The Wren – Birds to look out for in your garden part 4

The Wren

The Wren

The cock wren is a little bird with a big personality and a phenomenally powerful voice.

The contrast between his tiny body and the enormous volume of sound he emits when singing his shrill lyrics is stupendous. His wings and tail vibrate with the effort and excitement.

In Great Voice

A male wren sings almost throughout the year to keep control of his small territory. Neighbouring wrens often engage in hostile banter and settle disagreements with a bit of rough and tumble on the ground.

Feathered Mice

Rather than being shy or secretive, most of the time wrens are just getting on with their lives unseen. Like mice, they weave their way through tangles of stems and roots in hedges and bushes looking for food.

An Undercover Agent

Whilst the wren is one of the smallest birds in Britain, it is also one of the most common. There are millions breeding each summer but sightings are rare enough to be memorable because they generally stay hidden in hedges, scrub and bramble.

The wren is commonly found in gardens, especially in suburbia, where it lives in shrubs and hedges.

The Wren
To flirt with the local females in spring, a cock wren has to break cover. He finds an open perch, puffs out his chest and fires off his musical lyrics at a breathless pace.

Every Nook & Cranny

Thanks to its small size, the wren has cornered a niche market. It can raid the nooks and crannies which other birds are too big to reach, where lots of spiders, woodlice, flies, aphids and caterpillars and beetles live.

In woodland wrens examine every crack and crevice in the bark on a tree’s lower trunk but rarely venture very high up into the leafy branches.

They also hang around ditches where stagnant water attracts flying insects. It is just as well that the wren is so light and buoyant; it is able to swim if it falls in the water.

Winter Woes

For most of the year, the wren can find all the food it needs by skulking in the undergrowth but in winter, when the creepy-crawlies that the wren seeks are forced into hiding, it may need to seek extra rations from the bird table.

Hypothermia is also a threat to the wren in cold temperatures. Due to their tiny size, wrens have a relatively large surface area from which they can lose heat. Any small drops in numbers however, are made up for by rearing two broods each summer.

The Wren in winter
The Wren

Passionate About Nesting

The cock wren often constructs five or six unfinished domed structures, known as cock’s nests. Then he chases a likely female, trying to impress her with his banner display of raised wings and fluttering flight. He escorts his prospective partner to view his nests, if she approves, she lines her favourite with feathers before laying five to seven white eggs with a light dusting of red specks.

Old-fashioned family

There is a victorian-style division of labour in a wren partnership. The cock bird provides the family home but lets his hen bring up the chicks alone. He only gets involved again in response to calls for help after the fledglings have left the nest. One busy hen was once recorded bring food to the next 1117 times in 15 hours of daylight. All her hard work is rewarded when her large brood is fledged and ready to fly the nest in 15-17 days.

The Wren
Empty-nesting. Armed with a tasty morsel, a female wren tries to bribe her hungry fledglings to leave the nest for the first time. Then, as many parents discover, once their brood is out, it is hard to get them to come home at bedtime. Wrens are often heard cajoling their youngsters back to the safe shelter of their old nest to roost at night.

“Among the dwellings framed by birds

In field or forect with nice care,

Is none that with the little Wren’s

In snugness may compare”

From A Wren’s Next by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

Feature taken from Britain’s Favourite Garden Birds.


I look after communications and marketing at Dairy Diary. I’m a busy mum and love home baking and cooking for my family. In my spare time I enjoy visiting the theatre, eating out with friends and exploring the great outdoors!

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