Carolina Wren Teenage Song

photo of a Carolina Wren in full songAfter recording a young male Carolina Wren practicing his songs outside my window yesterday morning, I felt the need to snag a cleaner example of his “juvenile” performance. So today I ventured out a little before 5am with my largest parabolic mic in hand. I didn’t hear any wrensong at all until around 5:30am at which time I quickly homed-in on the young male, practicing his repertoire just like the morning before. But this time I really nailed it … several super clean recordings in spite of lots of distant traffic noise (I’m on the outskirts of town, up on a hill, so there is always background noise from the city below).

Below are two recordings of the same youngster. In the first, listen for occasional pzeet calls, abrupt softish notes that occur between some songs. These are appeasement calls generally given in the presence of the parents. As the youngster gets older, he will drop the appeasement calls altogether, unless he encounters a territorial male (at which time he will appease like crazy). Listen also for cheer calls (several are given at the end); they usually signify mild alarm.

Carolina Wren juvenile male practicing his song repertoire. 5:45am, July 3, 2012, near Ithaca, NY.

Here is another vignette of the teenager’s song (I’m not sure what the garbled notes at the end are about):

Carolina Wren juvenile male practicing his song repertoire. 6:15am, July 3, 2012, near Ithaca, NY.

Carolina Wrens do not migrate and adult pairs defend territories year-round. Unlike migratory songbirds where young males do not have to establish territories until the following spring, juvenile male Carolina Wrens must act more quickly. According to ornithologist Gene Morton, who studied their behavior in great detail, “young males must learn to sing and then find and establish a territory by the end of September, or else they’ll die”. Wow! No wonder they’re out there practicing song like crazy in early July!

My friend Dick Schinkel from Michigan just sent me a timely note: “We now have a few in the area after years of being absent. Mild winters have helped them. Wonderful singers. Our whole yard is full of “teenage” wrens leaving home. Great time of the year.”

I agree. July is surely the hot time to observe and enjoy “teenage birds,” and especially teenage Carolina Wrens!


  1. I once heard a juvenile robin practicing singing. It sounded higher-pitched and slower than an adult’s song. It was in July 2011.

    Dick Schinkel…That name sounds familiar from somewhere.

  2. Could that garbled bit at the end be his novice query, “Um, wott’s a coda?” Would he never finds that coda but shares reprise through reprise, with each sunrise.

  3. Absolutely fascinating! Thank you for making it possible to listen to and look at the song learning process!

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