Regular readers of this blog will probably have realized by now that I am not a bird watcher who focuses on the pretty birds. What I enjoy about bird watching is the challenge of seeing new and different birds. And that often includes common backyard birds that are less likely to hang out at a bird feeder.
Under those circumstances, the House Wren has become one of my favorite birds. Tiny and relatively fast moving, it is difficult to catch a glimpse of a House Wren. Even harder to get a decent photograph. Over time I have begun to shamelessly court the House Wren with special bird houses. I was lucky enough last summer to have a pair of House Wrens settle in one of my bird houses and raise four little ones. You can read about it in my post A Family of Wrens https://tailsofatwitcher.com/2019/08/08/a-family-of-wrens/). But despite these successes, the House Wren is still fairly challenging to capture in photos, making the chase all that much more exhilarating.
At five inches, House wrens are very small. They are also fairly dull and camouflaged being a muted brown with some lighter brown markings, which you will only see if it sits still long enough for you to get a good look. They have rounder bodies, short legs (with disproportionately long toes) and short wings. Besides its small size, its long curved beak and habit of perching with its tail erect are two if its most distinguishing features.
A common summer resident of the whole Garden State, House Wrens usually return from wintering in Mexico around mid-April and you will begin to hear their songs as the males search for mates in May. You can often spot House Wrens foraging for insects to eat among the leaves. Their diet consists of only insects and invertebrates, including snails.
House Wrens prefer to nest in a cavity and have two broods a year, of between four and six tan eggs. The pair are truly a team, with both the male and female incubating and feeding the young. House Wrens are also very territorial and will destroy the nests and eggs of other House Wrens or other birds that are too near their nesting ground. One of the facts I love about House Wrens is that the male will build more than one nest. He then lets his mate choose the nest she prefers and then she helps him to finish up the building. One of the first House Wrens I had the opportunity to observe was making a nest in a neighboring porch ceiling. He was no dummy! He was prepping several nests, but no one ever said they needed to be in different locations. He selected three identical roof beams in a row, and he prepped them all without having to fly all over the place. Once his lady picked her favorite, they used material from the other two partial nests to finish off their renovations.
One of the magical things about the House Wren is its song. So loud and clear and beautiful. According the Cornell Lab All About Birds website, the House Wren’s songs “are a long, jumbled bubbling introduced by abrupt churrs and scolds and made up of 12-16 recognizable syllables.” If you would like to hear one for yourself, you can visit their website and listen to several clips, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Wren/sounds.
There are several other species of Wren in Eastern North America, including the Carolina Wren which is a common wren in New Jersey. But discussing the similarities and differences of these varieties could be an entire post on its own.