Wrens are small, energetic birds with big voices. They are officially the UK’s most numerous bird species, occurring almost everywhere, from gardens to farms and the countryside.
The wren is a bird with odd proportions. Despite their abundance, these shy little birds can be difficult to observe. Read on to learn more about their size and appearance.
Wrens are stubby birds with large heads and no visible necks. They often hold their short tails up at a steep angle. Both males and females are rich brown above and a slightly lighter shade below.
Their flanks, wings, and tails have varying amounts of indistinct barring, but the pale throat and breast are often unmarked. Wrens have a distinctive cream eyebrow stripe (supercilium), and their longish legs are reddish brown. They have big black eyes and straight, sharp bills.
Juveniles appear similar to adults but have streaking on the breast and less barring on the flanks. Their overall colour is a warmer reddish shade, and they may still have a bright yellow gape to encourage feeding from their parents.
Close up of a Wren, also known as the Eurasian wren
Wrens are one of the United Kingdom’s smallest birds. Most adults have the following body measurements:
Wrens have short but stocky bodies, usually measuring 9 or 10 centimetres from the bill to the tail tip.
Wrens weigh 6 to 12 grams.
Wrens have a short wingspan of 13 to 17 centimetres.
Wrens are tiny birds, and one of the smallest bird species in the UK
The Wren’s song is remarkably loud for such a tiny bird. Read on to learn more about their calls and songs.
Male Wrens have a loud and beautiful song that lasts for several seconds, incorporating various tinkling and trilling notes. You may hear them throughout the year, although they are most vocal in the spring. Wrens also produce excited ‘tic-tic’ and churring calls.
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Close up of a perched Wren singing in full voice
Wrens are active little birds that feed throughout the day to maintain their metabolism. Continue reading to learn what they eat.
Wrens are primarily insectivores, although they also eat spiders and other invertebrates. Caterpillars and other insect larvae are their prey of choice.
These busy birds search for prey in low vegetation and sometimes under snow and shallow water. Wrens occasionally supplement their diet with berries and seeds. Check out this guide for a more in-depth look at the Wren’s diet in the UK.
Both male and female Wrens feed their young a diet of small invertebrates. They will continue to care for fledgelings for about two weeks after leaving the nest.
Wrens mainly eat insects
Wrens are abundant and widespread in the UK. The species includes over two-dozen subspecies that occur on three different continents.
Wrens live in a variety of habitats in the UK. Their preferred natural habitat is deciduous woodlands, although they thrive in suburban gardens.
Wrens are also common in the following habitats:
Wrens occur almost throughout the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. However, they are rare or absent from upland areas of Scotland and Northern England.
Further afield, Eurasian Wrens occur widely, from Iceland, through almost all of Europe and parts of North Africa. Moving East, their distribution is rather disjointed, continuing through central Asia to Japan and Eastern Russia.
Eurasian wren foraging for food amongst the leaves
Wrens are secretive in nature, preferring to stick to thick cover. Their scientific name means ‘cave-dweller’, and this is a good description of a species that spends so much time in the dark undergrowth.
These birds spend most of their time in low vegetation, although they will emerge to forage on the ground below.
Wrens are common to abundant in the United Kingdom, with an estimated eight to eleven million pairs. Their numbers vary yearly, but they are accepted as the UK's most abundant bird species.
Birdwatchers can spot Wrens almost anywhere in the UK. Most suburban homes provide suitable habitats for these common garden birds, but an outing to the countryside will be equally productive.
Wrens are distributed pretty much all over the UK
When its wings are closed, the wren displays lines of white barring on primary feathers. It can be difficult to locate as it prefers to forage on the ground or flit among the stems of foliage. However, it can often be seen in the garden and remains active during the hours following sunset.
On cold winter nights, wrens will roost communally in tightly packed clumps, and numbers can surpass 60 in these gatherings. In-flight the wren looks like a warm-brown, whirring bee-like bird.
Wrens have the nickname Jenny Wren. This is because females get extremely vocal when her newly fledged brood is on site.
Wren about to jump into the water
Despite their abundance, Wrens face several threats, from bad weather to predators. Continue reading to learn more about their lifespan and conservation status in the UK.
Wrens are short-lived birds with a maximum lifespan of about seven years. Severe winters can cause significant mortality, particularly for birds in their first year, but the average lifespan of individuals that survive to adulthood is about two years.
Domestic cats are probably the greatest predator, at least in suburban areas. Wrens are preyed on by a variety of small predators, including the following birds:
Wrens are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.
Wrens are not endangered. However, these common birds have been upgraded to the UK’s amber list of conservation concern.
Wrens are one of, if not, the most abundant bird species in the UK
Wrens lay their first clutch around the start of April and often have a second brood later in the nesting season. Continue reading to learn more about their nesting behaviour.
Wrens build their domed-shaped nests in all sorts of sheltered positions like dense vegetation and cavities in walls and rock crevices. These birds sometimes build their nests in strange places like hanging clothes and rolled-up blinds.
Wrens lay five to eight small white eggs, each measuring approximately 16 millimetres long and 12 millimetres wide. Each egg is speckled in reddish brown, mostly toward the blunt end.
Wrens are a polygynous species, which means males frequently mate with several partners in a breeding season. Successful males may have up to four nesting females on their territory. However, some pairs may reunite in successive years.
Read our comprehensive guide for an in-depth look at Wren Nesting.
Close up of a Wren inside the nest, with two young chicks
Wrens are shy but active little birds, reminiscent of a mouse as they forage in the undergrowth.
Wrens are territorial in the nesting season. Males will defend their nesting territory through song and aggressive displays. However, they are far more relaxed in the winter and may even gather in small groups to roost.
Wrens look for cosy, sheltered places like cavities and disused nests to sleep. These birds may share suitable roosts with other Wrens in the winter to benefit from their body warmth.
Wrens can become highly territorial in the nesting season
Winter is a harsh season for small insectivorous birds, yet Wrens can be heard and seen in every month in the UK. Continue reading to learn more about their migratory habits.
Wrens do not migrate in the United Kingdom, although populations that nest in Northern Europe and Eastern Asia undertake annual migrations in the spring and autumn.
With their short wings, these birds are hardly masters of the skies and must rely on nocturnal flights to avoid aerial predators.
Juvenile Eurasian wren perched on a branch
Wrens, like most other birds, are wonderful to have around in the garden. These busy little birds have a lovely voice and actively forage for pest insects like aphids around our homes.
Wrens may call excitedly when faced with a threat like a cat or a dog. They will also chirp boldly at Magpies, which often raid other birds' nests.
Wrens are not the most common visitors to bird tables, although you can attract them with the right foods. An open, platform-style feeder stocked with mealworms, suet, and peanuts is your best chance.
A bird bath or pond will act as an added attraction, and the addition of a purpose-made Wren nest box might attract a breeding pair of these delightful birds.
Known collective nouns for a group of Wrens are as follows:
9cm to 10cm
13cm to 17cm
6g to 12g
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