An extremely small (4 inches) wren, the Winter Wren is most easily identified by its plain brown back, streaked breast, extremely short tail (often held up at an angle), short bill, and faint white eye-stripes. This species may be distinguished from the similar Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis) by that species’ paler plumage and from the House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) by that species’ larger size. Male and female Winter Wrens are similar to one another in all seasons. The Winter Wren breeds from southern Alaska and Canada south at higher elevations to California and Georgia in the western and eastern United States, respectively. In winter, northerly-breeding populations migrate south to the eastern U.S.and the interior west. Populations breeding at the southern end of this species’ breeding range are non-migratory. Winter Wrens breed in a variety of habitats, including evergreen forests, river edges, and (in the northern part of this species’ range) rocky islands. During the winter, this species may be found further south or at lower elevations in evergreen or deciduous woodland. Winter Wrens exclusively eat small insects. In appropriate habitat, Winter Wrens may be seen foraging for food on the ground or in the branches of bushes and shrubs. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a rapid series of high-pitched warbled notes. Winter Wrens are most active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: Breeds from northeastern British Columbia, northern Alberta, central Saskatchewan, central Manitoba, northern Ontario, central Quebec, extreme southern Labrador, and Newfoundland south to southeastern Manitoba, northcentral and northeastern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin, central Michigan, southern Ontario, northeastern Ohio, in the Appalachians through eastern West Virginia, western Maryland, western Virginia, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina to northeastern Georgia, and to northern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, and southeastern New York.
Winters from eastern Colorado, southern Nebraska, southern Minnesota, eastern Iowa, southern Michigan, southern Ontario, central New York, and Massachusetts (casually farther north to southern Quebec and Newfoundland) south to California (casual), Arizona (casual) and southern New Mexico, Nuevo Leon (casual in Coahuila), southern Texas, the Gulf coast, and central (perhaps casually southern) Florida.
Length: 10 cm
Weight: 9 grams
Comments: Coniferous forest (especially spruce and fir) and mixed forests, primarily with dense understory; in migration and winter also in deciduous forest and woodland with dense undergrowth and tree-falls, dense hedgerows, and brushy fields (AOU 2010).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Comments: Eats almost entirely insects (beetles, Diptera, caterpillars) and spiders obtained from substrates within 3 m of ground (and including the ground).
Life History and Behavior
Clutch size is 4-7 (commonly 5-6). Incubation, by female, lasts 14-17 days. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest in 15-20 days.
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
|This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (October 2010)|
The winter wren (Troglodytes hiemalis) is a very small North American bird and a member of the mainly New World wren family Troglodytidae. It was once lumped with Troglodytes pacificus of western North America and Troglodytes troglodytes of Eurasia under the name winter wren.
It breeds in coniferous forests from British Columbia to the Atlantic Ocean. It migrates through and winters across southeastern Canada, the eastern half the United States and (rarely) north-eastern Mexico. Small numbers may be casual in the western United States and Canada.
The scientific name is taken from the Greek word troglodytes (from "trogle" a hole, and "dyein" to creep), meaning "cave-dweller", and refers to its habit of disappearing into cavities or crevices while hunting arthropods or to roost.
Rufous brown above, grayer below, barred with darker brown and gray, even on wings and tail. The bill is dark brown, the legs pale brown. Young birds are less distinctly barred. Most are identifiable by the pale "eyebrows" over their eyes.
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
By studying the songs and genetics of individuals in an overlap zone between Troglodytes hiemalis and Troglodytes pacificus, Toews and Irwin (2008) found strong evidence of reproductive isolation between the two. It was suggested that the pacificus subspecies be promoted to the species level designation of Troglodytes pacificus with the common name of "Pacific wren. By applying a molecular clock to the amount of mitochondrial DNA sequence divergence between the two, it was estimated that Troglodytes pacificus and Troglodytes troglodytes last shared a common ancestor approximately 4.3 million years ago, long before the glacial cycles of the Pleistocene, thought to have promoted speciation in many avian systems inhabiting the boreal forest of North America.
The winter wren nests mostly in coniferous forests, especially those of spruce and fir, where it is often identified by its long and exuberant song. Although it is an insectivore, it can remain in moderately cold and even snowy climates by foraging for insects on substrates such as bark and fallen logs.
Its movements as it creeps or climbs are incessant rather than rapid; its short flights swift and direct but not sustained, its tiny round wings whirring as it flies from bush to bush.
At night, usually in winter, it often roosts, true to its scientific name, in dark retreats, snug holes and even old nests. In hard weather it may do so in parties, either consisting of the family or of many individuals gathered together for warmth.
The male builds a small number of nests. These are called "cock nests" but are never lined until the female chooses one to use.
The normal round nest of grass, moss, lichens or leaves is tucked into a hole in a wall, tree trunk, crack in a rock or corner of a building, but it is often built in bushes, overhanging boughs or the litter which accumulates in branches washed by floods.
Five to eight white or slightly speckled eggs are laid in April, and second broods are reared.
- "BirdLife International Species factsheet: Troglodytes troglodytes". BirdLife International. Retrieved 2007-11-20.
- Toews, David P. L.; Darren E. Irwin (2008). "Cryptic speciation in a Holarctic passerine revealed by genetic and bioacoustic analyses". Molecular Ecology 17 (11): 2691–2705. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.03769.x. ISSN 0962-1083. PMID 18444983.
- Drovetski, S. V.; R. M. Zink; S. Rohwer; I. V. Fadeev; E. V. Nesterov; I. Karagodin; E. A. Koblik; Y. A. Red'kin (2004). "Complex biogeographic history of a Holarctic passerine". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 271 (1538): 545–551. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2638. ISSN 0962-8452. PMC 1691619. PMID 15129966.
- Weir, J. T.; D. Schluter (2004). "Ice sheets promote speciation in boreal birds". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 271 (1551): 1881–1887. doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2803. ISSN 0962-8452. PMC 1691815. PMID 15347509.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Troglodytes hiemalis was formerly included in T. troglodytes (Linnaeus 1758) [Eurasian Wren], but here considered specifically distinct on the basis of differences in vocalizations (Kroodsma 1980, Hejl et al. 2002) and mitochondrial DNA (Drovetski et al. 2004) (AOU 2010).
EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!