I was called this week by birders Roy and Anne to their Canberra garden to see a pair of Scrubwrens that had made their home in a pushbike pannier basket. The bike had not been used for a month or so and was left in their garage. The bike basket had some bird netting and dishcloths in it and the birds had tucked their nest into a cavity under the netting.
White-browed Scrubwrens are common undergrowth birds of southern and eastern Australia. No bigger than 15 grams this tiny bird, remarkably, can live for over 15 years.
This species of Scrubwren usually lives in forests and woodlands and typically builds its well-hidden nest on or near the ground. Nest locations in grassy tussocks, ferns or thick shrubs are preferred.
Many White-browed Scrubwrens now find homes in leafy Australian suburban gardens from Brisbane to Perth and now live close to humans. Nests have been recorded in flowerpots, fern baskets and in shrubby gardens. There have been nests in a crash helmet hanging on a wall, in old tins, a straw hat, in coils of wire or extension leads and even the radiator of an unused engine. My brother Michael had a nest at his home in a bag of rags hanging on a nail on the wall of his garden shed.
The bike nesting birds busied themselves this week bringing food every ten minutes or so to their noisy nestlings. Sometimes the adult used the bike seat as a perch before dropping down into the nest. I presumed a pair had built the nest but there may have been three adult birds raising this brood. It is common for this species of Scrubwren for a breeding pair to be joined by an extra male.
Nestlings are fed in the nest for around 14 days and then are fed by the adults for another 6 weeks. I didn’t look in the nest for fear of disturbing the chicks but nests typically have 3 eggs.
Over the next few weeks these young chicks will join their parents hunting for insects around the shrubberies of this Canberra suburb. They will keep constant contact with one another with quiet musical songs and loud sharp scolding calls.