The wren is a tiny brown bird, although it is heavier and not as slim as the even smaller goldcrest.

It is dumpy, almost rounded, with a fine bill, quite long legs and toes, very short round wings and a short, narrow tail which is sometimes cocked up vertically. For such a small bird it has a remarkably loud voice.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

The Wren is the shortest of all UK garden birds. Although not the smallest, an accolade left to the Goldcrest, which weighs in at just six grams, about the weight of a two pence coin, the Wren certainly punches far above its competitors when the sound-to-size ratio is factored in. It’s no understatement to say the Wren is a vociferous little fellow.

The Wren is almost entirely brown, with dashes and lighter shades of brown and cream. Being quite a compact bird, its dumpiness makes it appear very short, yet its legs and claws jut out prominently. All of this is complemented by the bird’s most memorable feature: the vertical, jagged tail which quivers as the bird sings out loud. If you notice one in your garden, make note of its particular movement; it is an expert at hopping and dashing swiftly along the ground.

the wren in Garden
springtime birds of garland

Over particularly harsh winters, Wren populations can deplete significantly by up to as much as 25%. Despite this startling statistic, this is often countered by the large broods created throughout the breeding season. Typically, a female Wren will lay between five and eight eggs, and it’s often quite common for second broods to be raised. Populations of Wrens, therefore, can be replaced quite quickly, a mechanism that has arguably developed over evolutionary time to cope with moments of rapid population loss.

A Wren weighs about the same as a two pence coin

Irish Name: Dreolín

Scientific name: Troglodytes troglodytes

Bird Family: Wrens

wren in a nest of the tree
the sitting posture of a bird coming out of the tree

Habits & behaviour

Compared to its slight appearance, the Wren boasts an incredibly loud voice. According to Wikipedia, it is ten times louder, weight for weight, than a cockerel. Listen and notice the “churring” sound, which is similar in sound to the winding down of a clock. Despite this mechanical reference, the Wren’s beautiful, complex and melodious song is to be admired for its rich continuous trills, ascending notes and clear timbres. You might notice a male Wren perched high, exposed to the elements, with a quivering body as it expresses boldly its characteristic tune. The male, in particular, has a lengthy and considerably complex series of trills, which last for seconds at a time. It’s almost unmatched among most garden birds.

Wren eggs in the nest
White, speckled Wren eggs in a nest

A Wren brood will contain between five and eight small speckled eggs, which are laid in late April. Often second broods are raised. The normal incubation period is anywhere between 13 – 18 days, with a fledge time of 15 – 20 days.


  1. It’s not the smallest British bird (that’s the goldcrest), but it is the shortest.
  2. The wren appeared on the smallest British coin, the farthing.
  3. It’s the only member of the wren family to be found outside the Americas (where there are no fewer than 83 different species of wren).
  4. The wren is Britain’s most widespread bird and is found on almost all offshore islands, and from sea level to the tops of the Highlands.
  5. Wrens suffer badly in cold weather when prolonged snow cover can deplete populations by as much as 25%.
  6. There are an estimated 7 million wren territories in Britain, making it one of our most abundant birds.
  7. In proportion to its size, the wren has the loudest song of any British bird.
  8. One male mute swan weighs the same as 1,400 wrens.
  9. Wrens will nest communally in winter, with as many as 10 birds spending the night together in a single nestbox. The maximum recorded roosting together is 61.
  10. The family name for the wrens is Troglodytidae, which means cave dweller.
  11. The cock wren builds from six to 12 nests, but only one is used by the female.
  12. The female adds the lining to the nest she decides to use.
  13. The bond between the male and female is loose, and only a minority of males help rear the young.
  14. At least 50% of cock wrens have more than one mate.
  15. Wrens have large families: eight or nine young fledging from one nest is not unusual.
  16. Cock wrens sing throughout the year except when moulting.

Though British wrens seldom move far, northern populations are migratory, and Swedish birds have been recorded moving as far as 2500km.

Distinct subspecies of our wren can be found on St Kilda, off north-west Scotland, and as far away as Taiwan.

Wrens play a major role in ancient tradition and folklore. Wren hunts, which took place between Christmas and Epiphany, were once an annual ritual in rural Britain and northern Europe.

According to Greek legend, the wren became the king of birds by hiding on the eagle’s back and thus succeeding in flying higher in the sky than the eagle.

House Wrens mostly hop while on the ground and have a direct, steady flight only about 1 meter above the ground in open areas. House Wrens are most active during the day. They migrate yearly between breeding and wintering areas. They are very territorial and are usually found alone, in pairs, or immediate family groups. Males take primary responsibility for defending the territory and will chase away intruders. They usually only have one mate, and both parents help to raise the young.

Interestingly, Wrens are highly polygamous; a male can have more than a single female with an active nest at any one time in his territory. There was one recorded instance of a male Wren that had partnered with four females in a single territory.

Fact: The wren’s diet is comprised mainly of spiders and insects

It is the most common UK breeding bird, although it suffers declines during prolonged, severely cold winters. Wrens hunt insects in marshes, rocky wastes, or shrubbery. They reveal their presence by chatter and loud song. Many species nest in holes; some build domed structures in thickets or on ledges. The female lines the nest with soft materials and lays 2 to 10 eggs. There may be three or four broods yearly.

wren baby bird
it is known as Carolina wren bird

The Wren in human culture

The legendary Greek writer of famous fables, Aesop, once wrote of the Wren as King of the Birds: there is a famous fable in which the Wren was pitted against the eagle to see which bird could soar to the highest height. The Wren rested on the eagle’s back, and when the eagle tired, the Wren flew out higher while the eagle plummeted to the ground. Thus, proving that cleverness is better than sheer strength alone.

Yet apart from this little Greek cultural ditty, the Wren has ingrained itself deeply in Western culture. It can be found referenced in Christian, Celtic, Norse and Druidical stories, and is abundant throughout the rest of the world, consistently earning the title King wherever it is found. In Japan, the Wren is known as “King of the Winds”, in Germany the term Zaunkönig means “King of the Fence”, and in Dutch, the Wren is known as “winterkoning”, or “winter king”. Being of considerable sacred status in Druidical culture, the Wren was called King of all the Birds; its musical notes influenced the Druid’s ritual divination.

picture of a wren with a big mouth
the bird with nonstop noise


Content Writer(Erakina by RTMN)


Tags: garden bird, species, wren

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *