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Frequent Flyer: Carolina Wren

Tea-ket-tle, tea-ket-tle, tea-ket-tle, tea-ket-tle!

Story by Lucy Elam  +  Photos Courtesy of Wild Birds Unlimited

As a year-round resident of every corner of South Carolina, from the beaches to the mountains, the Carolina wren certainly seems a suitable choice for South Carolina’s state bird. An adaptable dweller of forestlands, swamps, farms, and tree-filled human communities, the Carolina wren is distinctive in many ways. Despite their small stature, the males of this species can burst into song at alarming decibels, a tune that is easily recognized by its signature tea-ket-tle, tea-ket-tle, tea-ket-tle, tea-ket-tle sound. They sing all year long, day and night, regardless of weather. These wary birds are more often heard than seen, favoring territories with plentiful underbrush and substantial coverage to keep hidden. They forage for insects and seeds in tangles of vegetation on the ground with jerky hopping movements, and display skittish behavior when encountered by humans. 

The males and females look very similar with rich, reddish-brown plumage, white eyebrow stripes, and upward-cocked tails. A pair bond may form between a male and a female at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair inhabit their territory all year, foraging and moving around the territory together. A female Carolina wren is unable to defend her territory alone if her mate dies, so she spends much of her time watching for predators as they forage together. Carolina wrens prefer open cavity nests about 3–6 feet off the ground. In more urban settings, they’re versatile nesters and often make use of things such as discarded flowerpots, mailboxes, propane-tank covers, and a variety of other items. Carolina wrens feel more secure with a place to seek refuge nearby, so you can increase your chances of attracting them to your feeders by providing a brush pile close to your feeding area and nesting boxes.

Fun Facts

  • Wren nests are fairly distinctive. The family name (Troglodytidae) comes from the Latin word for “cave-dweller,” and a cavern is just what the nest looks like.
  • A single male Carolina wren can sing up to 40 different songs – up to 3,000 times in a single day.
  • The Carolina wren is featured on the South Carolina quarter, and intentionally killing one is illegal. 

Great places to see them 

  • Jarvis Creek Park
  • Sea Pines Forest Preserve
  • Cypress Wetlands 

Carolina wren essentials 

Tube feeder

Find a full line of feeders, food and accessories for backyard bird feeding at Wild Birds Unlimited in Festival Centre at Indigo Park on Hilton Head Island. Now under new ownership.

Accessories: Carolina Wren mug

EcoTough House Wren/Chickadee Birdhouse: Allows for proper drainage and ventilation to keep the nest and babies dry and has an ideal floor size for wrens.

Nesting Material: To further entice wrens to use a nesting or roosting box, hang nesting material, such as alpaca fleece or Wild Birds Unlimited Nesting Material Ball, to encourage them to take up residence in our yard, and will add to your viewing pleasure as they will spend more time in your yard gathering their nesting materials.


  • Tube
  • Hopper
  • Platform/Tray
  • Ground


  • Sunflower seeds
  • Suet
  • Shelled peanuts
  • Mealworms

Hear the song of the Carolina Wren

Click here to listen to the song of a Carolina Wren.