How Long Keep Christmas Wreath Up?

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

There’s a reason we still have our Christmas wreath on the wall beside the door – nearly in April.

Girl Scouts delivering cookies have said nothing. Friends arriving for dinner, or the carpet cleaning fellow – they’ve either not noticed or figured they didn’t really want to know why there’s a Christmas wreath hanging there, right at eyelevel. It has been there since late in Advent. And there is a reason it’s still there.

I’m sure you know the Carolina wren, a year-round local bird whose bright cheerful song pretty much dominates habitats from southern Florida to New England, or at least into the territory overtaken by its northern cousin, the house wren.

The Carolina is a cheeky little sprite, wearing a cinnamon brown jacket over an apricot belly the size of a ping-pong ball. A white brow tops her eye and her stiff tail flicks up and down, appearing to pump out her non-stop downward “sshhrrrp, sshhrrrp!”

We moved into this house in 1984 and I believe it was our first winter here when a wren found out it was warmer under the eaves above the front door. We caught on pretty quickly when we were blindsided by wing-feathers as a startled wren was spooked by our opening the door.

Next day, Dave made a little platform and placed it deep into the overhang. Loaded with a handful of Spanish moss and tight against the house wall, it was a perfect shelter for a small bird – a shelter from the cold, from predators, from rain and snow.

At twilight, working here in my studio, I can clearly hear a tiny thud, or two, as winter cold drives animals into cover.

Obviously the 2009 wren is not the one that used the roosting platform in the winter of ’84. National Geographic says they live about six years in the wild, meaning that this birdie could be the fourth generation to make use of the avian condominium. (Is that right? My math skills are zip.)

Most years, when their nesting hormones are at peak, Carolinas build a dozen test-nests in a very disoriented way, using different materials, then off they go, reappearing in a day or two to build The Real Nest.

We’ve found nests in the oddest places: old shoes, a swim cap hanging on a line at church camp, in an open bag of fertilizer in the garage.

It will be the size of a softball, preferably in a household , very precise, easily identified as a wren’s nest. I knew they do these architectural bursts before settling down, but there was something new for me to learn this year.

The wren may or may not use the already used material, but her style is abrupt and careful, and she soon switches to fine grasses to line the little bed.

We put up the wreath late in 2008 and when we did, the wrens were ready to roost in

Spanish moss and pine straw. Each morning there was a wren-shaped hole deep in the Spanish moss, and each evening, I’d smooth out the holes. Somewhere in their modus operandi, it says a new hole must be carved out of Spanish moss each night.

Now we are so caring about the wintering wrens that on the rare occasion that we are expecting someone to come to our front door in really cold weather, either we open the garage door up and guide guests into the house through the garage and the laundry room, or we ask them to come back in daylight when the birds are busy foraging.

If it’s still early, and light out, we don’t worry too much about scaring off the wrens because it’s easy for them to find their way home. But if it is quite late, dark, and very cold, we fear they might not get home.

We’re a bit worried now. Several mornings ago, that which was the Carolina’s haphazard roosting hole turned out to be a masterpiece. The opening is exactly the size of a silver dollar, perfectly round, and the cave’s interior a masterpiece of smooth brown grasses. No test-nest, this one.

The most startling amenity: a scrap of an old white towel, about 1.5-by-2 inches, placed at the doorway of the… Nest? Roost? It looks for all the world like the runner on which a bride would approach her bridegroom, bouquet in hand.

I couldn’t bring myself to push the moss back and fill up this roosting hole. So I didn’t. And you can guess what happened. In an attempt to improve on nature, I broke the rule that says the first “nest/roost” must be replaced several times before it is acceptable.

How much longer should I keep that Christmas wreath up?

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ilockemup's picture
Submitted by ilockemup on Tue, 03/24/2009 - 3:04pm.

Well, Sallie, I just took down the exterior Christmas lights. Something about the thought of them being up for Easter didn't seem right.

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