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House Wren (Overview)

House wrens, tiny yet spirited songbirds, are a favorite among backyard bird watchers for their lively personalities and melodious songs. Commonly found in backyards across North America, these birds are a delight to observe as they flit about and build their intricate nests in a variety of locations. In this article, we will provide an overview of the house wren species, share some fascinating facts about their behavior and habits, and offer tips on how to attract these charming birds to your own backyard. 


House Wrens excel at blending in with the branches and shrubs they are always hopping around in. Both males and females have the same appearance, a grayish-brown all over with dark banding (stripes) on the wings and tail. Their underparts tend to be lighter than their back.

They are tiny, chickadee sized birds, with a slightly curved beak, dark eyes, a compact shape, and a longish tail they often hold pointing up or folded downward. They do have a light eyebrow stripe like many wrens, however it is quite faint.


Most of the House Wrens in North America are migratory. They can be found across the U.S. and parts of southern Canada during the spring and summer months. They then move south to the far southern states or Mexico for the winter. In Central American and South America, House Wrens remain year round. They are quite a widespread species, spanning both continents!

house wren snack
House Wren with a catch | image by:


The easiest way to locate a House Wren is to listen for them. Males sing often during the breeding season. Females sing too, but less frequently and usually in response to their mate. The song of the House Wren is a rich, bubbling series of trills and warbles that is often described as cheerful and energetic. It typically consists of a rapid succession of short, gurgling notes that rise and fall in pitch.

These wrens can also make harsh, scolding sounds, usually in response to a person or predator getting too close to their nest. 


House Wrens are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats across their huge range. They commonly inhabit open woodlands, forests edges, and shrublands, as well as urban and suburban areas. These birds are particularly fond of areas with dense vegetation and plenty of underbrush, which provide ample nesting sites and cover.

They are frequently seen in backyards, gardens, parks, and orchards, where they take advantage of birdhouses, tree cavities, and other sheltered spots. 

House wren 3
House Wren | image via Deposit Photos


House Wrens primarily eat insects and other small invertebrates. Their diet includes beetles, caterpillars, spiders, ants, flies, and grasshoppers. They forage actively, hopping through low vegetation, leaf litter, and tree bark to find their prey. Occasionally, House Wrens will also consume small amounts berries and seeds, especially during the winter months when insects are less abundant. Their insectivorous diet helps control garden pests, making them beneficial visitors to backyards and gardens.


House Wrens are cavity nesters. In the wild, old woodpecker holes are often used. But they are resourceful and will choose all sorts of cavities from natural crevices to old shoes and planters. They also love birdhouses and are one of the most common backyard birds to use them.

Once they’ve chosen a nest site, they will begin to pile up small twigs as the base, then on top they can form a small cup and line it with soft items for the eggs. Feathers are often used, or animal hair, grasses or downy plant material.

3-10 eggs are laid and incubated for 9-16 days. The young will remain in the cavity for about 15-17 days before fledging.

Interesting Facts About House Wrens

house wren sing
House Wren singing | image by:
  • Male sing 9-11 times per minute during their breeding season
  • House Wrens have been seen eating snail shells, probably as a way to get calcium and grit that aids in digestion.
  • Males will start construction on several nests at once, hoping the female will like one of them and decide to pair up with him. They only stay together one season, choosing new mates the next year.
  • These tiny birds weight about as much as 2 quarters! 
  • Tiny but fierce, House Wrens will aggressively compete for nest holes. This includes harassing larger birds, fighting them for nests, and even throwing eggs or babies out of a nest site they want to take over.
  • With their range extending from the very bottom of South America up into Canada, they have one of the largest ranges of any songbird in the eastern hemisphere.
  • Single males sometimes compete for females even after nesting has begun. In roughly half of these instances, the outsider manages to oust his rival. When this occurs, he typically removes any existing eggs or nestlings and starts a new family with the female.
  • If you watch a House Wren birdhouse, you will likely see the adults leaving the house with a white ball in their mouth. This is a fecal sac, waste produced by the nestlings that is enclosed in a membranous sac. Adults perform good housekeeping by removing these sacs, keeping the nest clean.

How To Attract House Wrens

House Wren bringing a spider back to the nest | image by:

1. Provide Nesting Sites

House Wrens readily use birdhouses and nesting boxes. Place these in sheltered areas about 5 to 10 feet off the ground. If possible, giving the nest box afternoon shade will help the eggs from overheating. This is the best way I’ve found to attract these wrens. In fact, I don’t think a year has gone by (no matter where I’ve lived!) that I haven’t had a House Wren couple move into a birdhouse I’ve put up. 

2. Plant Native Vegetation

Planting native shrubs, trees, and flowering plants can create a welcoming environment for House Wrens. Dense vegetation provides cover and foraging opportunities.

3. Offer a Water Source

A birdbath or shallow water feature can attract House Wrens, especially during hot weather. Make sure to keep the water clean and fresh.

4. Minimize Pesticide Use

Since House Wrens feed primarily on insects, reducing or eliminating pesticide use in your garden will help ensure a plentiful food supply for them.

5. Create Brush Piles

Piles of branches, twigs, and leaves can provide additional foraging and nesting sites, mimicking the natural underbrush habitats that House Wrens prefer.

6. Offer insects

While birdseed is not likely to attract House Wrens, you may have some luck if you offer insects, which make up most of their diet. Try mealworms or small crickets in a dish feeder. 

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