Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - Joe Phillips

I must be do­ing some­thing wrong. I’ve built bird houses in any form you can imag­ine but I can’t at­tract a wren.

All I’ve read about the tiny birds is that they like a home with a hole of no more than one inch. Be­yond that that aren’t picky.

On my first trip to meet the Kansas Wo­man’s fam­ily in the late 1970’s I was struck by the mu­sic of singing birds on the small front porch.

The house, si­t­u­ated on a rise, was two rec­tan­gles joined at a cor­ner fac­ing east. Wash­ing­ton was vis­i­ble six miles to the east.

The wrens didn’t seem mind the pres­ence of peo­ple and their singing was sweet.

Wrens are com­mon in Kansas. One only has to hang some­thing suit­able and it will be soon oc­cu­pied.

Kansas wrens aren’t picky. They’ll nest whether you want them there or not in­clud­ing on a ve­hi­cle if left in place long enough, as one guy told me.

They’re tiny birds. Just be­fore break­ing into song the bird stretches its neck, lifts its beak, raises its tail and quivers. It seems to take all of the the tiny body to pro­duce a song.

Wrens have an un­usual way of shop­ping for a house. The male builds par­tial nests, maybe sev­eral of them, and leads the fe­male around to look them over. Af­ter choos­ing one she com­pletes it and that be­comes home.

Wrens sing to at­tract a mate, es­tab­lish ter­ri­tory and maybe to at­tract a sec­ond mate. The males are prone to wan­der and start the cy­cle with another fe­male be­fore his first fam­ily is hatched.

The KW says she has heard south­ern wrens at the moun­tain cabin but I’ve yet to hear one and there are gra­cious plenty lit­tle bird­houses hang­ing on the porch posts, dan­g­ing from trees, sit­ting on tall stumps.

When I am dis­heart­ened I think of writer Joel Chan­dler Har­ris who had a mini-farm south of At­lanta, from which he com­muted to work via trol­ley. To­day it is in town.

Har­ris is more widely known as the col­lec­tor and pub­lisher of the famed “Un­cle Re­mus Tales” but was also as­so­ciate edi­tor of the At­lanta Con­sti­tu­tion.

One day he no­ticed a wren build­ing its nest in his mail­box. He erected another box for mail and gave his home a name it bears to this day; “The Wren’s Nest.” It is a liv­ing mu­seum to Har­ris.

The only birds calls I can re­li­ably re­port hear­ing are car­di­nals, crows, doves and some­one’s rooster down the road.

My mother baked corn­bread and scat­tered it to at­tract birds. It was cheap food and it at­tracted birds.

Her bird book con­tained notes on birds seen, the date, whether they were nest­ing, when they left. I re­fer to it but didn’t find a note on wrens.

I haven’t given up. There is still time to at­tract a wren, since they seem to be ac­tive all sum­mer, but I just can’t seem to build the right house.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” col­umns for sev­eral small news­pa­pers. He has many con­nec­tions to Walker County, in­clud­ing his grand­fa­ther, former su­per­in­ten­dent Way­mond Mor­gan. He can be reached at joen­phillips@hot­

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