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    House Wren Life History


    Habitat Open WoodlandsHouse Wrens have a huge geographic range, and they live in many habitats, so long as they feature trees, shrubs, and tangles interspersed with clearings. Examples range from eastern deciduous forests and southern swamps to western conifer forests and aspen groves as high as 10,000 feet elevation. Because they're cavity nesters, House Wrens thrive around buildings, yards, farms, and other human habitations with their many nooks and crannies.Back to top


    Food InsectsEats a wide variety of insects and spiders, including beetles, caterpillars, earwigs, and daddy longlegs, as well as smaller numbers of more mobile insects such as flies, leafhoppers, and springtails. Also eats snail shells, probably for the calcium they contain and to provide grit for digestion.Back to top


    Nest Placement

    Nest CavityHouse Wrens nest in old woodpecker holes, natural crevices, and nest boxes (or discarded tins, shoes, etc.) provided by humans. This bird’s association with open woodland is reflected in its choice of nest sites: it rarely uses nest sites more than 100 feet from woody vegetation, but also avoids heavily wooded nest sites where it’s hard to see predators coming. Despite their small size, they can be fierce competitors for nest sites, sometimes evicting a larger species and claiming its cavity after the bird has already begun nesting.

    Nest Description

    House Wrens pile twigs into the cavities they choose to nest in, either to make a bed on which to build a soft-lined cup, or sometimes mounded up into a barrier between nest and entrance, seemingly to protect the nest from cold weather, predators, or cowbirds. The cup itself is built into a depression in the twigs and lined with just a few grams (less than 0.25 oz) of feathers, grasses and other plant material, animal hair, spider egg sacs, string, snakeskin, and discarded plastic.

    Nesting Facts
    Clutch Size:3-10 eggs
    Number of Broods:1-2 broods
    Egg Length:0.6-0.8 in (1.4-1.9 cm)
    Egg Width:0.4-0.6 in (1.1-1.4 cm)
    Incubation Period:9-16 days
    Nestling Period:15-17 days
    Egg Description:White, pink-white, or grayish, speckled or blotched with reddish brown.
    Condition at Hatching:Naked, pink, and basically immobile, eyes closed, with a couple of dozen wispy down feathers scattered over back and head.
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    Behavior Foliage GleanerA busy forager in low tree branches and shrubs. You’ll occasionally see these birds flit across openings with steady, level flight, or investigating the ground with quick hops. Male House Wrens start building several nests at once in hopes of persuading a female to mate with him. Pairs typically break up by the end of each nesting season and choose new partners the next year. House Wrens are aggressive. Single males sometimes compete for females even after a pair has begun nesting. In about half of these contests the outsider succeeds in displacing his rival, at which point he usually discards any existing eggs or nestlings and begins a new family with the female.Back to top


    Conservation Low ConcernHouse Wren populations have experienced some regional declines, but generally populations have been stable and slightly increased between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partner's in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 160 million with 19% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 9% in Mexico, and 8% breeding in Canada. The species rates a 5 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. House Wren is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List.Back to top

    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 All About Birdhouses, where you'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size for House Wren.

    Bird-friendly Winter Gardens, Birdsleuth, 2016.

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    Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook. A Field Guide to the natural history of North American birds, including all species that regularly breed north of Mexico. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc.

    Johnson, L. Scott. 2014. House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

    Partners in Flight. 2017. Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

    Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon and W. A. Link. The North American breeding bird survey, results and analysis 1966-2015 (Version 2.07.2017). USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 2017.

    Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

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