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House Wren

Troglodytes aedon

Length: 4 3/4 inches Wingspan: 6 1/2 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Plain wren with faint eyebrow and eye-ring, brown overall, black barring on wings and tail

House Wren - Troglodytes aedonA common hyperactive midget found throughout the South Dakota, a common sound in the summer time is the song of a House Wren, often repeated in rapid succession for long periods of time.  A very aggressive courtship and nesting ritual involves the male building numerous "dummy" nests in any available cavity (nest boxes, trees, buildings, fences, etc).  The female selects one of these, and the male completes that nest.  House Wrens will also aggressively chase other species from potential nesting sites, even going so far to destroy their eggs and kill their young. They have adapted very well to a human presence on the landscape, with nesting and foraging sites often found in suburban yards, parks, and gardens.


Prefers semi-open habitats including residential areas, parks, forest clearings and edges, farmstead groves, and brushy thickets. They shy away from dense vegetation without openings.


Mostly small crawling insects and spiders. They also are seen eating snail shells, probably for the calcium needed for egg laying.


Very active forager, moving quickly through primarily lower levels of trees and shrubs, but may also forage at upper levels.  Will also forage on the ground.


May through August in South Dakota. Historically House Wrens nested in tree cavities, or sometimes rock crevices or other natural cavities near open woodland. Nesting now also often occurs in man-made structures, including nest boxes as well as building crevices or even discarded rubbish (cans, boxes) with holes.  The male builds places a multitude of small twigs in several potential nesting cavities, with the female making the final selection for the nesting site. When selected, a cup-shaped depression is built atop the twigs, lined with softer material including fine grasses, hair, moss, or bits of string and debris. The female lays between 4 and 9 eggs and she alone incubates them. The young hatch after 12-15 days, and fledge from the nest about 16 days after hatching. Very aggressive with both other House Wrens and other birds while nesting, they will destroy eggs in nearby nests. Males will even destroy laid eggs of females that have nested with other male House Wrens, mating with the female and beginning their own "family".


The song of a House Wren is a series of rapid jumbled musical notes, often repeated in rapid succession.  They also have a number of other vocalizations with chattering and harsh scolding notes.

1Click here to hear a singing House Wren, recorded in Calaveras County, California.

2Click here to hear a chattering call of a House Wren, recorded near Nogales, Arizona.

3Click here to hear the begging calls of a juvenile House Wren, recorded near Sherburne, Minnesota.


Summers through much of the U.S. and southern Canada.  Winters in the southern US, along southern Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, and southward throughout much of Mexico.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of House Wren sightings

Similar Species:

Conservation Status:

Widespread and common with a very wide geographic range in North America, House Wrens appear to have stable or increasing populations over the last 50 years, based on Breeding Bird Survey and other data. The IUCN considers the House Wren to be a species of "least concern".


Will nest in manmade nest boxes and houses. Recommended nest box placement and configuration (provided by is as follows:

Further Information:

1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, House Wren

2) WhatBird - House Wren

3) Audubon Guide - House Wren

Photo Information:

July 9th, 2006 - Minnehaha County - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution House Wren photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Ed Pandolfino, XC451690. Accessible at

2Paul Marvin, XC452149. Accessible at

3Greg Irving, XC429241. Accessible at


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
House Wren - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Widespread and common

Additional House Wren Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
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