The wrens are mostly small, brownish songbirds found chiefly in the New World.
There are 88 species in divided into 19 genera.
As suggested by its name, the Eurasian wren is the only species of wren found outside the Americas, as restricted to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa.
The various species occur in a wide range of habitats, ranging from dry, sparsely wooded country to rainforest.
Wrens have lifespan between 5 and 10 years.
Wrens are medium-small to very small birds. They range in size from the white-bellied wren, which averages under 10 cm (3.9 in) and 9 g (0.32 oz), to the giant wren, which averages about 22 cm (8.7 in) and weighs almost 50 g (1.8 oz).
Wrens are dumpy, almost rounded, with a fairly long, straight to marginally decurved bills, quite long legs and toes, very short round wings and a short, narrow tail which is sometimes cocked up vertically.
The dominating colors of their plumage are generally drab, composed of gray, brown, black, and white, and most species show some barring, especially to tail and/or wings.
Wrens feed largely on tiny insects but are happy to snack on other high energy foods when natural food is in short supply. They will eat mealworms, tiny pieces of suet, peanut and sunflower hearts fed on the ground or a ground tray.
They are usually solitary or in pairs but some tropical species may occur in parties of up to 20 birds.
Wrens are very energetic birds that fly very fast and close to the ground.
They have loud and often complex songs, sometimes given in duet by a pair.
Wrens are either monogamous or polygamous, depending on species.
House wrens nest in tree cavities, such as old woodpecker holes. The female lays a clutch of 4 to 8 (usually 6) eggs, which she incubates for about 12 days. The chicks are altricial when they hatch, and are brooded by the female. Both parents feed the chicks, which fledge after 15 to 17 days. The chicks all leave the nest within a few hours of each other. After the chicks leave the nest, both parents continue to feed them for about 13 days.
The English name “wren” derives from Middle English wrenne, Old English wrænna, attested (as werna) very early, in an eighth-century gloss.
The wren features prominently in culture.
According to Greek legend, the wren became the king of birds by hiding on the eagle’s back, and thus succeeding in flying higher in the sky than the eagle.
The Eurasian wren is the most common breeding bird in the United Kingdom with an estimated 8,600,000 breeding pairs (wow!).
Killing one or harassing its nest is associated with bad luck—broken bones, lightning strikes on homes, injury to cattle.
Wren Day is celebrated on 26 December, St. Stephen’s Day. The tradition consists of “hunting” a fake wren and putting it on top of a decorated pole. Then the crowds of mummers, or strawboys, celebrate the wren by dressing up in masks, straw suits, and colorful motley clothing.
The Carolina wren has been the state bird of South Carolina since 1948, and features on the back of its state quarter.
The British farthing featured a wren on the reverse side from 1937 until its demonetisation in 1960.