House Wren 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 are easily observed, as they are somewhat tolerant of humans.

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

House Wren in Shrub

House Wren

House Wren Call

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 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.

However, in field studies, this 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.

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 until a clutch of 5 or 6 eggs is laid. The eggs are white with brown marks.

House Wren incubation (gestation period isn't the term used) will last 12-15 days.

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 wren's eggs hatch, both adults will feed the young in the nest.

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

The female will sleep 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.

bluebird house with wren nest

Wrens Taken Over Bluebird House

For their size, House Wrens can be very aggressive, often piercing other cavity-nesting bird's eggs.

Thought should be given on whether to place birdhouses for Wrens.

If you're trying to attract other cavity-nesting birds such as Bluebirds, Purple Martins, or woodpeckers, you may not want to allow House Wrens to nest around your property.

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. Cleaning of any birdhouse should be done between broods if possible.

The first cleaning should be done in late fall and the second cleaning should be done after the first nesting.

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.

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 birds’ 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 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.

Do Wrens Sleep With Their Babies?

During 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 spend her nights near the nest site.

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

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