• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Carolina Wren

Thryothorus ludovicianus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TROGLODYTIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

In summer it can seem that every patch of woods in the eastern United States rings with the rolling song of the Carolina Wren. This shy bird can be hard to see, but it delivers an amazing number of decibels for its size. Follow its teakettle-teakettle! and other piercing exclamations through backyard or forest, and you may be rewarded with glimpses of this bird's rich cinnamon plumage, white eyebrow stripe, and long, upward-cocked tail. This hardy bird has been wintering farther and farther north in recent decades.

ML Essential Set
Be a Better Birder Tutorial 4

Keys to identification Help

Wrens
Wrens
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    The Carolina Wren is a small but chunky bird with a round body and a long tail that it often cocks upward. The head is large with very little neck, and the distinctive bill marks it as a wren: long, slender, and downcurved.

  • Color Pattern

    Both males and females are a bright, unpatterned reddish-brown above and warm buffy-orange below, with a long white eyebrow stripe, dark bill, and white chin and throat.

  • Behavior

    The Carolina Wren creeps around vegetated areas and scoots up and down tree trunks in search of insects and fruit. It explores yards, garages, and woodpiles, sometimes nesting there. This wren often cocks its tail upward while foraging and holds it down when singing. Carolina Wrens defend their territories with constant singing; they aggressively scold and chase off intruders.

  • Habitat

    Look—or listen—for Carolina Wrens singing or calling from dense vegetation in wooded areas, especially in forest ravines and neighborhoods. These birds love to move low through tangled understory; they frequent backyard brush piles and areas choked with vines and bushes.

Range Map Help

Carolina Wren Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Juvenile

    Carolina Wren

    Juvenile
    • Small and stocky with pointed bill
    • Tail often cocked at an angle
    • Brown above, buffy below, with juvenile showing a paler belly than adult
    • Prominent white eyebrow
    • © Kelly Colgan Azar, Pennsylvania, June 2010
  • Adult

    Carolina Wren

    Adult
    • Stocky and large-headed with pointed bill
    • Warm brown above and buffy orange below
    • Tail barred with fine black markings
    • Prominent white eyebrow
    • © Kurt Hasselman, Higbee Beach WMA, Cape May Point, New Jersey, October 2009
  • Adult

    Carolina Wren

    Adult
    • Cocked tail juts out from stocky body
    • Slightly decurved bill
    • Buffy underparts and cold white eyebrow
    • Hearty, can tolerate snow and cold temperatures
    • © Brian E. Kushner, Audubon, New Jersey, March 2009
  • Adult

    Carolina Wren

    Adult
    • Short tail often raised above back
    • Slightly decurved bill
    • Warm brown above, buffy below, with bold white eyebrow
    • Faint barring on wings
    • © Michaela Sagatova, Ontario, Canada, November 2010
  • Adult

    Carolina Wren

    Adult
    • Large-headed and stocky
    • Short, rounded wings
    • Brown above, buffy orange below
    • Bold white eyebrow
    • © Phillip Simmons, Gemini Springs, DeBary, Florida, March 2010
  • Adult

    Carolina Wren

    Adult
    • Slightly decurved bill
    • Finely-barred tail often cocked above back
    • Warm brown above, buffy below
    • Bright white eyebrow
    • © Kelly Colgan Azar, Delaware, November 2010
  • Adult

    Carolina Wren

    Adult
    • Stocky with short tail
    • Bold white eyebrow
    • Barred tail and wings
    • Commonly visits suet and seed feeders in winter
    • © Isabel Cutler, North Carolina, January 2010

Similar Species

  • Adult

    Bewick's Wren

    Adult
    • Superficially similar to Carolina Wren but longer-tailed
    • Underparts ashy gray with no buff or orange
    • Long tail barred with gray and black
    • © Tripp Davenport, Deep Creek Ranch, Uvalde County, Texas, February 2009
  • Adult

    Bewick's Wren

    Adult
    • Similar to Carolina Wren but grayer with longer tail
    • Underparts ashy gray
    • Mostly western but overlaps with Carolina Wren in eastern Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas
    • © Ganesh Jayaraman, McClellan Ranch Park, Cupertino, California, January 2010
  • Adult

    House Wren

    Adult
    • Smaller and more slender than Carolina Wren
    • Plain face with no stripes or markings
    • Gray-brown underparts
    • © splinx1, Peoria, Illinois, April 2009

Similar Species

House Wrens are smaller, darker brown, and shorter tailed than Carolina Wrens, lacking the white chest and eyebrow stripe. The House Wren’s song is very complex, bubbly, and chattering, whereas the Carolina Wren sings a sweet, rolling tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle with many variations on that two or three-noted theme. They also have shorter tails. Bewick’s Wrens are a grayer, longer-tailed western counterpart of the Carolina Wren. Where they overlap in the central U.S., look for the more subdued coloration of Bewick’s Wren compared with the warm buffy or reddish-brown of the Carolina Wren.

Regional Differences

The Florida population of Carolina Wrens is larger and stouter, a darker rusty chestnut above and more deeply colored below.

Backyard Tips

Carolina Wrens visit suet-filled feeders during winter. During cold northern winters, they will take shelter in nest boxes containing dried grasses, particularly boxes with slots rather than holes. During breeding season, these wrens may nest in boxes, but they're just as likely to choose a hanging fern or an empty flowerpot tucked away in a quiet corner of an overgrown back yard. Keeping a brush pile in your yard is a great way of encouraging wrens to take up residence (read more about offering shelter to backyard birds here).

Find This Bird

Listen for the male's loud, piercing teakettle-teakettle song emanating from woody or thickly vegetated areas within the wren's range.