Length4.5 to 5 inches. Actually about one-fourth smaller than the English sparrow; apparently only half as large because of its erect tail.
Male and FemaleUpper parts cinnamon-brown. Deepest shade on head and neck; lightest above tail, which is more rufous. Back has obscure, dusky bars ; wings and tail are finely barred. Underneath whitish, with grayish-brown wash and faint bands most prominent on sides.
RangeNorth America, from Manitoba to the Gulf. Most common in the United States, from the Mississippi eastward. Winters south of the Carolinas.
MigrationsApril. October. Common summer resident.
Early some morning in April there will go off under your window that most delightful of all alarm-clocks the tiny, friendly house wren, just returned from a long visit south. Like some little mountain spring that, having been imprisoned by winter ice, now bubbles up in the spring sunshine, and goes rippling along over the pebbles, tumbling over itself in merry cascades, so this little wren’s song bubbles, ripples, cascades in a miniature torrent of ecstasy.
Year after year these birds return to the same nesting places: a box set up against the house, a crevice in the barn, a niche under the eaves; but once home, always home to them. The nest is kept scrupulously clean ; the house-cleaning, like the house-building and renovating, being accompanied by the cheeriest of songs, that makes the bird fairly tremble by its intensity. But however angelic the voice of the house wren, its temper can put to flight even the English sparrow. Need description go further ?
Six to eight minutely speckled, flesh-colored eggs suffice to keep the nervous, irritable parents in a state bordering on frenzy whenever another bird comes near their habitation. With tail erect and head alert, the father mounts on guard, singing a perfect ecstasy of love to his silent little mate, that sits upon the nest if no danger threatens ; but both rush with passionate malice upon the first intruder, for it must be admitted that Jenny wren is a sad shrew.
While the little family is being reared, or, indeed, at any time, no one. is wise enough to estimate the millions of tiny insects from the garden that find their way into the tireless bills of these wrens.
It is often said that the house wren remains at the north all the year, which, though not a fact, is easily accounted for by the coming of the winter wrens just as the others migrate in the autumn, and by their return to Canada when Jenny wren makes up her feather-bed under the eaves in the spring.