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Winter Wren Wren Both Sexes
Chestnut brown upperparts, and pale below.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Troglodytes troglodytes
Length: 9-10 cm  (4")
Wing Span: 13-17 cm  (5-7")
Weight: 8-13 g  (¼-½ oz)
Breeding Pairs: 7 000 000
Present: All Year
Status: Green
Description   Voice   Feeding   Nesting   Movements   Conservation   My Garden  
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Wrens are stocky, restless birds that are easily recognised by their rich brown plumage and short cocked tail which they flick repeatedly. The upperparts and flanks have dark barring and the pale eyebrow (supercilium) is prominent. The underparts are paler with grey barring. The bill is brownish and the legs are flesh-brown.

Juveniles look similar to adults but the eyebrow may not be as prominent until they get their adult plumage.

In flight, its wing beats are rapid and it usually flies short distances and in a straight line.

The Winter Wren is the only wren found outside North America and, among European species, only the Goldcrest and Firecrest are smaller. Grasping just how small and light birds are can sometimes be difficult, the following may help:

Bird Weights Compared With British Coins
Goldcrest 20p
Long-tailed Tit 50p
Wren £1
Blue Tit £2
House Sparrow £2 x 2


Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Song Alarm Call
  Quicktime mp3 Quicktime mp3

The Wren lives life at a fast, restless pace and it sings this way too - it trembles as it puts everything into its song, which lasts about 5 seconds and usually ends in a trill.

Their alarm call is a loud "teck teck teck".

See Bird Song to discover why such a small bird can sing so loudly.


Wrens eat spiders and insects which they find while hopping and dashing along the ground and probing in crevices with their long thin bill. Their scientific name, Troglodytes, means "cave dweller" in reference to this behaviour.

When they do venture out into the open they dart from one place to another.

They occasionally take seed or cheese from the ground feeder table.


Wrens will use open-fronted and tit nest boxes, both for nesting and winter roosting (up to 60 have been recorded in one box).

The male bird constructs several globe-shaped nests in holes in walls, banks, trees, or old nests from leaves, grass and moss. When the female has chosen a nest, she lines it with feathers.

The smooth, glossy eggs are white with reddish spots, and about 16 mm by 13 mm. Incubation is by the female only. The young are fed by both parents.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
late April 2 5-8 13-18 15-20


Most British Wrens are sedentary though some move up to 250 km (150 miles) into more sheltered habitats, such as reed beds, for the winter.

European Wrens are both sedentary and migratory - the latter flying anything up to 2500 km (1500 miles).


The Wren population can be devastated by a severe winter, but the species' high egg productivity means that numbers usually recover after a few years. Surveys suggest the population is increasingly moderately, possibly because recent winters have been quite mild.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

What the Wren lacks in size, it more than makes up for in voice and chances are that you will hear its amazingly loud song before you see it. In spring and summer, Wrens often enjoy singing while sat on top of the cotoneaster below my bedroom window - sometimes at 4 AM and I have to remind myself that I like birds!

Indeed, the cotoneaster bush is one of their favourite places for food, because there are hundreds of spiders, insects, and larvae. 

The chart shows that Wrens are seen most in the winter, probably because they are hungry, food is in short supply, and they become less cautious.

Further Reading

"The Wren", Shire Natural History (details)

Last revision: 01 Jul 2010
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2014.
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