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The strength of the small

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image A male cardinal feeds its brood in a Florida State Park.

By DIANE STRAUSER ALVAREZ, Master Naturalist and Camp Bayou Supporter

“Take any Florida city, and certain neighborhoods will contain more Carolina Wrens or Red-tailed Hawks than other neighborhoods” (Hostetler ifas.ufl.edu). The Carolina wren and the red-shouldered hawks are numerous here. My favorite bird is now the Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). The brown thrasher is the best and most frequent and varied singer, but they stay near the tops of trees, so it’s hard to get to know them. The cardinal male is always a bright spot, and the hummingbird is a wonder all summer long. However, the Carolina wren allows close scrutiny because it flits and runs on the ground near the house and loves to investigate open patios, fences, plant pots, and even the tops of cars. I watched a pair build their nest on an open ledge on my front patio. They worked so hard only to see most of the nest fall to the floor when one of them shifted too close to the edge. After watching the same two years in a row, I wondered why they would try again. It may be the same pair or another one. An article in National Geographic says that Carolina wrens are monogamous, and breeding pairs may stay together for years and have several broods each year. I watched the pair near my front door work together to construct the ill-fated nest. They worked fast and strong, sometimes carrying a dried twig that was bigger than they were!

Though all birds eat seeds, berries and fruits, these wrens also eat insects, lizards and frogs. This April from my back porch, I watched a Carolina wren chase a lizard up and down two fence posts, catch it, rip it apart at first pounce, carry half to the nearest tree to gobble up, then return for the other half that flew off at the powerful snap of the beak. The lizard was as big as the bird and didn’t have a chance! We expect that in a powerful predator such as the hawk, but it was quite remarkable to see it in one so small.

This column is sponsored by Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center located in Ruskin at 4140 24th Street SE, 3 miles south of S.R. 674 off exit 240 W. on I-75. Email: campbayou@gmail.com or call (813) 641-8545 for more information.

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