Wrens on the edge: feeders predict Carolina wren Thryothorus ludovicianus abundance at the northern edge of their range


  • Jacob Job,

  • Peter A. Bednekoff

J. Job (Jjob1@emich.edu), Eastern Michigan Univ., 3419 Fawn Cove Lane Apt 4 Portage, MI 49024, USA. − P. A. Bednekofff, Eastern Michigan Univ. 316 Mark Jefferson Hall, Ypsilanti, MI 48197, USA.


The marked range shifts seen with global warming suggest that ranges are limited by temperature. Other findings, however, suggest winter survival is directly tied to food availability. We studied Carolina wrens Thryothorus ludovicianus at the northern edge of their range to understand the roles of temperature and food in limiting this species. We established 21 transects over 3 habitats (residential, city park, and rural) with varying degrees of human influence on temperature and food supply. The three habitat types showed variations in wren density, temperature, and feeder presence. While wren densities showed similar seasonal patterns in all habitats, significantly higher densities of birds were observed in the city park and residential habitats. Post-winter densities of Carolina wrens were predicted by the presence of bird feeders, and not by January mean minimum temperatures. Our findings suggest the winter range limits for endotherms is more directly related to food supply, and only indirectly related to temperature. Therefore supplemental feeding and other changes in food supply may modify the range shifts predicted from temperature changes alone.