You’ve probably heard that birds will abandon their nests if you get too close and they can smell your scent in the area. But is this true of all birds? What about wrens? Do wrens ever abandon their babies, and if so, why? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
Why Would a Wren Abandon Its Nest?
Wrens occasionally reuse the same nest during consecutive seasons, but most of the time they abandon their old nest each season in favor of building a new one. This is completely natural wren behavior and is tied to the mating ritual.
Sometimes wrens may simply build a new nest in the previous spot, while other times they may find a new spot altogether.
But what about during nesting season? Is there anything that would make them abandon their nest while it is in use, when there are eggs or babies in the nest?
One common misconception about birds in general is that they will permanently abandon their nest if they smell the scent of humans nearby. This is not true.
Wrens and most other birds will not leave their nest because of the scent, but they will leave if they see you getting too close and they feel threatened by your presence. They will also leave if they are similarly threatened by other animals.
Most birds are difficult to scare away, and wrens are no exception. Before abandoning the nest, they will try a number of other methods to get rid of intruders, such as chirping loudly and hopping around to warn you away.
Sometimes, wrens may even fly at you and try to peck you before leaving.
So, the most common reason a wren would abandon its nest during nesting season is that it feels directly and immediately threatened.
That said, wrens may also abandon a nest or nesting site if all the eggs or babies in a brood die; rather than laying their next batch of eggs right away, they will first search for a safer location to raise young.
What Do You Do if You Find a Baby Wren?
If you find a baby wren out of the nest, you may think you should leave it alone to avoid getting your scent on it. You’ve probably heard that bird parents will abandon the baby if the parent can smell your scent, but as noted above, this is nothing more than an old wives’ tale.
If you find a baby bird, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that “The best thing that could be done is to place the baby back in the nest, if there is one.” Before touching the baby though, it’s important to distinguish between nestlings and fledglings.
Nestlings are baby birds that are too small to be away from the nest. They require care and feeding from their parents and will quickly die if they fall out of the nest.
Fledglings are young birds that are nearing maturity and have grown too large for the nest. They frequently stay near the nest, communicating with their parents, but they are able to be more independent, exploring their world from the ground or surrounding plant life.
So, if you find a baby bird on the ground and it has few feathers, can’t move around much, or still has its eyes closed, then see if you can locate the nest it fell from close by. If you find the nest, then carefully place the baby back into the nest.
On the other hand, if you find a young bird on the ground that appears nearly full-grown and is hopping around flapping its wings, then it’s likely that the bird has fledged and it should not be returned to the nest.
What Do Baby Wrens Eat?
Fledgling and adult wrens eat a wide variety of foods, including insects, seeds, fruits, other plant materials, and suet. The diet of a baby wren is a bit more restricted, however, as they are fed mostly insects while they are still in the nest.
When the baby wrens are very young, they may eat regurgitated food from their parents, but very soon, the parents will begin feeding insects whole. They choose smaller insects at first, such as mealworms, before moving onto larger insects as the babies grow.
Wrens commonly feed their babies mealworms, caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets. They will sometimes also feed tiny bits of snail shells or gravel to help the babies with digesting their food.
Check out the following video of an adult wren feeding its babies.
What Do You Feed an Abandoned Baby Wren?
If you find an abandoned baby wren, and you cannot find a nest to return it to, you may want to try raising it yourself. But how do you do this, and specifically, what should you feed it?
It’s best to try and emulate the same, or similar, conditions it would experience in the wild. Feed the baby mealworms or other small insects such as beetles or parts of grasshoppers.
Use a pair of tweezers to gently lower the insect into the baby’s beak, then release the tweezers so the insect drops the rest of the way. The following video shows how to do it.
Alternatively, you can use another protein source, such as puppy kibble soaked in water and mashed into a paste. Put this paste in a medicine dropper and slowly squeeze it into the bird’s beak.
Feeding a baby wren will be a lot of work for a couple of weeks–they need to be fed every 15 to 20 minutes during the day. The baby will reach fledgling age usually within two to three weeks, or sooner depending on when you found it; but it may still need to be fed for a while as you help it transition to living on its own out in the wild.
Wrens rarely abandon their babies and will only do so if they feel imminently threatened by humans or other predators. If you find a baby wren on the ground, it is best to return it to the nest if possible.
But if you cannot find the nest and have reason to believe the baby has been abandoned, you can care for it by feeding mealworms, other small insects, or a paste made from puppy kibble and water.