Wrens are regularly named as the UK’s most common garden bird, as well as one of the tiniest. Due to their prevalence, it’s logical that their diet would comprise widely available foods, so what do wrens eat?
Join us as we investigate the typical diet of these feisty but often elusive tiny songbirds.
Insects and invertebrates form the bulk of the typical diet of a wren, with beetles, caterpillars, spiders and larvae being most popular. Berries and seeds are also eaten, especially in winter. Wrens spend much of their days foraging in the undergrowth for tiny bugs and fallen fruit among the leaves.
Particularly in winter, wrens may be a more visible presence hopping on the ground beneath bird tables and feeders, scouring the floor for seeds, suet and peanuts. Mealworms, crumbs, and even grated cheese are among the favourite human-supplied foods.
Wrens are active foragers and their tiny body weight means they need to constantly ensure they are consuming more food than the energy they burn. Highly calorific foods, such as black-oil sunflower seeds are a welcome choice in winter for the additional energy fix they offer.
To learn more about the different feeding habits of wrens throughout the year, as well as the early diet for newly hatched wrens, please read on!
Wrens mainly eat insects and invertebrates
Unlike many common garden birds, wrens are not regularly tempted by shop-bought birdseed or other food provided in bird feeders. Of all commercially sold bird food, it’s most likely for wrens to eat dried mealworms. They may also pick at suet and peanuts, but as they are largely insectivores, they will be content to forage for food from their natural environment.
Although seeds aren’t always a first-choice food for wrens, they will resort to eating them in winter months if no other food is available. Black oil sunflower seeds and peanut hearts offer a good source of energy for wrens.
Insects form the bulk of a wren’s natural diet - around 80 percent - with beetles and flies among the staples. Larvae of flying insects, such as moths and crane fly are also popular, and caterpillars and spiders are another key source of nutrition for foraging wrens.
Wrens occasionally eat small berries that have fallen to the ground that they discover while foraging for insects. Fruit and seeds comprise around 20 percent of a wren’s natural diet, with insects making up the other 80 percent.
Eurasian Wren foraging for food
Wrens will feed throughout the day, although are likely to be most active just after dawn and again towards the evening.
Wrens are ground feeders and will commonly be seen foraging for food around the edges of gardens, especially where there are hedgerows and dense foliage. They will be most likely to take food offered from platform-style feeders or seeds and nuts scattered on the ground.
The most likely times of day to spot a wren are early in the morning and just before dusk. Wrens do spend many hours each day hopping in and out of undergrowth, bushes and hedgerows, foraging for insects and larvae, so will eat anything they come across, regardless of what time it is.
Wrens forage on the ground for insects and spiders but will also eat fallen berries. They spend most of their time out of sight, in hedges and bushes, or sifting through piles of leaves on the floor of a park, garden, or woodland area.
Wren foraging for insects in the woods
In winter, it’s more likely for wrens to visit gardens with well-stocked feeders to forage underneath for any scraps or spilled seeds. Popular choices in the winter months are not limited to their usual, naturally available foods, and wrens are observed to be particularly partial to grated cheese, which – as a fermented dairy product – is safe for birds to eat.
In summer, insects and larvae are widely available and form the bulk of the diet of wrens at this time of year. Overripe fallen berries are also foraged from the ground beneath fruit bushes.
Small terrestrial insects are a key element of the early diet of a baby wren, and insects, including moth larvae, caterpillars, and crane fly larvae are the most common choices for parents to feed their young. Juvenile wrens may be fed snail shells as a form of grit to aid digestion.
Close up of a Wren feeding its chicks grubs
Wrens are resourceful little birds and can generally survive without supplementary food provided by humans. That being said, in the colder months of the year, wrens may take advantage of food scattered around bird feeders and on lawns and back garden patios. Suitable foods, including dried mealworms, peanuts, suet and sunflower seeds, are more than fine to leave in your garden in the hope that wrens may visit.
Wrens are insectivores, and their diet mainly consists of beetles, spiders and caterpillars. They may be attracted to your garden by dried mealworms, and will occasionally eat peanuts and suet from the ground around garden feeders.
Common sense dictates the main foods to avoid feeding wrens. Chocolate, avocados, onions, garlic, caffeine and salt should never be given to the species – or any other wild birds.
Close up of a Wren perched on a root in the garden
Thirsty wrens need a source of fresh water to drink from, and a bird bath, pond or water feature will be enough to meet a wren’s hydration needs.
An overgrown hedgerow with dense leaf cover would offer an ideal habitat for wrens. These tiny garden birds spend a large amount of their lives feeding on small insects on the ground, and piles of leaves around a back garden would offer a perfect foraging environment.
Dried mealworms, suet, crushed peanuts and black-oil sunflower seeds will also be taken by wrens visiting a garden, especially in the winter. Wrens tend to feed in areas that are more sheltered with undergrowth, around the edges of a garden border, so one suggestion might be to scatter food in these areas to improve your chances of tempting neighbourhood wrens to visit.
Wrens play a key role in the natural control of bugs and spiders, feasting on a number of smaller insects that can potentially damage crops or other garden plants. For this reason, many people consider these tiny songbirds a real asset to any patch of land.
Wren perched on a mossy log
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