The wren is a family of mostly small, brown, passerine birds in the (mainly) New World family Troglodytidae. The family includes 88 species divided into 19 genera. Only the Eurasian wren occurs in the Old World, where in Anglophone regions, it is commonly known simply as the "wren", as it is the originator of the name. The name wren has been applied to other, unrelated birds, particularly the New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae) and the Australian wrens (Maluridae).
Most wrens are small and rather inconspicuous, except for their loud and often complex songs. Notable exceptions are the relatively large members of the genus Campylorhynchus, which can be quite bold in their behavior. Wrens have short wings that are barred in most species, and they often hold their tails upright. As far as is known, wrens are primarily insectivorous, eating insects, spiders, and other small arthropods, but many species also eat vegetable matter and some take small frogs and lizards and many more amphibians.
The English name "wren" derives from Middle English wrenne, Old English wrænna, attested (as wernnaa) very early, in an eighth-century gloss. It is cognate to Old High German wrendo, wrendilo, and Icelandic rindill (the latter two including an additional diminutive -ilan suffix). The Icelandic name is attested in Old Icelandic (Eddaic) rindilþvari. This points to a Common Germanic name *wrandjan-, but the further etymology of the name is unknown.
The wren is also known as kuningilin "kinglet" in Old High German, a name associated with the fable of the election of the "king of birds". The bird that could fly to the highest altitude would be made king. The eagle outflew all other birds, but he was beaten by a small bird that had hidden in his plumage. This fable is already known to Aristotle (Historia Animalium 9.11) and Pliny (Natural History 10.95), and was taken up by medieval authors such as Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg, but it concerns Kinglets (Regulus) and is apparently motivated by the yellow "crown" sported by these birds (a point noted already by Ludwig Uhland). In modern German, the name is Zaunkönig, king of the fence (or hedge). In Dutch, the name is winterkoninkje (little winter king).
The family name Troglodytidae is derived from troglodyte, which means "cave-dweller", and the wrens get their scientific name from the tendency of some species to forage in dark crevices.
The name "wren" is also ascribed to other families of passerine birds throughout the world. In Europe, kinglets are commonly known as "wrens", the common firecrest and goldcrest as "fire-crested wren" and "golden-crested wren", respectively.
The 27 Australasian "wren" species in the family Maluridae are unrelated, as are the New Zealand wrens in the family Acanthisittidae, the antbirds in the family Thamnophilidae, and the Old World babbler of the family Timaliidae.
Wrens are medium-small to very small birds. The Eurasian wren is among the smallest birds in its range, while the smaller species from the Americas are among the smallest passerines in that part of the world. They range in size from the white-bellied wren, which averages under 10 cm (3.9 in) and 9 g (0.32 oz), to the giant wren, which averages about 22 cm (8.7 in) and weighs almost 50 g (1.8 oz). The dominating colors of their plumage are generally drab, composed of gray, brown, black, and white, and most species show some barring, especially to tail and/or wings. No sexual dimorphism is seen in the plumage of wrens, and little difference exists between young birds and adults. All have fairly long, straight to marginally decurved bills.
Wrens have loud and often complex songs, sometimes given in duet by a pair. The song of members of the genera Cyphorhinus and Microcerculus have been considered especially pleasant to the human ear, leading to common names such as song wren, musician wren, flutist wren, and southern nightingale-wren.
Wrens are principally a New World family, distributed from Alaska and Canada to southern Argentina, with the greatest species richness in the Neotropics. As suggested by its name, the Eurasian wren is the only species of wren found outside the Americas, as restricted to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa (it was formerly considered conspecific with the winter wren and Pacific wren of North America). The insular species include the Clarión wren and Socorro wren from the Revillagigedo Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and Cobb's wren in the Falkland Islands, but few Caribbean islands have a species of wren, with only the southern house wren in the Lesser Antilles, the Cozumel wren of Cozumel Island, and the highly restricted Zapata wren in a single swamp in Cuba.
