Birds – Winter Wren

(Troglodytes biemalis)

Length—4 to 4.5 inches. About one-third smaller than the English sparrow. Apparently only half the size.

Male and Female—Cinnamon-brown above, with numerous short, dusky bars. Head and neck without markings. Underneath rusty, dimly and finely barred with dark brown. Tail short.

Range—United States, east and west, and from North Carolina to the Fur Countries.

Migrations—October. April. Summer resident. Commonly a winter resident in the South and Middle States only.

It all too rarely happens that we see this tiny mouse-like wren in summer, unless we come upon him suddenly and over-take him unawares as he creeps shyly over the mossy logs or runs literally ” like a flash ” under the fern and through the tangled underbrush of the deep, cool woods. His presence there is far more likely to be detected by the ear than the eye.

Throughout the nesting season music fairly pours from his tiny throat; it bubbles up like champagne; it gushes forth in a lyrical torrent and overflows into every nook of the forest, that seems entirely pervaded by his song. While music is everywhere, it apparently comes from no particular point, and, search as you may, the tiny singer still eludes, exasperates, and yet entrances.

If by accident you discover him balancing on a swaying twig, never far from the ground, with his comical little tail erect, or more likely pointing towards his head, what a pert, saucy minstrel he is ! You are lost in amazement that so much music could come from a throat so tiny.

Comparatively few of his admirers, however, hear the exquisite notes of this little brown wood-sprite, for after the nesting season is over he finds little to call them forth during the bleak, snowy winter months, when in the Middle and Southern States he may properly be called a neighbor. Sharp hunger, rather than natural boldness, drives him near the homes of men, where he appears just as the house wren departs for the South. With a forced confidence in man that is almost pathetic in a bird that loves the forest as he does, he picks up whatever lies about the house or barn in the shape of food—crumbs from the kitchen door, a morsel from the dog’s plate, a little seed in the barn-yard, happily rewarded if he can find a spider lurking in some sheltered place to give a flavor to the unrelished grain. Now he becomes almost tame, but we feel it is only because he must be.

The spot that decided preference leads him to, either win-ter or summer, is beside a bubbling spring. In the moss that grows near it the nest is placed in early summer, nearly always roofed over and entered from the side, in true wren-fashion; and as the young fledglings emerge from the creamy-white eggs, almost the first lesson they receive from their devoted little parents is in the fine art of bathing. Even in winter weather, when the wren has to stand on a rim of ice, he will duck and splash his diminutive body. It is recorded of a certain little individual that he was wont to dive through the icy water on a December day. Evidently the wrens, as a family, are not far removed in the evolutionary scale from true water-birds.