Explore the House Wren Mating, Nesting, and Eating Habits

The House Wren is one of the most abundant Wren species. Attracting them to your yard can be as easy as adding a birdhouse.

Even if no birdhouse is offered, these birds are likely to find somewhere or something to nest in around your home.

The wrens nesting and feeding habits and what the young eat are easily observed, as they tend to nest near humans.

Wrens are tireless in their search for insects to eat. This feeding behavior benefits the backyard gardener by reducing harmful pests.

House Wren in Shrub

House Wren

House Wren Call - Song

Listen to the Wren Song

What do House Wrens Look Like?

Unlike many other birds, House Wrens do not have brightly colored feathers or markings. Measuring 5 inches long with a plump body and a short tail.

The upper parts are unstreaked and grayish brown, the underparts are grayish-white. Notice the faint or missing eye stripe that is common in other wrens.

The females and juveniles look the same as the adult male, although recent fledglings are noticeably smaller.

The song of the young isn't as sure sounding as the adult males, either. For the most part, they have no prominent field marks.

If you spend any time at all watching these birds, you'll easily know the extent of their territory.

The male wren usually has three prominent perches from which he defends his territory of 1/2 - 3/4 acres.

Mating Habits

Spring migrants begin arriving in late March to mid-April, with males beginning territorial claims by singing from perches.

Courtship and breeding begin when the female wrens arrive in a male's territory.

Easily attracted to a properly built Wren House, the male arrives first in early spring and establishes his territory.

You'll know he has arrived when you hear him sing from his perches. This songster will sing from dusk to dawn during the mating season.

As you watch, the male will begin placing sticks into perspective, nest holes.

He may place sticks in as many as twelve different nesting sites.

Male House Wren Singing to Attract a Mate

The male attempts to attract a female, which he takes to each of his nest sites. The female chooses whether to pair with him.

After pairing, the female selects the nest site and starts filling the nest with more twigs.

Then she makes a small depression at the back of the cavity, which she lines with pine needles and grass for egg laying.

The whole wren nest-building process takes about a week.

Interesting note, spider egg sacs are part of the makeup of the nest building. In labs, these cocoons would hatch and feed on mites.

I've personally witnessed them placing spider egg sacs in the nest, however in field studies, the above did not occur.

House wrens are cavity nesters and are easily attracted to birdhouses.

House wrens do not mate for life. They are monogamous during the first brood, but any second brood will probably be with another partner.

Feeding Habits - What do House Wrens Eat

House wrens search for the food they eat in a variety of habitats, including brushy areas, gardens, and suburban backyards.

They often forage low to the ground and in the understory of trees and shrubs, hopping and flitting quickly to catch insects.

House wrens are primarily insectivorous. Favorite foods are beetles, caterpillars, spiders, and grasshoppers.

Back at the nest, House wrens primarily feed their nestlings a diet of soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, beetles, flies, and spiders.

Occasionally they give their young grasshoppers, but they often take off the hard shell beforehand.

You can supplement their diet by offering mealworms but it isn't necessary.

Wrens Nesting Habits

The nesting site can be located 4 to 30 feet above the ground. Houses can be the mounted or hanging type wrens will use either.

After choosing and rebuilding the nest, the female House Wren will lay one egg each day (sometimes skipping a day between eggs) until a clutch of 5 or 6 eggs is laid.

Wren eggs are white with roufus-reddish brown marks or spots which appear mostly on the larger end of the egg.

House Wren eggs will take 12 to 15 days of incubation before they hatch.

During this time, the female will leave the eggs from time to time to feed. She has not abandoned the eggs.

Sometimes it may look like the male is bringing food to the female. Most likely, he is practicing his role in feeding the young.

Although occasional feedings to the female may occur, the female primarily searches out her food.

After the House Wren's eggs hatch, both adults will feed the young in the nest.

House Wren Nesting Stats
House Wren Nesting Stats
Eggs 5 - 6
Incubation 12 - 15 days
Nestling Phase 16 - 17 days
Broods 1 - 2

The female will sleep (brood) with the chicks during this time, and the male will sleep in another cavity.

When it gets close for the young to leave the nest, you will notice the adults are around less frequently. Fewer feedings will encourage the young to leave the nest.

Do not worry, the young will leave the nest in 16-17 days, and the adults will continue feeding and training them for about two more weeks.

