Bird Notes : Wren
Jenny Wren. One of the smallest of British birds (not the tiniest of the lot, that honour goes to the Firecrests and Goldcrests) and also possibly the most abundant. It is estimated that there are more Wrens in the UK than any other bird - possibly over 17 million - but you’re less likely to see one than you are Robins, Blackbirds or House Sparrows. Wherever you are you’re probably near a Wren, you’ll tell it from it’s unexpectedly loud song, chattering away, hidden in a bush, upright tail frantically bobbing away.
Wrens reside in their own family. We’d call it “Wrens” but scientific types prefer Troglyditaes. That comes from a word meaning Cave Dweller, the Wren getting the name from their tendency to hide away in nooks and crannies and something which Wordsworth alluded to in “The Wrens Nest”: “And when for their abodes they seek, An opportune recess, The hermit has no finer eye, For shadowy quietness”. Think of a Wren like an airborne mouse and you wouldn’t be far off either in size or twitchy behaviour.
Male Wrens take on the responsibility of nest building, constructing several in various places, before showing the female around to take her pick. Once selected the female then sets about the interior decoration, lining it with feathers and hair. The unused nests - also known as “Cock’s Nests” - are not wholly abandoned as they are used later by the couple and their young as occasional sleeping shelters.
In the olden days they got the name Kinglet - although that’s now the family name for Fire/Goldcrests - probably stemming from an old fable of a Wren that hid in the feathers of an Eagle, hitching a lift to win the “whoever flies the highest becomes King of the birds” competition, popping out at the last minute to claim the prize. Every year “Day of the Wren” is celebrated on Boxing Day, the feast of St Stephen when a fake Wren is “hunted” by Mummers in a tradition that is equal parts Christian, Norse, Druidic and Celtic.
FAMILY Troglodytidae (Wrens)
HABITAT Gardens, Hedges and Woods
SIZE Length, 9-10 cm
BREEDS April-May, 1 Brood
NEST Dome of moss, grass and leaves
EGGS 5-8. White with red speckles
RANGE Most abundant bird in UK. Found all across Europe
COLLECTIVE NOUN Chime
OLD NAMES Jenny Wren; Creeper; Chitty; Our Lady’s Hen; Stinkie