Bird song (15) – Wren

Wren. Photo: Tim Melling

Wrens are tiny – you’d get 45 Wrens to the lb and 100 to the kg – and yet they have a hell of a song. If a Robin sounds as though it is singing to another Robin about 10 feet away then a Wren sounds as though it is trying to reach the whole county with its song. No wonder the one caught so well by Tim Melling (above) looks like it is putting its all into singing.

It’s a very small bird with a very loud voice – and if you hear a very loud song then it is probably a Wren (might be a Cetti’s Warbler but they are very localised).

This is how they sound (thanks, as always, to the wonderful xeno canto) – this one is from the Netherlands ;

Here’s another one – from Spain this time;

And one from the UK:

They all have a rush of notes with some high-pitched ones followed by a harsh rattle – but you’ll get them pretty quickly – they sound like Wrens!

Wrens are polygynous – a male can have several females nesting in his territory. Of course, the flip side of that coin must be that quite a lot of males don’t get to mate at all each season because the ‘best’ males have got all the females. Under those circumstances perhaps it is easy to see why a male Wren has a song that is loud – he’s being very insistent on their being room for another female and any lurking males should keep away.

Most Wrens (the species) live in Europe, some in Asia and a few in North Africa, but most wrens (the family) live in North and South America. What we call the Wren is one of many wrens, and one of the smallest. Until recently it was regarded as the same species as the Winter Wren of North America. Now, I’ve heard some Winter Wrens sing in the USA and they resemble a Wren but they are noticeably different, I think. Winter Wrens sound like real Wrens for a bit and then they often add on some other stuff at the end of their song. See what you think:

But on this side of The Pond you only have to distinguish Wren from other songbirds, not from other wrens. Small bird, loud song, rattle in the middle. You’re bound to hear one soon.

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3 Replies to “Bird song (15) – Wren”

  1. I can remember reading somewhere that if Wrens were the size of Rooks and their song volume increased in proportion that our eardrums would be in serious danger at a mile.

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  2. Here in West Sussex, Wrens are about half way to steadily climbing to their peak song output in week 22. After that, it’s a fairly rapid and smooth decline to complete silence by week 30. They seem to be very consistent over the last 18 years regarding this timetable. Will things change and do we need to know one way or the other? And another thing – Wrens here, have a significant amount of autumn song which peaks at about an eighth of their breeding song peak. Does this occur countrywide? (Autumn singing behaviour across a number species seems to be little studied.)

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  3. I expect most readers will have heard this amazing recording of a Wren song slowed down by Phil Riddett - but if not then check it out.
    https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/wren-song-slowed-down

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