The Eyes Have It

A pair of Carolina WrensThryothorus ludovicianus, live near my garden and most days, I see at least one of the pair.  Often, I observe both wrens in the garden as they flit through underbrush picking plant lice from limbs and hop through leaf matter, tossing bits–hither and thither–in their endless search for yummy insects and spiders.  More delightful–and easier to observe–I’m witness to their landing on the sunflower or suet feeders, both placed outside the big kitchen window.  The Carolinas snatch tasty morsels, then zoom to safety on a low branch to enjoy their chosen treat.  These gregarious little wrens are (almost) effortless photographic catches, as they perch on fences, or on the multitudes of spots where they survey the landscape, watching for predators and planning the flight path to their next adventure–or meal.

I snapped this shot a few weeks ago as this adult rested on my back fence, looking this way and that, chirping all the while.  As I watched him or her (going forward, wrens will be “its,” as I can’t tell gender), something looked amiss.

Once I downloaded the photos, it was clear that the wren’s right eye was closed, or mostly so.

For this spunky Carolina Wren (they’re all spunky–that’s a descriptor of Carolina Wrens), one of the eyes has it, and one, apparently, doesn’t.

I perused bird sites for any information on eye diseases in wrens, specifically wondering if wrens are vulnerable to the same eye disease that House Finches and American Goldfinches suffer.  I haven’t found any information that suggests that particular connection, and finches and wrens aren’t related species of birds, except that they’re both, well, birds.


As I’ve observed backyard bird business over the last few weeks, I’ve paid special attention to the wrens, and with some good luck (and clean windows), have taken some closer shots of the currently one-eye bird.

The right eye is completely closed.


For comparison, this shot of the mate shows a darling adult wren with two healthy eyes.

In the last two weeks, it appeared that the wren’s eye improved.

The eye is clearly swollen, but you can see a bit of wary eyeball peeking through the lids.

In this photo, taken a few days after the one above, the wren in on the ground below the suet feeder and the eye looks better.

Again, up on the suet feeder.

Injury or disease?  It’s impossible for me to say.  Except when the wren turns its head where I can clearly see the injured eye and identify the disfigured wren, I haven’t observed any difference in behavior of one wren from another:  they both fly normally, work, with verve, through the garden for insects and other snacks, and alight gracefully on the feeders for sunflower seeds or suet.  Perhaps the injured wren looks around more readily and nervously than the other, but I’m not sure that’s the case as Carolina wrens are busy birds who aren’t still or placid in their routine behavior.  As I anthropomorphize the wren situation, I wonder if the mate assists the impaired partner, who obviously has limitations of sight, or, is the disabled bird on its own for food?   Has the semi-blind bird learned to compensate for its eye problem by faster flying or furtive movements?  Is the eye healing, or is this a permanent situation? Should I fashion a tiny, wren eye patch and offer it as a gift, and would the wren accept it?


While it seemed like the wren’s eye was improving, in this distance shot of a few days ago, the eye looks closed again.

The mate landed on the branch just after I took the photo and the couple perched for a time, enjoying one another’s company for several minutes before flitting to a different tree in the distance.

The wren on the left is the one with the bum eye.

I assume this is the same pair who raised two chicks last spring and what a sweet show that was. I’m sorry for the wren’s injury, but there’s nothing I can do to help the bird–it’s wild, and by all appearances, has adapted to its eye problem.  Its actions seem wren-normal and it’s clearly able to feed and fly, and those two skills are the foundations of a healthy bird life.  But I do hope the little bird will enjoy restored vision, and will continue its wren ways, and further, that this couple can successfully raise another clutch of Carolina Wren cuties in spring.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for them.


24 thoughts on “The Eyes Have It

    • Yes–I do feel for it, though it seems like life goes on for it and it’s adjusting well. I know you like them–what’s not to love about them? I also noticed one of our visiting squirrels has a bald spot, though it doesn’t look red or infected. Life is tough out there!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I probably agree with you and I know that birds can develop conjunctivitis-type infections. I hope this little one will be able to function, especially once babies are born in just a few months.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You might try Colloidal Silver in any bird water source in your garden….there is lots of info online regarding amounts etc. Many bird lovers use it as a preventative for wild birds but can be used as a healing treatment for domestic fowl and caged birds. I give it to my cats periodically to prevent bacterial infections (especially gums).


  2. Oh my goodness, I laughed so much at the hilarious tiny eyepatch! It reminded me that once I saw a squirrel in the backyard who was missing half his tail, just like Squirrel Nutkin. Perhaps your wren has a fantastic tale of bravery to go along with his wounded eye.

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    • Glad you enjoyed! I told my Hub what I’d written and he graciously (?) offered to add the little patch and in a moment of weakness, I let him. I drew the line at adding a sword to the wren; I don’t think I could handle a swashbuckling Carolina wren, though you’re probably right, it might have some interesting stories. 🙂

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  3. It’s amazing how well they can adapt and function despite injury, disease, and such. There was a male mallard in a marina last year that had a significant foot or leg injury. The poor thing limped like crazy, but he could manage to swim without going in circles. Despite all rules to the contrary, I made sure he had plenty of supplemental food, and eventually it healed. His female friend took off, and it was pathetic to hear him at the end of the dock every day, quacking for her, but once he was healed up, she came back, and the story had a happy ending. The last we saw them, they were swimming off into the sunset together.

    I don’t have any doubt that bonded pairs of birds care for one another. These are lucky to have a nice, safe place to live, with shelter and water and food.


    • It really is, and I hope the wren’s energy will continue. He (I do think it’s the male) will have his work cut out once the chicks arrive in spring, so I do hope there’s plenty for them and his work isn’t too hard.

      Interesting story and I’m glad Ms. Duck came back to Mr, but sheesh–not much of a care giver, huh? 🙂

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  4. Wrens are one of my most favourite birds. I love their playful energy — how they build nests for fun and their fearless ways. I once saw some babies that had newly left the nest play with my clothes line, bouncing up and down. it was hilarious. In that spirit, I am about 99% certain that wren would love an eye patch!


    • Thanks, Jason. I observed over several weeks, plus I have a new camera, which clearly showed the bum eye. I haven’t seen the wrens this week, but I’ve also been busy. I’ll hopefully see them this weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sad to see the damaged eye but life seems to go on for these two sweet little gardens birds. I love watching our wrens, always busy trying to get inside my potting shed!


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