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 Wren - Fact File
Troglodytes troglodytes
Widespread and abundant resident found everywhere from large cities to remote off-shore islands. Populations can crash after severe winters, but currently one of our most abundant birds with about 10 million pairs in Britain and Ireland.
Anywhere there is low cover - woods, hedges, gardens, srcub, sea-cliffs, mountains, reedbeds, etc.

Tiny size and russet-brown colouring and plump stumpy shape with tail usually cocked, readily identify the wren. Has very loud trilling song, heard throughout the year.

9-10 cm (3.75")


By Michael J. Seago

Wrens are daily visitors to our garden often remaining active for some time after sunset, constantly examining an ivy-covered wall. Tiny, pugnacious and mouselike they are almost as familiar as robins.

Flight is rapid except during the brief glide before landing when rounded wings and spread tail present a 'parachute' appearance. The wren's song may be heard during every month of the year and even occasionally at night. Most astonishing thing about it is its volume-as if the vibrating performer is trying to burst its lungs.

Not only is the wren one of the most widespread species in the country, but it is one of the most adaptable. Locally, it may be expected not only in gardens, but also in farmyards, sand-dunes, thickets, hedgerows and woodlands. Autumn migrants may be found among suaeda bushes along the North Norfolk coast.

Reed-fringed dykes in the very centre of the vast Halvergate marshes harbour a few in winter; Fenland osier carrs are equally attractive. Despite diminutive size British-ringed wrens have been recovered in southern France. Scarcely believable is the globe-spanning individual ringed in Sweden and eventually found in southern Spain!

Wrens are not social during the day, but regularly pack into roosts soon after sunset during the winter. They may continue this habit until the last week in April. Most favoured sites include old house martins' nests, nest-boxes and holes in walls and under roofs.

It is on record that nests specially built in mid-winter have then been used for communal roosting, providing a warm refuge from frost and snow. One such nest constructed in a cotoneaster was quickly packed to capacity. It became so full that the tail and rear end of the last wren to enter protruded from the entrance.

During severe weather, one nestbox roost held 60 wrens. The occupants took between a quarter and a half hour to enter at night and twenty minutes to disperse in the morning. Some roost sites are traditional, drawing birds from more than a mile away. Once inside, roosting wrens squat up to two or three layers deep with heads facing inwards and tails towards the entrance or sides.

The largest roost of which I am aware was situated in the loft of an isolated house. The birds entered through a hole in the fascia just under overhanging roof slates. Accurate counting was difficult as birds continued arriving until almost dark.

On occasions they needed to line up before entering-running the gauntlet of a highly aggressive wren at the entrance forcing some to go elsewhere. Highest total of occupants was a remarkable 96. At another site it was decided to remove a grey squirrel from its winter drey. But instead of a squirrel a cascade of 17 startled wrens erupted from the entrance. Squabbling is a frequent event at a large roost; a party of tiny pugilists will 'explode' from the site then tumble in a bunch trying to evict one another.

By Michael J. Seago

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.