Measuring just 10cm in length, and weighing the same as a £1 coin, the wren is Britain’s third smallest bird: only the finecrest and goldcrest are smaller, both by a mere 6mm.
As one of our national favourites, appearing on stamps and coins, (the penny farthing), in nursery rhymes and songs throughout our history, it’s not surprising that we have taken this perky little bird with its upturned tail oft cocked head and loud vibrant voice, to our hearts.
The nickname ‘Jenny wren’, can be traced back to at least medieval times with both Shakespeare and Dickens making reference to the “Jenny wren”. As well as songs and stories, wrens are mentioned in traditional rituals throughout history dating as far back as the druids, who considered it a sacred bird. The wren is also known as the Kuningilin “Kinglet” in old German, a name associated with the “king of birds”. In folklore it was said that the bird that could fly to the highest altitude would be king. The eagle outflew all other birds, but was beaten by a small bird, who unbeknown to the eagle had hidden in its plumage.
The wren population is widespread throughout the British Isles. With an estimated population of 8.5 million breeding pairs, it is the country’s most prolific birds. Often hear but not seen, it inhabits the densest woodland, mountain slopes, hedgerows, parks and gardens, even sea cliffs and isolated islands.
Wrens unfortunately are susceptible to cold and severe winters which can decimate the population. In the hard winter of 1963, millions of wrens perished. However, their resilience was proven over the following 10 years as this tough little bird’s numbers grew by a factor or 10, a growth rate unmatched by any other bird.
Their diet consists of mainly of worms, spiders, various insect larvae and moths and small scraps found beneath bird tables. Its Latin name of Troglodytes (meaning cave dweller) possibly relates to its habit of moving in and out of nooks, rock crevices and dark dense undergrowth.