The various species occur in a wide range of habitats, ranging from dry, sparsely wooded country to rainforest. Most species are mainly found at low levels, but members of the genus Campylorhynchus are frequently found higher, and the two members of Odontorchilus are restricted to the forest canopy. A few species, notably the Eurasian wren and the house wren, are often associated with humans. Most species are resident, remaining in Central and South America all year round, but the few species found in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere are partially migratory, spending the winter further south.
Wrens vary from highly secretive species such as those found in the genus Microcerculus to the highly conspicuous genus Campylorhynchus, the members of which frequently sing from exposed perches. The family as a whole exhibits a great deal of variation in their behavior. Temperate species generally occur in pairs, but some tropical species may occur in parties of up to 20 birds.
Though little is known about the feeding habits of many of the Neotropical species, wrens are considered primarily insectivorous, eating insects, spiders, and other small arthropods. Many species also take vegetable matter such as seeds and berries, some (primarily the larger species) take small frogs and lizards; the Eurasian wren has been recorded wading into shallow water to catch small fish and tadpoles; Sumichrast's wren and the Zapata wren take snails; and the giant wren and marsh wren have been recorded attacking and eating bird eggs (in the latter species, even eggs of conspecifics). A local Spanish name for the giant wren and bicolored wren is chupahuevo ("egg-sucker"), but whether the latter actually eats eggs is unclear. The plain wren and northern house wren sometimes destroy bird eggs, and the rufous-and-white wren has been recorded killing nestlings, but this is apparently to eliminate potential food competitors rather than feed on the eggs or nestlings. Several species of Neotropical wrens sometimes participate in mixed-species flocks or follow army ants, and the Eurasian wren may follow badgers to catch prey items disturbed by them.
Revised following Martínez Gómez et al. (2005) and Mann et al. (2006), the taxonomy of some groups is highly complex, and future species-level splits are likely. Additionally, undescribed taxa are known to exist. The black-capped donacobius is an enigmatic species traditionally placed with the wrens more for lack of a more apparent alternative and/or thorough study. It was more recently determined to be most likely closer to certain warblers, possibly the newly established Megaluridae, and might constitute a monotypic family.
The South Carolina state quarter (left) and British farthing (right) both feature wrens
The wren features prominently in culture. The Eurasian wren has been long considered "the king of birds" in Europe. Killing one or harassing its nest is associated with bad luck—broken bones, lightning strikes on homes, injury to cattle. Wren Day, celebrated in parts of Ireland on St. Stephen's Day (26 December), features a fake wren being paraded around town on a decorative pole; up to the 20th century, real birds were hunted for this purpose. A possible origin for the tradition is revenge for the betrayal of Saint Stephen by a noisy wren when he was trying to hide from enemies in a bush.
The Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) has been the state bird of South Carolina since 1948, and features on the back of its state quarter. The British farthing featured a wren on the reverse side from 1937 until its demonetisation in 1960.
The Australasian wrens are a family, Maluridae, of small, insectivorous passerine birds endemic to Australia and New Guinea. While commonly known as wrens, they are unrelated to the true wrens of the Northern Hemisphere. The family comprises 29 species (including fifteen fairywrens, three emu-wrens, and eleven grasswrens) in six genera.Carolina wren
The Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is a common species of wren that is a resident in the eastern half of the United States of America, the extreme south of Ontario, Canada, and the extreme northeast of Mexico. Severe winters restrict the northern limits of their range while favorable weather conditions lead to a northward extension of their breeding range. Their preferred habitat is in dense cover in forests, farm edges and suburban areas. This wren is the state bird of South Carolina.
There are seven recognized subspecies across the range of these wrens and they differ slightly in song and appearance. The birds are generally inconspicuous, avoiding the open for extended periods of time. When out in the open, they investigate their surroundings and are rarely stationary. After finding a mate, pairs maintain a territory and stay together for several years. Both sexes give out alarm calls, but only males sing to advertise territory. Carolina wrens raise multiple broods during the summer breeding season, but can fall victim to brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds, among other species. Some populations have been affected by mercury contamination.Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren PRS FRS (; 30 October 1632 [O.S. 20 October] – 8 March 1723 [O.S. 25 February]) was an English anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist, as well as one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history.
