The nation’s shortest bird at just 10cms long, the diminutive wren (Troglodytes Troglodytes) is Britain’s most common breeding bird. Almost entirely brown with dashes of lighter brown and cream, the wren is a compact bird and its somewhat dumpy stature makes it look rather short. It is notable for its vertical, jagged tail which quivers when it sings.
Wrens are found in any areas where there are insects to eat and crevices in which to build nests. Habitats include hedgerows, cultivated land, reed beds, woody areas, coastal regions and gardens.
Wrens may be small in stature, but they have very loud voices! Indeed, wrens are more often heard than seen. Pound for pound, they are up to tend times louder than a cockerel. Listen for a tremulous 'teet-teet-teet', or a repeated 'tee-tee-teech'.
What is the wren’s distribution and population?
This species is found throughout the UK except for in a small number of remote and high-altitude areas. There are thought to be as many as 8,000,000 breeding pairs across the country and wrens are not endangered. They are, however, vulnerable to cold winters.
What do wrens eat?
Wrens are principally insect and spider eaters. They will seek cover while foraging for their meals. If you would like to attract wrens to your garden, mealworms would be the best choice of food together with suet fat balls or suet blocks which contain insects and mealworms. These birds prefer to eat from covered tables or from the ground and not from feeders.
Where do wrens nest?
Interestingly, wrens are polygamous with males often having more than one mate. These birds will nest in cavities including hollows in trees, crevices in buildings and nesting boxes. Some will choose more unusual sites such as drainpipes and flowerpots. Nesting sites are usually low to the ground. Males construct numerous dummy nests before the female chooses one and then lines it. Nests are built using twigs and are completed by grass, weeds, hair and feathers. Wrens generally produce two broods each year. Eggs are incubated for 16 to 18 days and chicks fledge after roughly 17 days.
Did you know?
- Six subspecies of Wren are found in Britain and Ireland, four of which are island birds found on Shetland (zetlandicus), Fair Isle (fridariensis), St Kilda (hirtensis) and the Outer Hebrides (hebridensis). We know that these subspecies must have evolved quickly as they couldn’t have survived on the islands during the last ice age.
- The Greek writer Aesop identified the Wren as King of the Birds. In one of his fables, the wren competed with the eagle to discover which could reach the greatest height. The wren rested on the eagle’s back until the eagle tired and fell. It then soared to a greater height, proving than brains are as important as brawn.