The Wren, despite its tiny size, is just full of energy! Always busy, always actively seeking food or shelter, this species is one of the commonest garden birds in the region.
Wrens can be found in all manner of different habitats away from your garden. They are particularly abundant in woodland, and are also commonly found around scrubby areas, farmland, reedbeds and even (in the Northern and Western islands of Scotland) on cliffs.
Wrens have a very distinctive appearance – tiny with a short cocked tail, and a plumage that is a rich mix of brown shades. The decurved bill is silvery-black, with a pale base, and the legs and feet are fleshy-pink. They are frequently secretive in nature, furtively seeking food in the cover of tangled undergrowth, and can be hard to see. Only a little patience is required, however, before they reveal themselves on the topmost twig of a bush or on top of a garden fence.
One of the most familiar views of a Wren is this – perched on a bramble delivering its rapid-fire, scatter-gun scold ‘cherr, cherr, cherr’ or its explosive loud song, high-pitched and trilling. The stumpy tail is held cocked to the sky, revealing buffy grey and black markings on the undertail. The slightly decurved bill is opened to reveal a glowing yellowy gape.
The Wren, despite its initial look of being ‘just brown’, is, in fact, a delicately marked bird full of tone. The head is a rich dark brown, with a broad creamy-white supercilium, black eyestripe and streaked grey-black ear-coverts. The mantle and forewings are also rich dark brown, fading to a rich rufous on the rump and tail, which is thinly barred with black. The tertials are rufous, barred black, and the secondary feathers are barred greyish-white and black. The wing tips are black. The underparts are greyish merging into brownish-yellow, and are prominently barred black on the flanks.
In flight, Wrens are a flurry of activity. Wings whir furiously, too fast to see the flaps, as they hurry from cover to cover. Often all you will notice is a tiny brown bird whizz past and then you will hear the scolding calls again, or a snatch of the surprisingly loud song, but the bird itself will often be invisible inside the cover into which it has retreated.
Wrens build a perfect round nest, usually of dead grass and vegetation, lined with moss or discarded feathers, often located amongst brambles to lessen the chance of predators. Parents make hundreds of journeys to satisfy the hunger of their clamouring brood, which after a week or two venture out of the nest to beg for food.
During the depths of winter, Wrens will utilise nest boxes as a communal roost site. As dusk approaches, little brown shapes can be seen rushing towards such a box, and a peek inside could reveal up to thirty or more birds tightly packed together for warmth. This helps them to survive the often cold nights during which many might otherwise perish.