South Carolina State Bird – Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus

Carolina Wren

State Bird of SouthCarolina

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.

VOLUME II.

GREAT CAROLINA WREN.
[Carolina Wren.]

TROGLODYTES LUDOVICIANUS, Bonap.
[Thryothorus ludovicianus.]

PLATE CXVII.–MALE AND FEMALE.

The flight of this bird is performed by short flappings of the wings,the concave under surfaces of which occasion a low rustling, as it movesto the distance of a few steps only at each start. It is accompanied byviolent jerks of the tail and body, and is by no means graceful. In thismanner the Carolina Wren moves from one fence-rail to another, from logto log, up and down among the low branches of bushes piles of wood, anddecayed roots of prostrate trees, or between the stalks of canes. Its tailis almost constantly erect, and before it starts to make the least flightor leap, it uses a quick motion, which brings its body almost into contactwith the object on which it stands, and then springs from its legs. Allthis is accompanied with a strong chirr-up, uttered as if the bird werein an angry mood, and repeated at short intervals.

The quickness of the motions of this active little bird is fully equalto that of the mouse. Like the latter, it appears and is out of sight ina moment, peeps into a crevice, passes rapidly through it, and shews itselfat a different place the next instant. When satiated with food, or fatiguedwith these multiplied exertions, the little fellow stops, droops its tail,and sings with great energy a short ditty something resembling the wordscome-to-me, come-to-me, repeated several times in quick succession, soloud, and yet so mellow, that it is always agreeable to listen to them.During spring, these notes are heard from all parts of the plantations,the damp woods, the swamps, the sides of creeks and rivers, as well asfrom the barns, the stables and the piles of wood, within a few yards ofthe house. I frequently heard these Wrens singing from the roof of an abandonedflat-boat, fastened to the shore, a small distance below the city of NewOrleans. When its song was finished, the bird went on creeping from oneboard to another, thrust itself through an auger-hole, entered throughthe boat’s side at one place, and peeped out at another, catching numerousspiders and other insects all the while. It sometimes ascends to the higherbranches of a tree of moderate size, by climbing along a grape-vine, searchingdiligently amongst the leaves and in the chinks of the bark, alightingsidewise against the trunk, and moving like a true Creeper. It possessesthe power of creeping and of hopping in a nearly equal degree. The latterkind of motion it employs when nearer the ground, and among piles of driftedtimber. So fond is this bird of the immediate neighbourhood of water, thatit would be next to impossible to walk along the shore of any of the islandsof the Mississippi, from the mouth of the Ohio to New Orleans, withoutobserving several on each island.

Among the many species of insects which they destroy, several are ofan aquatic nature, and are procured by them whilst creeping about the massesof drifted wood. Their chirr-up and come-to-me come-to-me seldom ceasefor more than fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, commencing with thefirst glimpse of day, and continuing sometimes after sunset.

The nest of the Carolina Wren is usually placed in a hole in some lowdecayed tree, or in a fence-stake, sometimes even in the stable, barn,or coach-house, should it there find a place suitable for its reception.I have found some not more than two feet from the ground, in the stumpof a tree that had long before been felled by the axe. The materials employedin its construction are hay, grasses, leaves, feathers, and horse-hair,or the dry fibres of the Spanish moss; the feathers, hair or moss forming,the lining, the coarse materials the outer parts. When the hole is sufficientlylarge, the nest is not unfrequently five or six inches in depth, althoughonly just wide enough to admit one of the birds at a time. The number ofeggs is from five to eight. They are of a broad oval form, greyish-white,sprinkled with reddish-brown. Whilst at Oakley, the residence of my friendJAMES PERRIE, Esq. near Bayou Sara, I discovered that one of these birdswas in the habit of roosting in a Wood Thrush’s nest that was placed ona low horizontal branch, and had been filled with leaves that had fallenduring the autumn. It was in the habit of thrusting his body beneath theleaves, and I doubt not found the place very comfortable.

They usually raise two, sometimes three broods in a season. The youngsoon come out from the nest, and in a few days after creep and hop aboutwith as much nimbleness as the old ones. Their plumage undergoes no change,merely becoming firmer in the colouring.

