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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

House Wren


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

House Wren Photo

A plain brown bird with an effervescent voice, the House Wren is a common backyard bird over nearly the entire Western Hemisphere. Listen for its rush-and-jumble song in summer and you’ll find this species zipping through shrubs and low tree branches, snatching at insects. House Wrens will gladly use nestboxes, or you may find their twig-filled nests in old cans, boots, or boxes lying around in your garage.

Yard Map Birds Eye View
Birds of North America Online

Keys to identification Help

Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Small and compact, with a flat head and fairly long, curved beak. Short-winged, often keeping its longish tail either cocked above the line of the body or slightly drooped.

  • Color Pattern

    Subdued brown overall with darker barring on the wings and tail. The pale eyebrow that is characteristic of so many wren species is much fainter in House Wrens.

  • Behavior

    Bubbly and energetic, just like their songs. Look for House Wrens hopping quickly through tangles and low branches and, in spring and summer, frequently pausing to deliver cheerful trilling songs.

  • Habitat

    In summer, House Wrens are at home in open forests, forest edges, and areas with scattered grass and trees. Backyards, farmyards, and city parks are perfect for them. In winter they become more secretive, preferring brushy tangles, thickets, and hedgerows.

Range Map Help

House Wren Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    House Wren

    • Overall brown, darker above, lighter below
    • Back and wings with dark barring
    • Moderately long, thin, slightly curved bill, yellow at base
    • Moderately long, barred brown tail
    • © soderlis, Minnesota
  • Adult

    House Wren

    • Brown back and wings with dark barring
    • Long, slightly curved bill, yellow at base
    • Pinkish legs with large feet
    • © soderlis, Minnesota, May 2008
  • Adult

    House Wren

    • Brown back and wings with dark barring
    • Long, barred brown tail often cocked up
    • Weak eyebrow slightly paler than face
    • © Michigan James, Michigan, June 2008
  • Adult Brown-throated

    House Wren

    Adult Brown-throated
    • Distinctive southwestern race
    • Throat and breast warm brown, not contrasting with each other
    • Stronger barring on flanks
    • Bolder supercilium (eyebrow)
    • © Tony Morris, Madera Canyon, Arizona, May 2006
  • Juvenile

    House Wren

    • More dark brown overall
    • Often some yellow visible around gape
    • © J. M. Kosciw, Tolland Co, Connecticut, July 2008
  • Adult

    House Wren


Similar Species

  • Adult

    Bewick's Wren

    • Plain brown or grayish brown upperparts
    • Smooth gray underparts
    • Bold, long, white eyebrow
    • Long, gray bill; long, grayish tail
    • © Norm Townsend, Tulsa, Oklahoma, January 2009
  • Adult

    Winter Wren

    • Overall dark brown
    • Short brown tail, usually held upright
    • Fairly prominent pale eyebrow
    • Round body, thin black bill
    • © Debbie McKenzie
  • Adult

    Brown Creeper

    • Whitish underparts
    • Upperparts brown and mottled
    • Long, spiky brown tail
    • Long, downcurved black and yellow bill
    • Climbs up vertical trunks
    • © Ronaldok, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, February 2009
  • Adult

    Carolina Wren

    • Orangish buff underparts
    • Bold, long, white eyebrow
    • Rufous brown upperparts
    • Long, gray bill
    • © Jason Mean, Dunbar, West Virginia, November 2008
  • Adult

    Carolina Wren

    • Rufous brown upperparts
    • Orangish buff underparts
    • Bold, long, white eyebrow
    • © adf6879, Virginia, January 2009
  • Adult female

    Common Yellowthroat

    Adult female
    • Yellowish throat and undertail
    • Unmarked dull grayish or greenish brown above, dull grayish buff below
    • May show dull eyering
    • © Byard Miller, Keene, New Hampshire, July 2008

Similar Species

To separate wrens, start with the tail and the eyebrow. House Wrens have fairly long tails and just a faint eyebrow. Winter Wrens have almost no tail and a fairly bold eyebrow; they're smaller and darker than House Wrens. Carolina Wrens and Bewick's Wrens both have very bold eyebrows. House Wrens are dingy on the breast where Carolina Wrens are warm brown and Bewick's are white. Bewick's Wren's beaks are longer and straighter than a House Wren's. Other wren species can be separated by habitat: both the Marsh Wren and the Sedge Wren are birds of marshy reeds and grasses. Both are paler below, with more distinct eyestripes, than House Wrens. Rock Wrens of the dry West are paler gray-brown above and whiter below than House Wrens, with buffy flanks and tail corners.

Regional Differences

A "brown-throated" subspecies of the House Wren occurs in mountains of extreme southeastern Arizona. It has a distinct buffy eyebrow and cinnamon-buff throat and chest. House Wrens occur all the way through the Americas to southern Argentina. Individuals in the Caribbean and South America tend to be warmer colored and have somewhat different voices.

Backyard Tips

Wrens love brush piles for cover, protection, and a source of insects. If you need to prune trees or cut brush in your yard, consider heaping the cuttings into a pile as a safe place for birds to gather. More tips for attracting birds

Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

Find This Bird

As with many birds, your ears can help lead you to House Wren sightings. Start in the right habitat: backyards, parks, or open woods, then listen. The song can be hard to learn at first, because the notes are nondescript and variable, and because there’s simply so much of it – so loud and insistent - that it’s hard to believe such a small bird is making it.

Get Involved

House Wrens are a great bird to get started with in Project NestWatch

Visit the NestWatcher's Resource Center to learn how to build a nest box for small songbirds such as wrens

You Might Also Like

Listen to the songs of House Wrens and watch video clips from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive

House Wren from Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds (1948)

Find in-depth information on House Wrens and other hundreds of other birds for as little as $5 in The Birds of North America Online from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Ornithologists' Union

House Music: Sizing up the vocal virtuoso in your backyard. Story in BirdScope