Nature Questions

Carolina Wrens

This summer, we have had two different types of birds visiting our front porch. Each chose a different corner of the porch to build a nest – a good safe place out of harm’s way. Or so we thought.

Birds #1

The first pair of parents were Carolina Wrens. They build a more enclosed nest, so we couldn’t see the hatchlings very well. But the parents were brave, flying in and out of the nest no matter what was going on around them. Even while my nine-year-old sat on the front steps, they would fly in right past him, land on the porch swing, then go on up to the nest.

The little birds seemed to be doing well. Then, one day, we found a dead one on the ground in front of the car. At first, we thought it might be the mother, as it was covered with feathers and looked just like the adults. Then we became concerned – what would happen to the babies since the mother was gone?

This question brought up more. Do both wren parents take care of the offspring? How long does it take for a baby wren to be ready to leave the nest? Will the others be able to survive?

Birds #2

I didn’t recognize the second set of birds that came. They made their home on the opposite side of the porch. Their nest was more open, so when the eggs hatched, you could easily see the babies. We saw both parents feeding them, though the birds were more timid and would stay back if someone was outside. Then, one day, the parents quit coming. The little birds had all died.

So we had more questions. What kind of birds were they? Why did they die? After all, everything seemed to be going so well.

Learning Opportunities

Nature presents amazing opportunities for learning. There’s so much to discover and investigate, and so many questions to answer. Anytime you’re outside with your children, take a notebook and a pencil along, and write down the questions that come up. Then, together, do some research online or at a library and find the answers.

Some of What We Learned

Carolina wrens are monogamous and will stay together year-round. Both parents help feed the baby birds. Fledglings begin to leave the nest after 12-14 days, and they’re independent when they are a month old. The one we found that had died was an almost-grown baby who left the nest; perhaps one of our dogs got it. The others all did fine and flew away. We think the other birds were Willow Flycatchers. We still don’t know why they died, so we have more research to do.

And we learned so much more! We learned about the birds’ habitats, diets, and behaviors. And it all started with an observation, and a question…and a question…and a question….

What questions about nature has your family investigated lately?

Photo by glenn_e_wilson

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