Monday, September 21, 2009

In the woods... Winter Wren

Winter WrenWinter Wren on frost-covered log, Timber, Washington Co., Oregon on 22 November 2007 by Greg Gillson.


When I think of Winter Wrens I always think of dark, closed forests with a tangle of fallen trees and limbs and a thick layer of sword ferns. In this dark, damp, quiet setting, the sweet, musical, and surprisingly loud song of the tiny Winter Wren is a ray of golden light piercing the gloom.

The Winter Wren breeds in conifer forests across North America, and is one of only a few land birds that is holarctic in distribution, nesting widely in both the Nearctic and the Palearctic.

The diet of Winter Wrens includes beetles, spiders, caterpillars and the like that are gleaned as the birds crawl over the forest floor and downed wood. Likewise, the nests are placed on logs and the intersections of large downed branches. Root wads of tipped over trees are favorite nesting sites.

Though tiny and secretive in habits, it is easy to find Winter Wrens in the forest shadows, as they sing year-round. There seems to be some movement of birds in winter into red alder woods, but they remain common in the fir forests throughout the year.

Winter Wrens in the West (as pictured above) are darker and redder, with more complex songs than birds in the East. Eastern birds show more of a paler eyebrow and have white spotting on the wings. In fact, there is a proposal under consideration by the American Ornithologists' Union to split the Pacific Winter Wren from the Winter Wren as a separate species.

The tiny size, dark brown coloration, and stubby tail identify this wren. You are unlikely to mistake this bird for any other.