House Wren

A house wren brings some food to its young. There are nine wrens found in North America.

As I stepped outside early this morning, the first bird I heard was a house wren.

A house wren, a little brown bird, to bird watchers is a little brown job or L-B-J. A house wren is smaller than any sparrow but bigger than a hummingbird. The house wren is one of nine species of wren in North America, according to my bird books.

They are the house wren, cactus wren, rock wren, canyon wren, Carolina wren, Bewick’s wren, winter wren, sedge wren and long-billed and short-billed marsh wrens. There are wrens in Europe, also, but the wrens of Europe are of different species than the wrens of North America.

The most common wren of North America must be the house wren. It’s summer range is from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast and from approximately the middle of the continent north to central Canada. The winter range of the house wren is the southern states of the U.S. and south into Mexico and Central America.

Wrens, American wrens, are of the family Troglodytidae. The name Troglodytidae means cave dweller. American wrens don’t nest in caves but they do nest in cavities, holes. House wrens, for example, nest commonly in bird houses and in woodpecker holes, after the woodpeckers have gone, of course.

I read of house wrens nesting in a glove that was left lying on the ground and in a straw hat on the ground. They have nested in empty cans on the ground and even in the pocket of a pair of pants hanging on a clothes line. I had a bird house, made for wrens, on the front of my home, at a window. But wrens never nested in the house I provided. That house fell a couple of years ago and I have not put it back up.

One of the most interesting nest sites of house wrens, to me when I was young, was a tool box Dad had on the side of our house. Dad kept garden tools that he used in flower beds around the house in that box. There were too many tools for the box, however. When the tools were in it the lid wouldn’t close. A pair of house wrens slipped in and out of that box and nested among the tools. My brother and I used to watch the birds fly in and out. They nested in that box several years and raised several broods there.

There are house wrens in our yard now, two of them I think, though perhaps there are more. But I’ve never seen more than two at once. Two wrens, to me the female is Jenny of course and the male is Johnny. I see one or both almost every day the weather is fair and I hear their loud, bubbling song often. I assume they’re looking for a hole of some kind to nest in. But they may already have a nest somewhere and may be incubating eggs or feeding nestlings.

House wrens are welcome in my yard. I like seeing them.

They’re such busy little bodies. And I like hearing them. Further, they are beneficial. According to food habit studies more than half of their food is grasshoppers, crickets and other large insects. And most of the rest of their food is smaller insects.

The house wrens in my yard do land on a bird feeder outside my dining room window occasionally.

I see them as I am sitting at the table eating breakfast, lunch or dinner. They never stay on the feeder long and whether they eat anything on the feeder or not I’ve not been able to tell. If they did, however, I think they would have fed fledglings on the feeder, and I’ve not seen them bring fledglings to the feeder, however, let alone feed them there.

Neil Case may be reached at

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