Bird of the Week: House Wren

House Wren photo by Bill Radcliffe public domain

House Wren
Troglodytes aedon 

The tiny brown bird, with its checkered brown and white tail, shot straight in the air, sings its loud song in backyards across the Western Hemisphere. The House Wren has a more subdued and consistent brown plumage than many other wrens. Its eyebrow is also a fainter white, at times blending into the brown, marking it distinctly from our resident Carolina or Bewick’s Wren’s bright white brow.

During the month of October, this wren migrates south to central Texas. Some may migrate further south as far as Central America, but many will choose to stay for the winter. Look for it at the base of trees, shrubs, brushy tangles in more open ares and in less groomed park edges. However, the House Wren can live in a wide variety of habitats, from deciduous to coniferous forests and from swamps to mountainside elevations of 10,000 feet.

The House Wren’s Latin name, Troglodytes aedon, breaks down to something close to “hole dwelling nightingale.” Aedon being ancient Greek for nightingale. Troglogytes means hole or cave dweller. This genus entails most of the wren family. Pan troglodytes is a chimpanzee. While troglodyte refers to prehistoric cave-dwelling man or harmit. The classification Homo troglodytes is a name created by Carl Linnaeus for a creature he wished existed and tried hard to find; something kin to the missing link.

While the House Wren does prefer to nest in cave-like settings, the busy little bird would scarcely be thought of as hermit-like. Like many wrens, the House Wren has an energetic personality and loud trilling songs. While many describe this wren’s song as happy and jubilant, other’s find it more mumbled than other wrens and much more irritating. I find this wren’s loud song joyous and useful in teaching my children to recognize birds by their song. The House Wren nests in cavities of trees, but will also use boxes, boots, old cans, and nestboxes. They use piles of brush or dense woods and shrubs for protection and to look for insects. A House Wren’s nest may become infested with mites and parasites as their eggs hatch. Scientists have observed that spider egg-sacks are sometimes added to the nest. When the spiders hatch, they help by eating the mites and parasites.

Come time for summer migration, the song increases in energy, nearly bubbling over in song up and down the scale.

Written and compiled by Lindsey Hernandez

House Wren painting by John James Audubon circa 1827-1838 from  The Birds of America


Sources include All About Birds, Texas A&M’s Texas Breeding Bird Atlas and “The Curious Case of the London Troglodyte” by Cat Bohannon (