Except for its voice, the house wren is very plain. Adults are gray-brown above with an indistinct buffy eye line. Wings and tail are slightly more reddish with fine black barring. Tail is short and often cocked upright. Underparts are lighter brown, with some darker markings along the flanks and under the tail. Song: a rising jumble of twittering, gurgling and chattering notes descending toward the end. Calls: a series of stuttering notes, buzzy rattles and a sharp “tchur.”
Length: 4¾ inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).
Habitat and Conservation
Some studies suggest that the house wren may be replacing the Bewick’s wren in much of its range. On the other hand, house wrens have probably declined somewhat due to competition by the exotic house sparrow.
Caterpillars, spiders and snails are favorite foods of these busy little predators.
Common summer resident, rarely lingering late into the fall. Only a few have been known to overwinter here.
House wrens nest in abandoned woodpecker holes, bird boxes and other cavities around dwellings. They may even nest in mailboxes, porch planters and rolled-up carpeting in your garage, if you leave the door open too long. Males build the nest with twigs and other miscellaneous materials, and the females line it with various substances including spider webs, hair, moss and trash. The female incubates them for 12–19 days, and it takes about the same time before the hatchlings fledge.
Many Missourians look forward to the springtime return of these exuberant and energetic singers, and many put up special wren houses to welcome them. Building instructions are available from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
House wrens feed voraciously on worms and other invertebrates, especially when feeding their nestlings. They sometimes compete with bluebirds for nest boxes and sometimes even kill bluebirds; house wrens are, however, a protected species and cannot be killed.