Jan 23 2010
That’s the question a lot of PABIRDers asked when the weather broke in mid-January.
True to their name, Carolina wrens are primarily southeastern birds who’ve expanded their range northward over the years. They’re resident now as far north as Ontario but are so sensitive to the cold that their populations plummet in harsh weather.
Pennsylvania birding data shows that Carolina wrens died back in the harsh winters of 1918, 1932-34, 1958, 1977 and 1994. Earlier this month we had two very cold, snowy weeks with lows in the single digits and at least three inches of continuous snow cover. Have the Carolina wrens survived?
Marcy Cunkelman’s have. A pair of Carolina wrens claimed her Clarksburg yard as their own and she tells me they’ve made it through the worst. I’m sure it’s because she provided them with the two things they need most in cold weather: food and shelter.
The food is her homemade peanut butter suet, a recipe she heard on Scott Shalaway’s radio program. As Marcy says, the secret is real lard – no substitutes. The recipe is variously attributed to Martha Sargent in Alabama and to Julie Zickefoose who published it on her blog. If you’d like to try it, here it is:
No-melt Suet Recipe … (also called Zick Dough)
Melt 1 cup of lard and 1 cup of crunchy peanut butter in microwave or kettle. Stir, then add:
2 cups of quick cook oats
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup of flour
1/3 cup of sugar
Pour into square containers and freeze.
And what do Marcy’s wrens do for shelter? They use this hanging basket.
The side of her house and the greenery provide a wind break and the wrens have made home improvements by adding leaves, gray moss and the coconut fibers from Marcy’s plant liners.
It’s a delicious, cozy territory. Quite a kingdom for the wrens.
(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)