Identification

One of the smallest birds in the country, the wren can sometimes be difficult to spot. They are brown birds, darker above than below, with light barring on the wings and tail and a pale stripe above the eye. They have tiny wings, a rotund figure and a stubby, upturned tail.

Despite their size they have a loud, trilling song which is quite distinct from other British species. They also have a sharp alarm call, a repeated tic-tic often delivered at a high-speed rattle.

Size

9-10.5cm (3 ½-4 1/4in) long.

Distribution

Wrens can be found all over the UK, even on isolated islands such as St Kilda. They are a resident species and most common in southern England.

Status

The wren is the most common breeding bird in the UK, with over 8 million territories. Their small size makes them vulnerable to harsh winters, for example the severe winter of 1962-63 is believed to have wiped out 75 percent of the wren population. However numbers remain stable in the long term due to a high reproductive capacity in a good summer. The abundance of wrens in the UK means that they are not considered under any threat or in need of targeted conservation action.

Habitat preference

Wrens can be found in a huge range of habitats, from rocky islands to urban gardens. They are found in parks, farms, heaths, reedbeds, cliffs, upland moors, and many other habitats. The highest population densities can be found in deciduous woodland.

Where to find them in the garden

Despite their abundance, wrens can be hard to spot due to their tiny size and their secrecy. You are most likely to hear them before you see them, as they often sing, in their surprisingly loud voices, from under the cover of trees and hedgerows. You may spot them hopping about in hedgerows, foraging on the ground for food.

Role in the garden

Wrens feed on insects and spiders, which they usually find on the ground. Therefore they are very important for controlling populations of these invertebrates, many of which may be potential pests.