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.