Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes

Other Names:
There are many names for a Wren, Jenny probably being the most common, but others are Chitty Wren in the north country; Cutty (North and West England) and Stumpit (Lancashire) from it’s short tail; Tom Tit (Norfolk) and Tintie (Nottinghamshire) from it’s small size; and Crackadee (Devon) from it’s song, which is said to have the most notes of any birdsong in the world. Also Cracky and Crackit from the same region.
Habitat: Wide range of habitats including woodland, farmland, heathland, moorland, rock faces and gardens.
Distribution: Worldwide: Europe from the Arctic circle down to Sicily, the Mediterranean islands and southern Russia; and also in Asia, north west Africa and North America.
UK: They are widespread across Britain including the Hebrides, the Shetlands and St.Kilda
Numbers: Worldwide:
200 million – 1 billion U.K. : 8.5 million breeding pairs
Food: Insects and spiders.
Breeding: The commonest breeding bird in Britain. The female lays 5 – 6 white eggs with brown spots which she incubated for about 2 weeks. The female feeds the young which fledge after 16 – 17 days. Two broods a year are common and the male is polygamous in food–rich sites. On poor sites they are monogamous.
Bill: Insect bill
Length: 9 – 10 cm.


There is about 17 species of the Troglodytes genus and the Wren Troglodytes troglodytes (or Winter Wren in North America) is the only one to live outside the New World. Troglodyte means ‘cave–dweller’ from the tendency of some species to forage in dark crevices. They are solitary birds during the day but often roost communally during cold nights. It is one of the few birds that sing all year.
The male builds or partially builds several nests and the female chooses the best constructed. Nests are built almost anywhere as the birds is indifferent to human beings. One nest was about 18 inches above the heads of thousands of visitors at the entrance to a wildlife park, the young hopping about and clinging to the door jamb when fledging.
There are thought to be at least five races of Wren in Britain alone, with separate endemic subspecies on Shetland (zetlandicus), Fair Isle (fridariensis), the Outer Hebrides (hebridensis) and St. Kilda (hirtensis).
Believed by many in the U.K that our wren is Britain’s smallest bird, although incorrectly as that title is held by the Goldcrest. The best place I have found to see this active skulking brown bird which is more often heard, when you can recognize its loud vocal song exhaled by such a small creature when it is seen, is during the winter months among wood brush or around a large old log pile searching out the insects and beetle larva, hibernating beneath the wood bark.
This miniscule bird played a large part in a very ancient tradition of folk ritual. It was known as Our Lady’s Hen and it was said that harm would come to anyone who hurt a Wren. Paradoxically a much later but more wide-spread and elaborate ritual which till resently was surviving in Britain (the law would now prevents it unless under a licence) and parts of Europe is the Wren hunt which takes place between Christmas and Epiphany, but usually on St Stephen’s Day. Hedgerows are searched until a Wren is found and usually killed then placed into a garland of ribbons, flowers and leaves. The ‘King of Birds’, as it was known to the Druids (although this may apply to the Goldcrest), is then carried from house to house where a treat is given in return for a feather which is supposed to ward off ill–luck. In other places the little body is suspended from long poles and carried by two men as if was a heavy burden. In some ceremonies the body is then buried in the churchyard, in others it is cooked and eaten is if it was a huge turkey.

Pewter Pin Wren preening,
Wren photograph
Pewter pin Wren photo photopgraph by Paul Cumberland
pewter pin
of a Wren
by Paul Cumberland
Photo by
Paul Cumberland
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