He was accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including what is regarded as his masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710.The principal creative responsibility for a number of the churches is now more commonly attributed to others in his office, especially Nicholas Hawksmoor. Other notable buildings by Wren include the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the south front of Hampton Court Palace. The Wren Building, the main building at the College of William and Mary, Virginia, is attributed to Wren.
Educated in Latin and Aristotelian physics at the University of Oxford, Wren was a founder of the Royal Society (president 1680–1682), and his scientific work was highly regarded by Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.Eurasian wren
The Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) is a very small bird, and the only member of the wren family Troglodytidae found in Eurasia and Africa (Maghreb). In Anglophone Europe, it is commonly known simply as the wren. It was once lumped with Troglodytes hiemalis of eastern North America and Troglodytes pacificus of western North America as the winter wren. The Eurasian wren occurs in Europe, a belt of Asia from northern Iran and Afghanistan across to Japan. It is migratory in only the northern parts of its range. It is also highly polygynous, an unusual mating system for passerines.
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 whilst hunting arthropods or to roost. The taxonomy of the genus Troglodytes is currently unresolved, as recent molecular studies have suggested that Cistothorus spp. and Thryorchilus spp. are within the clade currently defined by Troglodytes.Fair Isle wren
The Fair Isle wren (Troglodytes troglodytes fridariensis) is a small passerine bird in the wren family. It is a subspecies of the Eurasian wren endemic to Fair Isle, Shetland, Scotland. It was first described by Kenneth Williamson in 1951.Goldcrest
The goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is a very small passerine bird in the kinglet family. Its colourful golden crest feathers, as well as being called the "king of the birds" in European folklore, gives rise to its English and scientific names. The scientific name, R. regulus, means king or knight. Several subspecies are recognised across the very large distribution range that includes much of Eurasia and the islands of Macaronesia and Iceland. Birds from the north and east of its breeding range migrate to winter further south.
This kinglet has greenish upper-parts, whitish under-parts, and has two white wingbars. It has a plain face contrasting black irises and a bright head crest, orange and yellow in the male and yellow in the female, which is displayed during breeding. It superficially resembles the common firecrest, which largely shares its European range, but the latter's bronze shoulders and strong face pattern are distinctive. The song is a repetition of high thin notes, slightly higher-pitched than those of its relative. Birds on the Canary Islands are now separated into two subspecies of the goldcrest, but were formerly considered to be a subspecies of the firecrest or a separate species, Regulus teneriffae.
The goldcrest breeds in coniferous woodland and gardens, building its compact, three-layered nest on a tree branch. Ten to twelve eggs are incubated by the female alone, and the chicks are fed by both parents; second broods are common. This kinglet is constantly on the move as it searches for insects to eat, and in winter it is often found with flocks of tits. It may be killed by birds of prey or carry parasites, but its large range and population mean that it is not considered to present any significant conservation concerns.House wren
The house wren (Troglodytes aedon) is a very small songbird of the wren family, Troglodytidae. It occurs from Canada to southernmost South America, and is thus the most widely distributed bird in the Americas. It occurs in most suburban areas in its range and it is the single most common wren. Its taxonomy is highly complex and some subspecies groups are often considered separate species.Marsh wren
The marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris) is a small North American songbird of the wren family. It is sometimes called long-billed marsh wren to distinguish it from the sedge wren, also known as short-billed marsh wren.Matthew Wren
Matthew Wren (3 December 1585 – 24 April 1667) was an influential English clergyman, bishop and scholar.Red-backed fairywren
The red-backed fairywren (Malurus melanocephalus), or red-backed wren, is a species of passerine bird in the Australasian wren family, Maluridae. It is endemic to Australia and can be found near rivers and coastal areas along the northern and eastern coastlines from the Kimberley in the northwest to the Hunter Region in New South Wales. The male adopts a striking breeding plumage, with a black head, upperparts and tail, and a brightly coloured red back and brown wings. The female has brownish upperparts and paler underparts. The male in eclipse plumage and the juvenile resemble the female. Some males remain in non-breeding plumage while breeding. Two subspecies are recognised; the nominate M. m. melanocephalus of eastern Australia has a longer tail and orange back, and the short-tailed M. m. cruentatus from northern Australia has a redder back.
