tree Swallows, Bluebirds, and Wrens. I have even seen them attacking Purple Martins. They will even use the bodies of their victims for nesting material. I have Wrens nesting in my yard. I made the hole 1 and 1/8". Too small for House Sparrows to enter.
 

fugl

Well-known member
House Sparrow will enter a nest box and kill entire families of Tree Swallows, Bluebirds, and Wrens. I have even seen them attacking Purple Martins. They will even use the bodies of their victims for nesting material

In the present context, a case of the biter bit since House Wrens themselves are notorious for the same kinds of behavior
 

Maroon Jay

Airborne
Canada
Yes, Wrens do that also, but they are native birds. House Sparrows are an introduced invasive species. And there are a lot more of them than Wrens.
 
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fugl

Well-known member
Yes, Wrens do that also, but they are native birds. House Sparrows are an introduced invasive species. And there are a lot more of them than Wrens.

House Sparrows have been in North America for over a hundred years and like it or not are here for good, And if not native to the continent, they're native to "us"--superbly adapted to many types of human settlements--as they probably have been since the Old World Neolithic. As far as I'm concerned the North American populations are naturalized citizens at this point and fussing about them in emotive terms is simply silly.
 

newtonj111

New member
House Sparrow will enter a nest box and kill entire families of Tree Swallows, Bluebirds, and Wrens. I have even seen them attacking Purple Martins. They will even use the bodies of their victims for nesting material. I have Wrens nesting in my yard. I made the hole 1 and 1/8". Too small for House Sparrows to enter.

Thank you for the advice. To me this is really a matter of helping the local bird community and while no species is perfect and they're all out there trying to survive and competing for resources (nature is a mother...), I just want to be able to help support them in my backyard. The sparrows in this area are doing just fine, but these are the first house wrens I've ever seen. So if I can help them along, safely, I'd like to.

It sounds like what I need to do is take down this nesting box and get a new one before the next season, one with the type of opening you describe. And hopefully, we'll do better next year. I'm never going to be able to get rid of the sparrows, we're lousy with them here, and they're eating at my feeder no matter what seed is out, but if the real risk from them is in the nesting box, I'm going to try to limit that.

Many thanks again for sharing your insight.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
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