Carolina Wren

Thryothorus ludovicianus

Year-round Resident
Has Nested in Park

Carolina Wrens are common year-round residents at Monticello Park. They nest in the park and the surrounding neighborhood.

Where to See Them in the Park

You can see Carolina Wrens foraging in the bushes in many parts of Monticello. In the early spring, males pop onto branches and sing. During the late spring, you sometimes can see Carolina Wrens with their young.

Physical Description

Carolina Wren Adult
Adult - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Carolina Wren Adult
Adult - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Carolina Wrens are the largest of the three wren species found at Monticello and are a little larger than many of the warblers who visit the park. They have a brown back, buffy underparts, and a prominent white line over the eye. They often cock their tails. The sexes look similar, and adult plumage is the same in the spring and the fall.

Female Carolina Wren Adult on Nest
Female on Nest - Photo by Ashley Bradford

The Carolina Wren nest is a broad cup made of leaves, bark, twigs, moss, and other material. Both the male and the female bring materials for the nest, and the female does most of the finish work on the nest lining. The pair sometimes continues to build the nest after egg laying has begun. The female lays 3 to 7 eggs, and only she incubates them. Incubation lasts 12 to 16 days, and during this period, the male brings food to her.

Carolina Wren Nestlings
Nestlings - Photo by Ashley Bradford

The nestling phase last roughly the same amount of time as incubation. The adults bring food to the young until they are ready to leave the nest.

Carolina Wren Fledgling
Fledgling - Photo by William Young

Some of the fledglings seen at Monticello do not yet have a tail.

Carolina Wren Adult Feeding Fledgling
Adult feeding fledgling - Photo by Carol Jean Stalun

Parents feed their offspring a diet of invertebrates for about two weeks. The offspring are then left to fend for themselves. The parents will raise 1 to 3 broods per year.


Carolina Wren Adult
Adult - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Carolina Wren Adult
Adult - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Carolina Wren Singing
Adult - Photo by William Young

Carolina Wrens are among the loudest singers at Monticello and often will sing from an exposed branch or stick. The song is variable, usually having two- or three-syllable phrases, such as tweedle-tweedle-tweedle or teakettle-teakettle-teakettle. They also have a broad range of call notes, some of which sound harsh and scolding. Males do most of the singing.

Hear the vocalizations of the Carolina Wren.


Carolina Wrens eat spiders as well as insects, which can cause problems for the wrens (as well as the spiders). A 2011 study found that some Carolina Wrens in Virginia had high levels of mercury in their blood from feeding on spiders throughout the year. Spiders are relatively high on the invertebrate food chain and can contain higher levels of mercury than many plant-eating insects. Because the Virginia wrens do not migrate, they ingest higher levels of mercury than birds who are in the state for only part of the year. The mercury exposure has caused lower reproductive success.

Origin of Names

Common Names: Carolina from its range — Carolina used to be a loose term for the South. Wren from the Anglo-Saxon wraenna, which means wren.
Genus Name: Thryothorus means reed leaping.
Species Name: Ludovicianus means of Louisiana, where the original specimen was found.

Carolina Wren video footage

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