Birding Column: House Wrens' Twice-a-Minute Feeding Frenzy

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And in 1917 Clara Bayliss reported that a male house wren fed its 12-day-old chicks 1,217 times between 4:15 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., and 111 times between 9:15 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.—or about once every 30 seconds! This is similar to what I observed at my house wren nest in Sullivan Canyon.

With both parents foraging, the visits to the nest by one or the other occurred about twice each minute. Incredible production.

I don't know how they found so many grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, crickets, and spiders so quickly. But since virtually the entire diet of the house wren consists of insects and spiders, I guess they have great experience in tracking down these sources of food. This is fortunate, because house wren nestlings have prodigious appetites.

Although I saw my house wren nest in the oak woodlands of Sullivan Canyon, the house wren, as its name implies, often builds its nest in and around human habitations, choosing such items as tin cans; flowerpots; boxes and crates; pails; old boots, hats, coats, and shoes; and holes and crevices in walls in which to raise its young.

Mathew Tekulsky writes a regular column about birding in his backyard and neighborhood in Bel Air, California. You can follow his encounters with the birds of the Santa Monica Mountains here on National Geographic News Bird Watcher every fortnight or so.

Previous columns by the Birdman of Bel Air
New Bird-Watching Column: "The Birdman of Bel Air"
The California Towhee, Boldly Bland
At Home With Hooded Orioles
Scrub Jays Go Nuts for Peanuts
Northern Mockingbird is a Wary Neighbor
Christmas With the Pelicans
California-Quail Close Encounter
Yosemite Steller's Jay Encounter
Banding Birds at Devils Postpile
California Condor Close Encounter
California Condor Rebound
Going Nuts With Wilderness Ravens
Hummingbird Chicks Fly the Nest
Mexican Jays' Dogged Pack Mentality

National Geographic BirdWatcher
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