The baby wrens do not return to the nest once they leave.

bluebird house with wren nest

Wrens Taken Over Bluebird House

For their size, House Wrens can be very aggressive, often piercing the eggs of other cavity-nesting birds.

While it's fun to watch the House Wrens nesting habits, thought should be given on whether to place birdhouses for them.

If you want other cavity-nesting birds like Bluebirds, Purple Martins, or woodpeckers, you may want to avoid having House Wrens around.

Wrens will take over the nest of other birds by destroying eggs.

The House Wrens diet consists almost entirely of insects.

While not bothered by passive human activity, it should be noted that if you get too close to the nest, you stand a good chance of being scolded.

Wrens will attempt raising two broods a season. Second broods may be raised in a different location.

Second nesting is usually in Late June through July. The breeding season for House Wrens runs from March to July.

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When Autumn arrives, these tiny birds will begin heading southward and spend the winter in the southern states and Mexico.

Should I Clean The Birdhouse Between Broods?

Yes, it is a good practice to clean nest boxes between broods to encourage other birds, including wrens, to use the birdhouse.

Cleaning the nest box helps remove any parasites, debris, or leftover nesting materials from the previous occupants, providing a cleaner and safer environment for the new occupants.

Steps to Cleaning Birdhouses

  1. Wait until the previous occupants have completely fledged and left the nest. Make sure there are no eggs or young birds remaining in the nest box.
  3. Remove the old nesting material and dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag or burn it to prevent the spread of parasites.
  5. Use a brush or scraper to remove any remaining debris from the nest box.
  7. Prepare a solution of 10% bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) to disinfect the nest box. Wearing gloves, scrub the inside and outside of the box with the bleach solution, paying special attention to corners and crevices.
  9. Rinse the nest box thoroughly with water to remove any bleach residue.
  11. Allow the nest box to air dry completely before reassembling and re-hanging it.

By maintaining a clean nest box, you increase the chances of attracting wrens and other cavity-nesting birds to use the birdhouse for their next brood.

Build Your Own Wren Bird House

It doesn't take a lot to build a wren birdhouse. A few basic tools and a little time are all it takes.

The plan below is a very common example of a wren house, but if you'll notice, the plan calls for a 1 by 6 by 4 inches when they mean a 1 by 6 by 4 feet, not 4 inches.

Here it is.

building plans for wren house

Wren House Plan

The nice thing about this particular plan is that you can build two houses with one standard 8-foot board.

Wrens build nests in multiple houses before choosing the one they like, so more may be better. Space them as far apart as possible. Front yard, backyard as an example.

Some of you may wish to purchase a house instead of building one yourself. Here is our current recommended style of Wren birdhouse.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Wrens Friendly?

House Wrens are friendly enough around humans and pets but can get quite aggressive with other birds.

It's not uncommon for them to attack birds in their territory or pierce other bird's eggs.

Do House Wrens Reuse Old Nests?

Depends. If a site is successful, the pair may return to the same nest. If successful, they'll definitely return to the same territory each season.

If unable to raise young, the female will move farther out of the territory for future broods.

Male House Wrens will sometimes remove old nesting material and reuse some of the sticks in the same nest box.

However, reusing the same nest is less common, as the nest may be infested with parasites or contain debris from the previous brood.

It is more likely that they will choose a different nest for their second brood to ensure a cleaner and safer environment for their offspring.

Do Wrens Sleep With Their Babies?

During the brooding time, when the young are dependent on the female for heat, the female will stay with the young.

Once the young can regulate their body temperature, the female will discontinue brooding but may stay in the nest during the night.

My own experience using a birdhouse camera, was that the female would sit a the opening of the birdhouse. More like guarding the nestlings.

What Are The House Wrens Predators?

Typical predators of Wrens at the nest site include snakes, cats, raccoons, and opossums.

House Sparrows have been known to attack and fight over birdhouses for nest sites.

See Also:

Wren Houses For Backyard Nesting

Learn the Habits of the Carolina Wren

People Share Stories of Wrens Nesting Around Them

Watch Videos of House Wrens and Carolina Wrens

birds and blooms magazine cover pioneer woman magazine cover people-magazine cover first for women magazine cover
Birds and Blooms Pioneer Woman People Magazine First For Women


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