Conservation status Still widespread and common.
Family Wrens
Habitat Woodland underbrush; conifer forests (summer). Breeds mostly in moist coniferous forest with an understory of dense thickets, often close to water. Winters in very dense low growth in woods, especially along streambanks or among tangles, brushpiles, and fallen logs.
A secretive little bird of dense woods. It often creeps about among fallen logs and dense tangles, behaving more like a mouse than a bird, remaining out of sight but giving an occasional kimp-kimp callnote. Usually Winter Wrens live close to the ground; but in spring in the northern woods, males ascend to high perches in the conifers to give voice to a beautiful song of long-running musical trills.

Feeding Behavior

Usually forages very low among dense vegetation, searching for insects among foliage, on twigs and trunks, and on ground. When feeding low along streambanks, may take items from water's surface.


5-6, sometimes 4-7. White, with reddish brown dots often concentrated toward larger end. Incubation is by female, about 14-16 days. Young: Probably both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 19 days after hatching.


Probably both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 19 days after hatching.


Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including many beetles, caterpillars, true bugs, ants, small wasps, and many others. Also eats many spiders, plus some millipedes and snails. Occasionally may eat tiny fish. Also sometimes eats berries, perhaps mainly in fall and winter.


Male sings in spring to defend territory and attract a mate. In courtship, male perches near female, with wings half-opened and fluttering, tail spread and moving from side to side, while he sings or calls. Male may have more than one mate. Nest site is in any kind of natural cavity close to the ground (lower than about 6'), including holes among upturned roots of downed trees, cavities in rotten stumps, old woodpecker holes, crevices among rocks, holes in streambanks, sometimes under porches of cabins. Within cavity, both sexes help build nest of grass, weeds, moss, rootlets, lined with animal hair and feathers. Male may also build several unlined "dummy" nests.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Download Our Bird Guide App


Despite the name, leaves most northern areas in winter. Migration is relatively early in spring and late in fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

Learn more

Songs and Calls

A high-pitched, varied, and rapid series of musical trills and chatters; call note an explosive kit! or kit-kit!
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.