The Bewick’s Wren
The nest of the Bewick's wren consists of twigs, hair, leaves, and grass, placed in a cavity, such as a mailbox, fence post, hole in wall, or birdhouse. Such nests have been found in greenhouses, garages, and sheds actively used by humans, which suggests a relatively high tolerance for disturbance.
—Field Guide to Birds
That Chinese emperor kept his nightingale
tied by a silken ribbon to his chair;
"My song sounds better in the open air"
the poor bird argued, but to no avail
Andersen tells us in the fairy tale.
A different tune is whistled by the pair
of small brown birds who've settled in to share
the children's empty room. The chatty male
and modest female built their slapdash nest
of hair and mud and grass and leaves and sticks
inside a fortress of pink plastic bricks—
a Malibu Dream House, formerly possessed
by Princess Barbie and her consort Ken:
the perfect palace for a Bewick's wren.
The Bewick's wren, unique among his kind,
shows an unprecedented deference
to female intuition and good sense.
The male wren ventures forth alone to find
potential nesting sites, leaving her behind
calmly extracting beetles from a fence
with her curved beak. With patient diligence
he stalks the garden, paying special mind
to post holes, chinks in walls, and hollow trees.
He's settled on a likely candidate
to satisfy the most fastidious mate
when from the corner of his eye he sees
an open window, a deserted room,
a Dream House waiting for a bride and groom.
Flicking his feathered tail from side to side
(sure sign of agitation in a wren)
he wobbles on the windowsill and then
retreats to treetop, trying to decide
if this is valor or just suicide.
He knows the dangers of the world of men,
he knows he should avoid the humans' den,
and yet...and yet...he thinks about his bride...
He shares her values, honors her concerns
for safety, warmth, the comfort of the brood
of nestlings; he knows her attitude
towards ostentation...yet perhaps she yearns
(like him) for some enchantment in her life...
a Camelot to live in with his wife!
The next day he is back, and she is there
beside him. Heads cocked, tails flicking, they survey the scene
weighing the pros and cons, the choice between
safety from hawks and owls (They wouldn't dare!)
and room to spread one's wings in open air.
Standing in shadow, I thought I was unseen
but suddenly the female turned her keen
and troubled gaze on me, as if aware
that mother-to-mother she might seek advice
from someone who had raised a chick or two
in this strange habitat: "What would you do?
Is this fine house a trap or paradise?"
"Both," I replied, meeting her anxious eye,
"But in the end my nestlings learned to fly."
He went in first, and soon his head appeared
at Barbie's bedroom window; jaunty now
he fluttered to the roof, and then somehow
squeezed down the chimney and disappeared.
We held our breath until he reappeared
at the front door, where he paused to take a bow,
dipping his head in welcome to his frau.
He made it clear whatever they had feared
might lie within this pink flamboyant pile
had moved out, or was never there at all,
and after close inspection, wall to wall,
declared the place a splendid domicile.
The female wren and I exchanged a glance:
"Go on, go on," I whispered: "Take a chance."
So they moved in. It's good to hear the sound
of children's voices in that room again,
the clamor and the happy chatter when
papa flies in with something that he found—
a worm or spider scrupulously ground
to suit the gullet of a baby wren;
a brief respite of harmony, and then
the shrill demands for still another round.
The Field Guide warns that by the fourteenth day
they'll all be gone. Naked and blind and helpless at their birth
in two short weeks they'll claim their place on earth.
But never mind, it's as the sages say:
Welcome the coming, speed the departing guest,
and learn to live with one more empty nest.