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Send in the Wrens

Apr 28, 2019

Wrens are among the smallest songbirds, yet they make their presence known in a big way. They are both loud and persistent singers.

Wrens are among the smallest songbirds, yet they make their presence known in a big way. They are both loud and persistent singers.

Birds use song, in part, to announce their breeding territories. House wrens aggressively defend their territories, often driving away much larger birds, and even mammals!

Wrens are energetic brown birds, smaller than sparrows, with slender, slightly curved beaks. Wrens pose with their tails cocked in an upright position. This distinctive posture makes wrens easy to identify. The most common backyard wren is the house wren. Its voice is a bubbling, gurgling song, rising in a musical burst, and falling at the end. The melodious song is familiar around many homes and gardens. The house wren’s more southern cousin, the Carolina wren, is also common in some neighborhoods. The Bewick’s wren also nests in yards and farmsteads.

You can attract wrens to backyard birdhouses, but they sometimes seem to prefer unusual places to build nests. Wrens have been found nesting in old coffee cans, baskets, hats, shoes, and even in the pocket of a pair of overalls hanging on a line.

You can place a wren house near your garden for natural control of many garden insect pests.  Listen to Carolina, house and Bewick's wrens in the media gallery below.

The Carolina Wren

  • Carolina wrens are different than house wrens. House wrens are smaller, darker, and lack the white chest and eyebrow. Their lengthy, cascading, complex songs are very different. 
  • Songs of Kentucky warbler and northern cardinal can resemble the Carolina wren’s.
  • Singing males are easily heard, but both sexes can be more difficult to see as they flit and scamper, often in pairs, around tree trunks and brushy areas hunting for insects and spiders. 
  • From their quick, scurrying movements, at first glance, you might think they were mice.
  • Early Ozarkers felt that wrens were uncannily supernatural or evil. Their bite was thought to be deadly poison, perhaps because wrens eat so many spiders. So they left wrens alone. This was a helpful superstition, for wrens gobble up many undesirable insects!

For more on the Carolina wren, visit MDC’s Field Guide.

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