Photo credit: Dan Lory

The Winter Wren is the cutest thing, but I can get nervous just watching one. It never sits still. Head jerking left and right, quick twitches of the wings, about-face move on the branch, and constant deep knee bends. A photo can't capture that nervous energy; you need to see a movie. Yet a film clip can't capture the beautiful expressions and wonderful momentary poses of this tiny bird.

In a world where just about everyone is bigger than you, I guess it pays to be nervously alert. A plump round ball of dark brown feathers not much bigger than a ping-pong ball, the Winter Wren's tail is always held straight up, as if it was attached in a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-wren. It seems to like fallen trees, or stone piles and other similar areas with lots of nooks and crannies, where it flits about looking for insects--more like an insect itself than a bird.


To hear a Winter Wren sing is one of the greatest treats of our American outdoors. That tiny little body belts out a beautifully melodic series of trills and arpeggios that would stop an opera singer in her tracks. And the volume is amazing. The books tell me that ounce-for-ounce this tiny wren cranks out the decibels of more than ten crowing roosters. (yes, somebody measures those things...)

Cool tidbit: Male Winter Wrens build several nests in their territory, and then lead the female around to each, until she chooses the one she wants. The habit is probably more tied to staking out a territory than it is to nest amenities.

Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.