The nest in my stacked planter boxes had been empty for some time now. The baby birds had grown up and flown away. I was curious if the mama bird would still view the nest as home or be done with it now that it had served its purpose. I occasionally lifted the cardboard to see if she was in there squatting over her nest but she never was. It was always empty. For several days i didn’t check for her. When i finally did i got a surprise! As i lifted the cardboard out of the way i saw 5 little speckled eggs sitting in the nest. I was immediately thrilled! Not only would there be more birds to eat the biblical amount of grasshoppers on the land, i would get to watch another batch of babies grow up! I was so excited that the birds liked this spot so much as it was a good height for me to look in on without climbing a tree. I decided that the planter boxes would stay stacked just like they were forever so that birds could reuse the nest time and time again. I wasn’t sure if it was the same mother bird that laid the first batch of eggs or a different one but the edges of the nest had been revamped with new material pulled from the scraggly bark of the cedar trees. The renovated part of the nest was very organized and tidy. What amazing creatures!
Well, i didn’t have to wait long to get the answer to my question. It was in fact NOT the same bird. Instead of an oak titmouse i discovered a little brown bird with a white stripe about the eye and a striped tail sitting on the nest. I can’t be certain for i’m no expert but i believe she is a carolina wren. she returned to the nest and laid a 6th egg. She’s been diligently incubating them ever since. I can’t wait to see how the tiny baby wrens differ from a baby finch, a baby swallow, or a baby titmouse!
There are now 7 eggs in the nest. That’s a lot of babies! i am so curious how many of them will hatch.
The little bird ended up laying 7 eggs. For a while she sat on all of them. One day i checked in on her and she had pushed one of the eggs out of the nest. 6 eggs were in the nest and one egg was just lying all by its lonesome on the nearby cardboard. At first i thought maybe it had been ejected from the nest accidentally. It was a very small nest and was full to the brim with eggs. I snuck it back in the nest and tip toed away. The next day i came back and there were only 6 eggs again. This time the seventh egg was nowhere to be found. It had completely disappeared. It became apparent to me at that point that she meant to eject the egg from the nest. Either she knew it wasn’t fertile or she just made the decision that seven eggs was too many for each baby to get the food they needed to grow into adulthood. Either way, it was her call and it wasn’t my place to interfere. So i left her to her business and returned to my chores. There are now 6 potential babies.
Update: Sadly, none of the seven eggs were fertilized. One by one the little wren pushed an egg out of the nest over an extended period of time. Sometimes she would leave it there. Sometimes she would eat it. 7 eggs became 6, became 5, became 4… i knew something was wrong. Unlike the finches, the swallows, and the little titmouse of my past, this bird was not fiercely guarding her babies in the nest, she was throwing them out. She sat on the remaining 4 eggs until i went outside one day and found only 2 eggs. There was 1 egg on the cardboard under the nest and 1 egg in the nest. At this point i consulted a family member with a birdwatching business. What would make a bird behave this way? I was curious if they were all duds. I took the egg that had been adjacent to the nest and opened it. It had been incubated to term before being discarded…plenty of time for something to develop if it was fertilized. When i opened it, there was no baby inside; just some yellow liquid. I sighed. They were all duds. I read on the internet that if a bird did not have contact with a male she would still lay and incubate the unfertilized eggs until it became apparent nothing was going to hatch. Then she would abandon the nest. I never saw the wren again. She never returned to the nest. Poor thing must not have found a mr. Carolina Wren and motherhood was not to be for her…at least not this year. As i thought about it, i saw many finches, titmice, cardinals, white winged doves, and blue jays, but i didn’t see too many wrens. Maybe they were not as prevalent in this area as the other birds. Finding a mate must not have been as easy as it was for the cardinals that are everywhere or the finches that fly around the yard daily. I felt sad for her. She had spent so much time incubating the eggs and to no avail. I told myself that now she would eat well, as whatever she caught would be for her and she wouldn’t have to run herself ragged bringing food to 7 babies. Still, i really wanted to see what baby wrens looked like.