On a recent visit to Central Park I chanced upon a singing House Wren Troglodytes aedon and followed it back to a hole in a dead stub of a tree.  It was actively removing tiny wood chips that had probably been there since the hole was excavated.  If I had to guess I would say that the hole had been excavated by a Downy Woodpecker as a winter roost hole, but that is raw speculation and I really have no idea, though at one point during the five minutes I watched the wren drove a female Downy Woodpecker away from the vicinity of the hole.

What I found interesting was how vigilantly the wren defended the hole considering that it was a male and there was clearly no nest yet.  But male House Wrens prepare several possible nest locations and stuff them with sticks in the hopes that at least one of the spots they choose will catch the fancy of a fertile female who will then choose the male as a mate.  Stories abound of House Wrens going so far as to destroy other birds’ nests, even puncturing their eggs, in order to procure potential nesting locations so I really wasn’t surprised but I was entertained.

A fellow Central Park birder let me know that the wren had even been seen doing battle with the scourge of cavity-nesters wherever they have been introduced, the House Sparrow.  I saw no House Sparrows in the vicinity so here’s hoping that the House Wren has driven them away for good and that he has found enough spots with which to impress his lady love.  If I get a chance I will check back and let you all know if he nests or not.

House Wren just after it chased off a Downy Woodpecker

House Wren dropping wood chips

House Wren in potential nest cavity

House Wren taking off with some wood chips

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.