The red-backed fairywren mainly eats insects, and supplements its diet with seed and small fruit. The preferred habitat is heathland and savannah, particularly where low shrubs and tall grasses provide cover. It can be nomadic in areas where there are frequent bushfires, although pairs or small groups of birds maintain and defend territories year-round in other parts of its range. Groups consist of a socially monogamous pair with one or more helper birds who assist in raising the young. These helpers are progeny that have attained sexual maturity yet remain with the family group for one or more years after fledging. The red-backed fairywren is sexually promiscuous, and each partner may mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such pairings. Older males in breeding plumage are more likely to engage in this behaviour than are those breeding in eclipse plumage. As part of a courtship display, the male wren plucks red petals from flowers and displays them to females.Shetland wren
The Shetland wren (Troglodytes troglodytes zetlandicus) is a small passerine bird in the wren family. It is a subspecies of the Eurasian wren endemic to the Shetland archipelago of Scotland, with the exception of Fair Isle which has its own endemic subspecies, the Fair Isle wren.Splendid fairywren
The splendid fairywren (Malurus splendens) is a passerine bird in the Australasian wren family, Maluridae. It also known simply as the splendid wren or more colloquially in Western Australia as the blue wren. The splendid fairywren is found across much of the Australian continent from central-western New South Wales and southwestern Queensland over to coastal Western Australia. It inhabits predominantly arid and semi-arid regions. Exhibiting a high degree of sexual dimorphism, the male in breeding plumage is a small, long-tailed bird of predominantly bright blue and black colouration. Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in colour; this gave the early impression that males were polygamous as all dull-coloured birds were taken for females. It comprises several similar all-blue and black subspecies that were originally considered separate species.
Like other fairywrens, the splendid fairywren is notable for several peculiar behavioural characteristics; birds are socially monogamous and sexually promiscuous, meaning that although they form pairs between one male and one female, each partner will mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such trysts. Male wrens pluck pink or purple petals and display them to females as part of a courtship display.The habitat of the splendid fairywren ranges from forest to dry scrub, generally with ample vegetation for shelter. Unlike the eastern superb fairywren, it has not adapted well to human occupation of the landscape and has disappeared from some urbanised areas. The splendid fairywren mainly eats insects and supplements its diet with seeds.St Kilda wren
The St Kilda wren (Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis) is a small passerine bird in the wren family. It is a distinctive subspecies of the Eurasian wren endemic to the islands of the isolated St Kilda archipelago, in the Atlantic Ocean 64 km west of the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London and is a Grade I listed building. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren's lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. The cathedral building largely destroyed in the Great Fire, now often referred to as Old St Paul's Cathedral, was a central focus for medieval and early modern London, including Paul's walk and St. Paul's Churchyard being the site of St. Paul's Cross.
The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren's City churches, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967. The dome is among the highest in the world. St Paul's is the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral.
Services held at St Paul's have included the funerals of Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher; jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria; peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars; the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer; the launch of the Festival of Britain; and the thanksgiving services for the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees and the 80th and 90th birthdays of Queen Elizabeth II. St Paul's Cathedral is the central subject of much promotional material, as well as of images of the dome surrounded by the smoke and fire of the Blitz.The cathedral is a working church with hourly prayer and daily services. The tourist entry fee at the door is £20 for adults (January 2019, cheaper online), but no charge is made to worshippers.Superb fairywren
The superb fairywren (Malurus cyaneus) is a passerine bird in the Australasian wren family, Maluridae, and is common and familiar across south-eastern Australia. The species is sedentary and territorial, also exhibiting a high degree of sexual dimorphism; the male in breeding plumage has a striking bright blue forehead, ear coverts, mantle, and tail, with a black mask and black or dark blue throat. Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in colour; this gave the early impression that males were polygamous, as all dull-coloured birds were taken for females. Six subspecies groups are recognized: three larger and darker forms from Tasmania, Flinders and King Island respectively, and three smaller and paler forms from mainland Australia and Kangaroo Island.
