Scientific Name: Troglodytes aedon
Pictures: (click for larger images)
A House Wren graces us with his presence in the UCLA Botanical Garden. Photo by Jason Finley 9/12/05. A House Wren giving the world a piece of his mind! Despite having a clear shot, the picture is a little fuzzy because the shutter speed wasn't fast enough. Oh well, that was my lesson for the day. Photo by Jason Finley in UCLA Botanical Garden 9/11/05. A House Wren sits still long enough to get photographed. They don't always sit out in the open like this! Photo by Jason Finley in UCLA Botanical Garden 9/12/05. And finally, the characteristic "pointing its butt up in the air" Wren stance! Photo by Jason Finley in UCLA Botanical Garden 9/12/05.
-Photos by Jason Finley
Description: Small. 4-5" in length (beak to tail), smaller than a sparrow. Wrens are small birds with thin, long beaks and pointy tails that they often point upward. House Wrens are very light brown underneath and medium brown on their upperparts, with brown and black barring on their wings and tail. House Wrens lack the bold white stripe above the eye that the Bewick's Wrens have, although they may have a very pale, indistinct bit of white behind the eye.
Sound: Wrens make very distinctive sounds. Not chirps or peeps, but rather harsh, raspy "scolding" sounds! The House Wren's call may sound like a "chek!" In addition to its scolding call, the House Wren has a song that is a "bubbling musical series of complicated whistled notes and trills" (Cornell). Listen to a House Wren singing and calling! Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.
Commonality/Seasonality: Rare, probably only Spring/Summer, though we may have one or two stay the whole year.
Location: UCLA Botanical Garden for sure. Stone Canyon Creek for sure too (behind the Anderson Business School). Native Fragment very likely. I've seen one twice in the bushes in the Math-Science Quad, and one of those times it was harassing some House Sparrows! A man walking his dog spotted one a few times in the trees along Le Conte near Hilgard, and in the trees along Weyburn near Hilgard (the Wren was actually hopping along scolding, probably at the dog!).
Notes: Both the House and Bewick's Wrens are lively little birds, but they seem to enjoy remaining hidden in the bushes and undergrowth, and flitting around rapidly. But keep an ear out: when a wren starts making noise, you'll know it! You might hear it scolding from the bushes or a tree, or even hear it singing. It will often make noise long enough for you to get close to its location, at which point you should look for anything moving to try and spot it.
The House Wren does seem to sometimes behave more boldly, hopping into the open to scold at everything! I've even seen one chase off other birds, including a Common Yellowthroat I was trying to get a picture of!
Historical: Dr. Loye Miller wrote about the "Western House Wren" as it was known back then:
This little wren is to be heard on rare occasions in the brush tangles of the Arroyo, but is more common in the hills north of us, where it nests.
-Miller, Loye. "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300. Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.