Wren’s song is a melodious multi-noted symphony

The gaily coloured wrens of my childhood imagination look nothing like the mousy brown bird of reality

The wren’s short tail is usually cocked upward.

“’Twas once upon a time, when Jenny Wren was young,

So daintily she danced and so prettily she sung…”

(Nursery rhyme: When Jenny Wren was young)


The gaily coloured wrens of my childhood imagination look nothing like the mousy brown bird of reality, but one phrase from the rhyme rings true: the wren’s song is truly a melodious, multi-noted symphony.

Ounce for ounce, the wren delivers more song than any other North American songbird, regardless of season.

No winter nature is complete without the bubbly chattering of a winter wren … arguably winter’s most accomplished singer. One attempt at putting the song on paper looks a bit like: “keree-keree-keree, chair, chair, chair, deedle, deedle, deedle, tur, tur, tur, keree”, “tic-keer.”

One of my most satisfying outdoor experiences was seeing a rock wren gobble down a yellowjacket wasp! It’s easy to love a little bird that dines on wasps, insects and whatever they can snatch from spider webs.

Short in stature, like most wrens, the rock wren is a gray and white streaked, buff-breasted songbird, only 12 cm (5 in.) long, with a short pointed bill and stubby tail. Along the West Coast, the wren family’s year-round residents include the winter wren, Bewick’s wren and marsh wren.

Although wrens aren’t often seen in large numbers, such groups are known by such magical terms as a ‘flight’ or ‘chime’ of wrens.

For their part, rock wrens migrate south in the fall, where they will overwinter at rocky outcrops, rocky cliffs or gravelly bays, to return in springtime to their southern Canadian breeding grounds.

Winter wrens dwell, hidden deep among the rotting snags and dense shrubbery of our forests, near trickling streams. While oft-hidden, these year-round residents make their presence known with masterful songs that ripple through the woodlands.

To hear the winter wren’s lengthy serenade, head down to the Campbell River for your next nature walk; a free feathered concert is almost certainly guaranteed.

NOTE:  Correction to Sept. 29, 2011 (Island Wild). The bald-faced Hhspula maculata), common in BC, is native to North America – it’s the true hornets (Vespa species) that are not.


E-mail Christine at: wildernesswest@shaw.ca.

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