Wren

Back when spring was new, I kept hearing a strange tapping, tapping outside my bedroom window. It sounded like a woodpecker pecking on the side of the house, except that we have vinyl siding.

Turns out it was a wren knocking about while building a nest. In the rain gutter.

This wasn’t going to end well.

Wrens are not known as good judges of real estate. I once had a wren try to build a nest in the pocket of one of my husband’s dress shirts while it was hanging to dry on the clothesline.

Wrens are feisty little birds with long beaks and flat heads. They are not showy, dressed instead in feathers of brown and grey. They tend to hop about with their tails stuck up in the air. They sing long and complex songs, usually in obnoxiously loud voices.

The ancient Greeks called the wren the “king of birds.” Not because the wren is powerful, or flashy, or wise. No, it’s because of a fable.

In the story, the birds were choosing a king based on which of them could fly the highest. The eagle would have been the king —  except he was outwitted by a tiny wren that had hidden away in his feathers.

Wren was probably just trying to build a nest in there.

There are all sorts of wrens around the world: the grey-mantled wren, the tooth-billed wren, the rock wren, the winter wren, the flutist wren, the whiskered wren, the happy wren.

The wren in my gutter was a Southern house wren, so named because of its tendency to nest around humans and their houses.

Wrens will build nests in any sort of hole: “old woodpecker holes, flowerpots, shoes, parked cars,” according to the National Audubon Society.

When it is egg-laying time, the male wren will gather up sticks and twigs and begin to build several nests in different test sites. The female will then inspect each nest before picking one. She will toss out any sticks she doesn’t like, then finish the nest by lining it with soft pretty things like grass, leaves and feathers.

Rather than nesting in the gutter, my wren decided to try building on the screen porch, where I have a shelf filled with decorative birdhouses. He chose the birdhouse that looks like a slice of watermelon.

My cat likes to sleep on the screen porch.

This wasn’t going to end well.

As the days passed, I would watch the wren slip underneath the screen door with a beakful of sticks, then hop along in front of the sleeping cat on the way to the birdhouse.

On the way back out, the wren would fly up and perch on the back of a rocking chair — and sing to the cat in a very loud voice that sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

King of the birds, indeed.

Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or ldavis@annistonstar.com.

Features Editor Lisa Davis: 256-235-3555.

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