A Scolding in the Garden

Have you ever been scolded by a wren? I can honestly say that I have, on many occasions, and it is quite the experience. These little brown birds are rather feisty and quarrelsome for their size and can, under no uncertain terms, let you know when they don’t approve of you.

House Wrens Can Be Rather Feisty and Quarrelsome for Their Size

Over the past several years, we have had House Wrens nesting in our yard. Each spring, the male’s arrival is marked by his beautiful song carried on the breeze. When I first hear it, my eyes anxiously scan the property, hoping to catch my first glimpse of the tiny bird upon his return. I play a virtual game of “Where’s Waldo” until I spot him, singing his little heart out on the fence. My son, who names every wild creature that graces our yard, has called him Phillip, and we look forward to his arrival each year.

Can You Spot ‘Phillip’?

The many birdhouses on our property usually find residents in the spring, and last summer, the house in my vegetable garden was no exception. Phillip and his mate moved in, and I enjoyed watching them meticulously gather materials for their nest, ecstatic that they were going to start a family. The problem arose when it was time to work in the garden. Wrens can be very territorial, and Phillip took exception of me entering his territory when I tended to my garden. Each morning as I headed down the garden path, I would hear him singing his beautiful song, which would continue until he saw me approach the garden gate. At this point, his song would transform into frantic chittering, letting me know that he didn’t appreciate me being there. As I puttered in the garden carrying out my tasks, he would follow me from post to post, puffing out his chest while he berated me. I had to chuckle at the audaciousness of this little bird, scolding me as he had what I can only describe as a tantrum each day.

‘Phillip’ Watches Me Closely

Eventually, he realized that I was not in the garden to harm him or his family, and his scoldings became less lively. He would still follow me from post to post, watching me warily and seemingly sulking because he wasn’t getting his way. When I would finish my tasks and leave the garden each morning, his mood would change as I closed the garden gate. He would become triumphant, believing that his scolding had produced the desired result. Flying to the highest post, he would puff out his chest and sing his song, letting his mate know that he had fulfilled his duty.

My Constant Garden Companion, ‘Phillip’ Scolded Me Daily

Day after day that entire summer, he would scold me, never tiring or lessening his resolve. In truth, I enjoyed his company, despite his obvious distaste for my presence. His perseverance was admirable, and I couldn’t help but become enamored with this brazen, yet endearing, garden companion. Each day I watched from a distance as he and his mate raised a family, and when they had grown and moved on, I was saddened. I no longer had a feisty little bird to converse with or a need to make assurances that I would be leaving his territory soon. The garden became quiet and lonely without my small companion following and watching me. The summer-long scolding was over.

This spring, I once again anxiously awaited Phillip’s arrival until one beautiful morning, I heard his song. He had returned! He and his mate were choosing where to build their nest, trying out the different birdhouses around the property. They finally decided on a house placed farther away from the garden. Perhaps Phillip remembered how tiring it was scolding me each day. Now I watch as he and his mate take turns hunting for insects and bringing them back to the nest to feed their hungry chicks—the chick’s excited little chirps filling the air as they are fed. Phillip no longer scolds me daily; however, I have a feeling that if he should feel the need, he will once again berate me as I walk the path to the vegetable patch.

‘Phillip’ and His Mate Have Chosen This Birdhouse to Build a Nest

I look forward to our many conversations and watching him and his mate as they raise another set of chicks. He may no longer feel the need to scold me when I’m in the garden, but I can still feel him watching. Do I miss the scolding while I putter in the garden? At times, but I take comfort in the fact that Phillip is still around, as feisty as ever. Besides, a pair of Carolina Wrens decided to build a nest in our garage. They also have a few hungry chicks to feed. Every day when I enter the garage, I get scolded plenty of times by them.

A Pair of Carolina Wrens Have Built a Nest in Our Garage
This Little Carolina Wren, Affectionately Named ‘Charlie’, Scolds Me Daily

For more information about House Wrens and Carolina Wrens and to hear their song and scolding call, visit Audubon’s website.

9 Replies to “A Scolding in the Garden”

  1. We have one living behind the basketball hoop. Anytime we are nearby, he flips out. It is cute and we try to respect his space. Luckily neither of the kids have used the hoop this summer!

    Liked by 1 person

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