Many of these birds are destroyed by weasels and minxes. It is, notwithstanding,one of the most common birds which we have as residents in Louisiana. Theyascend along the shores of the Mississippi as high as the Missouri river,and along the Ohio nearly to Pittsburgh, although they do not occur ingreat numbers in the neighbourhood of that city. They are common in Georgia,the Carolinas, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. A few are to be seen along theAtlantic shores as far as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. In NewJersey I have found its nest, near a swamp, a few miles from Philadelphia.I never observed them farther to the eastward. I found it very numerousin the Floridas and all along the coast of the Mexican Gulf to within theTexas, where it spends the whole year. Mr. TOWNSEND mentions it as beingfound on the Missouri.

The dwarf buck-eye, on a blossomed twig of which this pair of GreatCarolina Wrens are placed, is by nature as well as name a low shrub. Itgrows near swampy ground in great abundance. Its flowers, which are scentless,are much resorted to by Humming-birds, on their first arrival, as theyappear at a very early season. The wood resembles that of the common horse-chestnut,and its fruit is nearly the same in form and colour, but much smaller.I know of no valuable property possessed by this beautiful shrub.

GREAT CAROLINA WREN, Certhia Caroliniana, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. ii.p. 61.
TROGLODYTES LUDOVICIANUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 93.
GREAT CAROLINA MOCKING WREN, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 429.

GREAT CAROLINA WREN, Troglodytes ludovicianus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol.i.p. 399; vol. v. p. 466.

Adult Male.

Bill nearly as long as the head, subulato-conical, slightly arched,compressed towards the tip; upper mandible with the sides convex towardsthe end, concave at the base, the edges acute and overlapping; under mandiblewith the back and sides convex. Nostrils oblong, straight, basal, witha cartilaginous lid above, open and bare. Head oblong, neck of ordinarysize, body ovate. Legs of ordinary length; tarsus longer than the middletoe, compressed, anteriorly scutate, posteriorly edged; toes, scutellateabove, inferiorly granulate; second and fourth nearly equal, the hind toealmost as long as the middle one, third and fourth united as far as thesecond joint; claws long, slender, acute, arcuate, much compressed.

Plumage soft, lax, and tufty. Wings short, very convex, broad and rounded,the first quill very short, the fourth longest. Tail rather long, curveddownwards, much rounded, of twelve narrowish, rounded feathers.

Bill wood-brown above, bluish beneath. Iris hazel. Legs flesh-colour.The general colour of the upper part is brownish-red. A yellowish-whitestreak over the eye, extending far down the neck, and edged above withdark brown. Quills, coverts and tail barred with blackish-brown; secondaryand middle coverts tipped with white; shafts of the scapulars white. Throatgreyish-white, under parts reddish-buff, paler behind. Under tail-covertswhite, barred with blackish.

Length 5 1/2 inches, extent of wings 7 1/2; bill along the ridge 3/4,along the gap 11/12; tarsus 5/6.

Adult Female.

The female differs from the male in being lighter above, tinged withgrey beneath, and in wanting the white tips of the wing-coverts.

The roof of the mouth is flat, with two slight rides on the palate,and a prominent median line anteriorly, the posterior aperture of the nareslinear, 4 twelfths long, papillate; the tongue 7 1/2 twelfths long, veryslender, 1 1/4 twelfths broad at the base, where it is emarginate and papillate,channelled above, tapering to a rather obtuse bristly and horny point.The width of the mouth is 4 twelfths. The oesophagus, [ a b c], is 1 inch9 twelfths long, 3 twelfths in width; the proventriculus, [b c], 3 1/4twelfths. The stomach, [c d e], is elliptical, a little compressed, 7 1/2twelfths long, 5 1/2 twelfths broad; its muscles moderate, the lower verythin, the tendons rather large; the epithelium tough, with large longitudinalrugae, and of a red-dish-brown colour. The contents of the stomach areinsects and seeds. The intestine, [e f g h], is 5 inches 9 twelfths long,its width 1 1/2 twelfths; the cloaca, [j], globular, 6 twelfths in width;the coeca, [i], 1 1/2 twelfths long, and 1/2 twelfth wide.

The trachea is 1 1/2 inches long, considerably flattened, scarcely 1twelfth broad at its widest part, and contracting to 1/2 twelfth; the rings58, with 2 additional dimidiate rings. The muscles as in all the singingbirds, those of the inferior larynx considerably developed. Bronchial halfrings about 15.

There is a pretty large oblong salivary gland in the usual place, openingwith a single duct into the fore part of the mouth. THE DWARF BUCK-EYE.

Portions copyright © Richard R. Buonanno, 1995
Web version of John James Audubon’s work. “The Birds of America”
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