Natural Perspectives: Their yard is going to the birds

April 06, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
  • A pair of mallards hang out at Vic and Lou's pond in the front yard.
A pair of mallards hang out at Vic and Lou's pond in… (Lou Murray, HB Independent )

When Vic and I wrote about the house wrens in our front yard two weeks ago, we weren't sure if the nest was a real one or a dummy nest. As far as we can tell, the nest is real and the female is most likely incubating eggs at this point. We don't want to look into the box to check, though, for fear of disturbing her if she is incubating.

If you remember, we mentioned that house wrens are polygynistic, meaning that the male may take more than one mate. But each female needs her own nest box for things to work out. Well, on the day that our column about wrens came out two weeks ago, a second female entered the scene. She was presumably attracted by the vigorous singing of the male.

I dashed over to Shipley Nature Center and bought their last two nesting boxes. These are actually built for bluebirds, but wrens don't know that and use them gladly. The reason I bought two is that I wanted one for the second female wren and one for any potential bluebirds that might still show up looking for a place to live. I hung one new box in the front yard near the active nest, and the other in back.


Immediately, our male wren began singing near the box in back. He would sit on top of the box and sing, hop to the opening and sing, then into a tree and sing. He has been a very busy little boy, flitting from the active nest box in front to the one in back and singing, singing, singing. He doesn't sound happy; he sounds desperate.

But his singing worked. The second female began building a nest in the box in back. So we have a "Big Love"-"Sister Wives" thing going on right in our yard. This is what passes for excitement at our house.

We are hoping for baby wrens in about two weeks. The male will have done his job and won't stick around for the hard work of catching insects and grubs for the little babies. He'll leave that to the ladies.

But wrens aren't the only excitement in our yard. Spring often brings mallards to our house, and this year is no exception. I noticed a few weeks ago that mallards were doing their annual March flyover of our neighborhood, looking for someplace to nest. But ecological succession had reduced the open area of our pond in front to mere inches. Plants have grown from the edge of the pond toward the center and are choking out the open water.

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