Caught a little winter wren today. Smaller than a house wren (if you can believe it!) and although at first glance they look very much alike, the winter wren has some subtle differences.

The barring on the flanks of the winter wren extends further up the belly, beyond the legs; and the undertail coverts are much darker than those of a house wren. This picture also doesn’t do justice to the buffy eye stripe and small size of this little wren – especially the much shorter tail.

The house wren (photo at right) is a little larger than the winter wren, and lighter; the barring on the flanks rarely goes far up the sides, and the house wren lacks the dark brown and dusky undertail coverts of the winter wren – none of which are visible in this photo!

It was the house wren that got me into birding in the first place. It’s a bird my father loved – and though he wasn’t what you would call a ‘birder’ in that he never went looking or kept lists and records, he knew the birds that frequented our 120 acre farm. He especially liked the wrens singing from the garden.

One day when I was maybe nine or ten years old, I was asked to retrieve my brother’s jeans from the clothesline. The jeans were old, and torn at the knee. When I got out to the line, I noticed that one leg looked very strange – it was swollen and stiff. I went and called my father to come look.

A pair of house wrens had entered the leg of the jeans through the hole at the knee, and had stuffed the pant leg all the way to the bottom with twigs and sticks, so that the sheer volume and tangle of sticks kept them from falling out the open bottom. My father folded up the bottom of the pantleg and secured it with a clothespin – declaring the jeans off-limits to my brother until the wrens had finished nesting.

That two little birds could accomplish such a feat fascinated me, and I was hooked.

Posted in Birds. 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Wrens”

  1. LauraHinNJ Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a winter wren, maybe just heard them in the Adirondacks – do they nest by you? Is it their song that is like a tinkling of bells?

    I can’t see the differences you talk about, but the winter wren looks much *sweeter* in the face than the house wren.

    My favorites are the Carolina’s – although I miss the house wrens when they go so suddenly.

    I’ve read about how wrens often choose strange places to nest – the are like little mice and often find their way into our house in the oddest of places!

  2. Lynne Says:

    I had to check my field guide to see if winter wrens winter here in Minnesota- they do! Thanks for the comparison lesson. I’ll be watching for them.

  3. swamp4me Says:

    We only have winter wrens in the winter. House wrens occasionally stick around through the summer here. But one wren we have no shortage of is the Carolina. They have nested in every possible place around our yard and porch: a Mason jar, a turtle shell, the hood of my raincoat, a take-out container from a Chinese restaurant, the bow of the canoe, the seat of my kayak, a tea kettle, an old mailbox…I’ll stop now, you get the idea.–>

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