At a Glance
A familiar backyard bird, the House Wren was named long ago for its tendency to nest around human homes or in birdhouses. Very active and inquisitive, bouncing about with its short tail held up in the air, pausing to sing a rich bubbling song, it adds a lively spark to gardens and city parks despite its lack of bright colors. Various forms of this wren are found from central Canada to southern South America.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Perching Birds, Wrens
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flitter
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Probably migrates at night. Males apparently migrate north slightly earlier in spring than females.
4 1/2 -5 1/4" (11-13 cm). Small, hyperactive, with thin bill. Plainer than most wrens; shows faint eyebrow, thin eye-ring, bars on wings and tail. Some in Arizona mountains (intergrades with "Brown-throated" race of western Mexico) are warmer buff on throat.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Brown, Gray, Tan
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped
Songs and Calls
A gurgling, bubbling, exuberant song, first rising, then falling.
Chirp/Chip, Trill, Whistle
Open woods, thickets, towns, gardens. Breeds in a wide variety of semi-open habitats, including suburbs, orchards, woodlots, open forest, streamside groves, mountain pine-oak woods, and many others. Winters mostly in areas of dense low growth, including thickets and streamside brush.
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6-7, sometimes 5-8, occasionally more. White, heavily dotted with reddish brown. Incubation is probably mostly or entirely by female, about 12-15 days.
Probably both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12-18 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, rarely 3.
Forages very actively in dense vegetation. Forages at various levels, sometimes high in trees but usually low, searching for insects among foliage, on twigs and branches, in the bark of tree trunks, and on the ground.
Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including beetles, true bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, moths, flies, and many others. Also eats many spiders, plus some millipedes and snails.
Male defends territory by singing. Courtship involves male singing, showing the female potential nest sites. Adults often puncture the eggs of other birds nesting nearby (including other House Wrens). Male may have more than one mate; female may leave male to care for young from first brood while she moves to another male's territory and nests again. Nest site is in any kind of cavity, including natural hollows in trees and stumps, old woodpecker holes, crevices in buildings, often in nest boxes. May nest in almost any kind of enclosed space (flowerpots, parked cars, shoes, drainpipes, etc.). Site is usually low, may be high in trees, especially in western mountains. Male builds incomplete "dummy" nests in several cavities; female chooses one and finishes nest by adding lining. Nest has a foundation of twigs, topped with softer cup of plant fibers, grass, weeds, animal hair, feathers.
Declined in some areas in 19th century after introduction of House Sparrow, which competed for nest sites. Currently widespread and common, numbers probably stable.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the House Wren. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the House Wren
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.