The Little Wren*

The House Wren, Troglodytes aegon, weighs only 11 grams, or 0.35 ounces. And it is brown, so for someone like me (novice birder, terrible eyesight) they are easy to miss. I have a new app, the Merlin Bird Pro Sound ID, which is the first I have ever used that seems to really work, and the other day it told me I was listening to a House Wren. And then today, I saw one, or maybe two.

First, I saw one on top of a trellised arch in my garden, smaller than the morning glory flower behind it:

It had been raining, and it was preening:

And I think it was a juvenile, judging by the fluffy plumage.

It flew off, and a few minutes later either it or its doppelgänger emerged from the undergrowth with a huge grub:

I have no idea if it was the same one, or just possibly its mother, valiantly still feeding the recently fledged youngster. We are at the Northern edge of their breeding range, and soon they will migrate to the Southern US and Mexico for the winter.

I failed to get a recording of the House Wren song, so I’ve put in this Winter Wren, Troglodytes hiemalis, song instead, also in my garden about a week ago.

PS The North American House Wren is a different species from the wren we have in the UK, whose scientific name is Troglodytes troglodytes. Troglodytes comes from the Greek, meaning “one who creeps into holes”. House Wrens nest in cavities in trees or sometime rocks, so I think that’s the source of its scientific name.

*William Wordsworth knew this well. Here are the first few verses of his poem, A Wren’s Nest, written in 1833 (obviously about an English wren). I have bolded the key phrase that displays his knowledge of their preference for nesting in cavities.

AMONG the dwellings framed by birds 
In field or forest with nice care, 
Is none that with the little Wren’s 
In snugness may compare. 

No door the tenement requires, 
And seldom needs a laboured roof; 
Yet is it to the fiercest sun 
Impervious, and storm-proof. 

So warm, so beautiful withal, 
In perfect fitness for its aim, 
That to the Kind by special grace 
Their instinct surely came. 

And when for their abodes they seek 
An opportune recess, 
The hermit has no finer eye 
For shadowy quietness. 

These find, ‘mid ivied abbey-walls, 
A canopy in some still nook; 
Others are pent-housed by a brae 
That overhangs a brook. …

3 thoughts on “The Little Wren*”

  1. I grew up in central New York with a backyard full of wren houses. My father would assiduously clean them out every winter, and every spring 2-4 of them would be used to raise new families of House Wrens. Then they’d move for the next brood to one of the unoccupied houses. Raised a LOT of wrens!


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