Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

The Wren is the shortest of all UK garden birds. Although not the smallest, an accolade left to the Goldcrest, which weighs in at just six grams, about the weight of a two pence coin, the Wren certainly punches far above its competitors when sound-to-size ratio is factored in. It’s no understatement to say the Wren is a vociferous little fellow.

The Wren is almost entirely brown, with dashes and lighter shades of brown and cream. Being quite a compact bird, its dumpiness makes it appear very short, yet its legs and claws jut out prominently. All of this is complemented by the bird’s most memorable feature: the vertical, jagged tail which quivers as the bird sings out loud. If you notice one in your garden, make note of its particular movement; it is expert at hopping and dashing swiftly along the ground.

Over particularly harsh winters, Wren populations can deplete significantly by up to as much as 25%. Despite this startling statistic, this is often countered by the large broods created throughout the breeding season. Typically, a female Wren will lay between five and eight eggs, and it’s often quite common for second broods to be raised. Populations of Wrens, therefore, can be replaced quite quickly, a mechanism that has arguably developed over evolutionary time to cope with moments of rapid population loss.

A Wren weighs about the same as a two pence coin

A Wren weighs about the same as a two pence coin

Taxonomy

The term Troglodytes, which is the taxonomic rank used for the Eurasian Wren, among others, such as the House wren, Pacific wren and Winter wren, means “cave dweller”. This Greek derivation, which can be broken down into two chunks (“trogle”, a hole, and “dyein” to creep) refers to the Wrens habit of moving in and out of cracks and crevices to gather arthropods or for roosting.

Habits & behaviour

Compared to its slight appearance, the Wren boasts an incredibly loud voice. According to Wikipedia, it is ten times louder, weight for weight, than a cockerel. Listen and notice the “churring” sound, which is similar in sound to the winding down of a clock. Despite this mechanical reference, the Wren’s beautiful, complex and melodious song is to be admired for its rich continuous trills, ascending notes and clear timbres. You might notice a male Wren perched high, exposed to the elements, with quivering body as it expresses boldly its characteristic tune. The male, in particular, has a lengthy and considerably complex series of trills, which last for seconds at a time. It’s almost unmatched among most garden birds.

Wren eggs in nest

White, speckled Wren eggs in a nest


A Wren brood will contain between five and eight small speckled eggs, which are laid in late April. Often second broods are raised. The normal incubation period is anywhere between 13 – 18 days, with a fledge time of 15 – 20 days.

Interestingly, Wrens are highly polygamous; a male can have more than a single female with an active nest at any one time in his territory. In fact, there was one recorded instance of a male Wren that had partnered with four females in a single territory.

Fact: The wren’s diet is comprised mainly of spiders and insects

The Wren in human culture

The legendary Greek writer of famous fables, Aesop, once wrote of the Wren as King of the Birds: there is a famous fable in which the Wren was pitted against the eagle to see which bird could soar to the highest height. The Wren rested on the the eagle’s back, and when the eagle tired, the Wren flew out higher while the eagle plummeted to the ground. Thus, proving that cleverness is better than sheer strength alone.

Yet apart from this little Greek cultural ditty, the Wren has ingrained itself deeply in Western culture. It can be found referenced in Christian, Celtic, Norse and Druidical stories, and is abundant throughout the rest of the world, consistently earning the title King wherever it is found. In Japan, the Wren is known as “King of the Winds”, in Germany the term Zaunkönig means “King of the Fence”, and in Dutch, the Wren is known as “winterkoning”, or “winter king”. Being of considerable sacred status in Druidical culture, the Wren was called King of all the Birds; its musical notes influencing the Druid’s ritual divination.

St Stephen

In Ireland today there is a tradition that dates back to far before the beginning of the 20th century. It is called Wren Day and was supposedly started when St Stephen was betrayed by a chattering Wren as he attempted to hide from his enemies. Ever since, there has been a celebration called Hunting the Wren, whereby young “Wrenboys” would catch a Wren and parade it around town. This is described in the song, which begins:

The Wren, the Wren the king of all birds,

St. Stephenses day, he was caught in the furze.

Although he is little, his honor is great,

Rise up, kind sir, and give us a trate.

Wren Day

Hunt the Wren Day (Lá an Dreoilín) is celebrated in Ireland on 26th December, St Stephen’s Day

Julius Caeasar and the Wren

The famous author of the Twelve Caesars, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, wrote that the assassination of Julius Caesar was foretold by a Wren. According to Suetonius, “a little bird called the king-bird flew into the Hall of Pompey, with a sprig laurel.” This “king-bird” was a Wren, pursued by a large flock of birds. It entered the Roman Senate with a symbolic wreath in its beak to warn Caesar of his imminent demise. Unfortunately, the bird was torn to pieces before it could tell Julius Caesar.

Wren Day

The death of Julius Caesar

Interactive Wren

Mealworm Suet Block

Solid 320g blocks of high-quality suet blended with mealworms, providing instant energy for your feathered friends.

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Insect Suet Block

Solid 320g blocks of high-quality suet blended with real insects, providing instant energy for your feathered friends.

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Mealworm Suet Pellets

Suitable for year round feeding, these suet pellets have been blended with dried mealworms to create a delicious, high energy treat for your garden birds.

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Dried Mealworm

Dried mealworms are the perfect nutritional food for your garden birds. Ideal for attracting species such as Blue tits, Starlings and Blackbirds.

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