WINTER WREN – (Troglodytes hiemalis)
The Winter Wren owes its name to its wintering range in the southern part of the USA. It is a very small bird at some 10 cm (4 in.) long, and is round-shaped with a short tail that stands erect most of the time, even leaning on its back. The body plumage is brown mottled with copper. The bill is thin and short and grey.
The Latin name ‘Troglodytes’ is from Greek and means ‘cave dweller’. This is due to the wrens’ habit of disappearing into holes or crevices while pursuing prey such as arthropods, and also to the locations of their nests. The name ‘hiemalis’ refers to the winter.
The winter wren is a very musical bird and spends a lot of time singing when not foraging on the forest floor, and it sings relatively well (to the human ear anyway) and quite strongly for such a tiny bird. The way it searches for prey on the ground has been compared to that of a mouse. The more the forest floor contains dead and rotting trees and other plant material, the likelier this bird will be found there.
This wren will come to bird feeders when their main food source (insects, arthropods) is scarce. They also have the ability to forage on tree trunks like the Brown Creeper or nuthatches.
The male wren will build several ‘dummy’ or ‘cock’ nests, and only when the female chooses one will it then be lined with softer material. The nest is placed in a hole in a tree, a rock crevice, or in a building corner.
The winter wren breeds on PEI, and its occurrence in the spring and summer varies from ‘uncommon’ to ‘common’ depending on the years. It is rare in the fall, and in spite of its name, sightings of this bird species in the winter have only been ‘accidental’ so far on PEI. Its breeding range includes the boreal Canadian forest and the north part of the USA east of the Rockies. It migrates to the southeast USA for the winter, and then can be found in more open forests including parks and suburban areas. Its population appears stable.