Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: House Wren Troglodytes aedon


The House Wren is small, compact and relatively slender with a flat head and fairly long, curved beak.  It is short-winged, often keeping its longish tail either cocked above the line of the body or slightly drooped.  Drab gray-brown overall with pale under parts, the house wren has a weak ‘eyebrow’ and eye-ring pattern.


General: Subdued brown overall with darker barring on the wings and tail and pale brown on the breast and below. The pale eyebrow that is characteristic of so many wren species is much fainter in House Wrens.  The bill is moderately long, thin, slightly curved, yellow at the base and black at the tip. The moderately long tail is barred brown on top and pale with black barring underneath.  The legs are pinkish legs with large feet. L 4.75”  WS 6”  WT 0.39oz (11 g).

Adult Male: No distinguishing differences between male and female.

Adult female: No distinguishing differences between male and female.

Juvenile: More dark brown overall often some yellow visible around gape.

Similar Species: To separate wrens, start with the tail and the eyebrow. House Wrens have fairly long tails and just a faint eyebrow.   Pacific Wrens have almost no tail and a fairly bold eyebrow; they're smaller and darker than House Wrens.  Bewick's Wrens have very bold eyebrows.  House Wrens are dingy on the breast where Bewick's are white.   Bewick's Wren's beaks are longer and straighter than a House Wren's. Other wren species can be separated by habitat: the Marsh Wrens are birds of marshy reeds and grasses. They are paler below, with more distinct eyestripes, than House Wrens. Rock Wrens of the dry West are paler gray-brown above and whiter below than House Wrens, with buffy flanks and tail corners.

Behavior:  Busy foragers in low tree branches and shrubs or investigating the ground with quick hops, House Wrens are aggressive. Single males sometimes compete for females even after a pair has begun nesting and if successful he usually discards any existing eggs or nestlings and begins a new family.  Pairs typically break up by the end of each nesting season and choose new partners the next year.

Habitat: Common in dense brushy patches, overgrown gardens, and hedgerows, House Wrens have a huge geographic range and live in many habitats, so long as they feature trees, shrubs, and tangles interspersed with clearings. Because they are cavity nesters, House Wrens thrive around buildings, yards, farms, and other human habitations with their many nooks and crannies. 


Song is a rapid bubbling series of trills and rattles, rolling and descending. Calls vary from dry harsh scold notes to higher, more nasal whining notes and dry chek notes.

Cavity nesters, House Wrens nest in old woodpecker holes, natural crevices, and nest boxes (or discarded tins, shoes, etc.) provided by humans. Usually the male will begin the nest by piling twigs into the cavities they choose, sometimes mounded up into a barrier between nest and entrance, seemingly to protect the nest from cold weather, predators, or cowbirds. The cup itself is built into a depression in the twigs and lined with just a few grams (less than 0.25 oz) of feathers, grasses and other plant material, animal hair, spider egg sacs, string, snakeskin, and discarded plastic.  House Wrens rarely use nest sites more than 100 feet from woody vegetation, but also avoid heavily wooded areas where it’s hard to see predators coming.

House Wrens eat a wide variety of insects and spiders, including beetles, caterpillars, earwigs, and daddy longlegs, as well as smaller numbers of more mobile insects such as flies, leafhoppers, and springtails. They also eat snail shells, probably for the calcium they contain and to provide grit for digestion.

House Wren range extends through Southern Canada from British Columbia to the Atlantic Coast and through most of United States.  They winter from the Southern United States to southern Mexico.

Conservation Status:

Populations have been increasing over long and short–term therefore not of concern.

Capture Rates

The House Wren is a rare visitor to Colony Farm. It is more commonly found on southeast Vancouver Island, and primarily in the Okanagan and Thompson Valleys. Subsequently, capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) reflect few individuals in late August as the species begin southward migration.


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