Winter Wren

Troglodytes hiemalis
Winter Wren specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

An extremely small (4 inches) wren, the Winter Wren is most easily identified by its plain brown back, streaked breast, extremely short tail (often held up at an angle), short bill, and faint white eye-stripes. This species may be distinguished from the similar Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis) by that species’ paler plumage and from the House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) by that species’ larger size. Male and female Winter Wrens are similar to one another in all seasons. The Winter Wren breeds from southern Alaska and Canada south at higher elevations to California and Georgia in the western and eastern United States, respectively. In winter, northerly-breeding populations migrate south to the eastern U.S. and the interior west. Populations breeding at the southern end of this species’ breeding range are non-migratory. Winter Wrens breed in a variety of habitats, including evergreen forests, river edges, and (in the northern part of this species’ range) rocky islands. During the winter, this species may be found further south or at lower elevations in evergreen or deciduous woodland. Winter Wrens exclusively eat small insects. In appropriate habitat, Winter Wrens may be seen foraging for food on the ground or in the branches of bushes and shrubs. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a rapid series of high-pitched warbled notes. Winter Wrens are most active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Fairly common migrant and winter visitor, from late September to early May. Found in swamp and floodplain forests, and occasionally upland forests. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC70107 Troglodytes hiemalis (Winter Wren)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC54767 Troglodytes hiemalis (Winter Wren)