Like other fairywrens, the superb fairywren is notable for several peculiar behavioural characteristics; the birds are socially monogamous and sexually promiscuous, meaning that although they form pairs between one male and one female, each partner will mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such pairings. Male wrens pluck yellow petals and display them to females as part of a courtship display.
The superb fairywren can be found in almost any area that has at least a little dense undergrowth for shelter, including grasslands with scattered shrubs, moderately thick forest, woodland, heaths, and domestic gardens. It has adapted well to the urban environment and is common in suburban Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. The superb fairywren eats mostly insects and supplements its diet with seeds.White-winged fairywren
The white-winged fairywren (Malurus leucopterus) is a species of passerine bird in the Australasian wren family, Maluridae. It lives in the drier parts of Central Australia; from central Queensland and South Australia across to Western Australia. Like other fairywrens, this species displays marked sexual dimorphism and one or more males of a social group grow brightly coloured plumage during the breeding season. The female is sandy-brown with light-blue tail feathers; it is smaller than the male, which, in breeding plumage, has a bright-blue body, black bill, and white wings. Younger sexually mature males are almost indistinguishable from females and are often the breeding males. In spring and summer, a troop of white-winged fairywrens has a brightly coloured older male accompanied by small, inconspicuous brown birds, many of which are also male. Three subspecies are recognised. Apart from the mainland subspecies, one is found on Dirk Hartog Island, and another on Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia. Males from these islands have black rather than blue breeding plumage.
The white-winged fairywren mainly eats insects, supplementing this with small fruits and leaf buds. It occurs in heathland and arid scrubland, where low shrubs provide cover. Like other fairywrens, it is a cooperative breeding species, and small groups of birds maintain and defend territories year-round. Groups consist of a socially monogamous pair with several helper birds who assist in raising the young. These helpers are progeny that have attained sexual maturity but remain with the family group for one or more years after fledging. Although not yet confirmed genetically, the white-winged fairywren may be promiscuous and assist in raising the young from other pairings. As part of a courtship display, the male wren plucks petals from flowers and displays them to female birds.Willow warbler
The willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) is a very common and widespread leaf warbler which breeds throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia, from Ireland east to the Anadyr River basin in eastern Siberia. It is strongly migratory, with almost all of the population wintering in Sub-Saharan Africa.It is a bird of open woodlands with trees and ground cover for nesting, including most importantly birch, alder, and willow habitats. The nest is usually built in close contact with the ground, often in low vegetation. Like most Old World warblers (Sylviidae), this small passerine is insectivorous. In northern Europe, it is one of the first warblers to return in the spring though is later than the closely related chiffchaff.Women's Royal Naval Service
The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS; popularly and officially known as the Wrens) was the women's branch of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. First formed in 1917 for the First World War, it was disbanded in 1919, then revived in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War, remaining active until integrated into the Royal Navy in 1993. WRNs included cooks, clerks, wireless telegraphists, radar plotters, weapons analysts, range assessors, electricians and air mechanics.Wren Day
Wren Day, also known as Wren's Day, Day of the Wren, or Hunt the Wren Day (Irish: Lá an Dreoilín), is celebrated on 26 December, St. Stephen's Day in a number of countries across Europe. The tradition consists of "hunting" a fake wren and putting it on top of a decorated pole. Then the crowds of mummers, or strawboys, celebrate the wren (also pronounced wran) by dressing up in masks, straw suits, and colourful motley clothing. They form music bands and parade through towns and villages. These crowds are sometimes called wrenboys.