The Mockingbird and the Wren

A Mockingbird continues to try to keep all other birds away from the two feeders in the front yard. Several times a day, though, it goes somewhere else for a while, and when it does, Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers all return, darting back and forth from feeder to branches, taking advantage of their own version of Happy Hour.

During one of these intervals, I watched as a Carolina Wren cautiously made its way across the yard to the pecan tree where a Downy Woodpecker was chipping away at one of the feeders. The Wren bounced up and down nervously as it went, as if its legs were on springs, and frequently stopped to look around, this way and that. It clung to the bark of the trunk for a while, worked its way up to a branch, and finally flew to the feeder and started to peck at the seeds.

It hadn’t been there more than 30 seconds before the Mockingbird returned, and flew like a fury toward the feeder, white wings flashing. Both Downy Woodpecker and Carolina Wren scattered – and the Mockingbird homed in on the Wren and chased it so closely it seemed actually to nip at its tail. The Wren squeaked in a high-pitched twitter as it flew, close to the ground, sounding like a frightened mouse being chased by a cat, and the two birds disappeared around the corner of the house.

The Mockingbird returned and took up its post on the feeder. In three or four minutes, the Carolina Wren also returned, this time keeping to the ground around some thick holly bushes at first. Gradually it got braver, and ventured out further and began to check out the ground around the roots of a water oak, then it hopped onto the lowest part of the trunk, creeping over it and poking into crevices in the bark. Suddenly, the Mockingbird came down fiercely on the Wren, as if with a vengeance, and chased it away again – even though it hadn’t come anywhere near one of the feeders.

This is the first time I’ve seen the Mockingbird pay any attention to a bird that wasn’t on the feeders. It completely ignores the White-throated Sparrows, Juncos, Cardinals and Mourning Doves that often feed beneath them, and the Titmice, Chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers that hang around nearby in the branches. But for some reason, the Mockingbird – at least on this day – wouldn’t tolerate this one little Carolina Wren anywhere in the area – which is interesting, in part, because the Wren is usually so bold and pugnacious itself. Of course, a Mockingbird’s a great deal bigger than a Carolina Wren. This Wren was very watchful and cautious – but persistent. Maybe even stubborn. Not exactly standing his ground, but not giving up either.

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