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home : birding w/don reimer : birding w/don reimer
January 29, 2020

5/7/2009 1:40:00 PM
Winter Wren -
A singing Winter Wren in Owls Head photographed late last month  Photo by Don Reimer
A singing Winter Wren in Owls Head photographed late last month Photo by Don Reimer
by Don Reimer

The smallest and darkest of the wren species, Winter Wrens occupy the northern sectors of North America; with populations in Europe and Asia, it is the only wren that occurs outside of the Americas. Winter Wrens prefer moist, shaded woods in coniferous forest areas, where they forage for spiders and insects on or near the ground. They will also pluck prey items from the water surface of shallow pools. Their scientific name, Troglodytes, means "cave dweller," referring to their habit of entering small holes and crevices under roots and rocks.

At a length of 4 inches, they are a tiny creature with quick, mouse-like movements. The plumage is a chocolate brown color with darker barring on the wings and flanks. The short, stump-like tail is held at a jaunty, cocked angle. Winter Wrens have a thin, pointed bill and a pale eyebrow.

These wrens are more often seen than heard. They produce one of the longest, most complex songs of any bird. The elaborate series of sweet, high-pitched notes and cascading trills (16 notes per second) is sustained for several seconds. The rich sound carries through the thick under-story for over one hundred yards. For their weight and size, Winter Wrens generate more sound than any other bird. On a per-ounce basis, their song is 10 times more powerful than a crowing rooster. Chipping notes and raspy churring sounds are given when the birds are agitated.

Winter Wrens build a dome-like nest close to the ground. The structure is placed within a natural cavity such as a rotted tree, abandoned woodpecker hole or upturned tree root. It is constructed of moss, twigs and bark and is lined with hair and fur. Males may have more than one mate at a time, and these wrens will roost communally during cold weather. Contrary to their name, most of the Winter Wren population moves south in winter.

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