Delaware may be the second smallest state in the Union, but that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of birdwatching opportunities here. Although it lies at a northerly latitude, the state’s maritime position and low elevation provide both a breeding territory and/or winter ground for hundreds of bird species.
Out of the eleven wrens that are native to the United States, six of them can be found in Delaware. While some of them only occur here very occasionally, other species can be seen every day.
Delaware residents can attract wrens to their backyards by creating an enticing environment for them. Several wren species will nest and overwinter in suitable birdhouses, and some will occasionally visit bird feeders during the winter, too.
Leaving overgrown corners of the garden with dead plant stems through the year is another great way to attract wrens that love to explore brushy areas on their endless quest to find insects, spiders, and other tasty morsels to eat!
But exactly which wren species can be seen in The First State? If you’ve been birding for a while, you might be able to name all six of them. Why not see if you can, before scrolling down to see if you’re right?
Wrens in Delaware, Starting With the Most Common
- Scientific Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
- Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.6-0.8 oz (18-22 g)
- Wingspan: 9 in (23 cm)
Carolina wrens are the most frequently seen wrens in Delaware. Listed in more than 30% of bird watchers’ reports in both summer and winter, they’re common birds of eastern woodlands and overgrown gardens.
These extremely pretty birds have a brown back, white throat, a pale pinkish belly, and long white eyebrows. They also have a repetitive whistling song which can help you to locate and identify them from a distance.
Although Carolina wrens are mostly insectivores, they’re opportunistic feeders that will happily take advantage of other food sources in their vicinity. In 2017, researchers found skink tails in several nests of Carolina wrens, suggesting they were feeding the lizards to their offspring!
- Scientific Name: Troglodytes aedon
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (10-12 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9 in (15 cm)
House wrens are only slightly less common than the Carolina wren during the breeding season in Delaware but are altogether absent in the winter when they return to more southerly winter grounds.
House wrens hold the novel title of being the most widespread bird in all the Americas. From Northern Canada to the tip of Patagonia, house wrens can be found in almost every province on both continents.
Seemingly unafraid of human proximity, house wrens often make their nests in garages, porches, or anywhere they can find a suitable cavity to do so. Once they’ve decided on a nest site, they’ll defend their nest with extraordinary courage, so be ready for plenty of shrill alarm calls when you’re nearby!
Watching them build their nests and raise their young can be great fun for children and adults alike, and you can increase the chances of them nesting in your backyard by installing a suitable bird box.
- Scientific Name: Cistothorus palustris
- Length: 3.9-5.5 in (10-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (9-14 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9 in (15 cm)
Unlike the Carolina and house wren, the marsh wren is not a backyard bird and is found almost exclusively in waterlogged wetlands. This makes spotting and observing marsh wrens more challenging, so you might need a good pair of binoculars to enjoy watching these birds!
By far the best way to locate the highly-camouflaged marsh wren is to learn their raucous song! Listen out for a rapid-fire series of buzzes and trills that they’ll sometimes sing day and night during the breeding season.
This is the time when you might see marsh wrens in Delaware, and their breeding antics are something of a legend. Males busily build several dummy nests to impress females and will sometimes destroy the nests or even the eggs of their rivals!
- Scientific Name: Troglodytes hiemalis
- Length: 3.1-4.7 in (8-12 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8-12 g)
- Wingspan: 4.7-6.3 in (12-16 cm)
Along with the Pacific wren, the winter wren shares the joint honor of being the smallest wren in North America. It’s only recently that these two birds were realized to be distinct. Whereas winter wrens only inhabit the Central and Eastern States, Pacific wrens are found in the west.
Despite their small size, the plump, round build of the winter wren allows it to inhabit surprisingly cold climates. They’re purely winter birds in Delaware and are reported by about 3% of bird watchers during the colder months.
The preferred habitat of the winter wren is overgrown damp forests, especially near streams or anywhere there are lots of nooks and crannies for them to shelter in. They’ll sometimes also visit backyards, especially if you offer them some brush piles and a nest box to roost in during the coldest weather.
Winter wrens possess an extraordinarily powerful voice for their size. With head and tail cocked up, these small but mighty birds belt out a complex series of high-pitched, tinkling warbles and trills that might make your hairs stand on end.
- Scientific Name: Cistothorus stellaris
- Length: 3.9-4.7 in (10-12 cm)
- Weight: 0.3oz (7-10 g)
- Wingspan: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
A close cousin of the marsh wren, the sedge wren spends its winters in The Southeast and their summers in northern central states but is very rarely spotted in the northwest. They’re mostly reported here during the fall migration in August.
The sedge wren can be differentiated from the marsh wren by its smaller size, paler color, and boldly barred wings.
As well as shallow marshes, sedge wrens can also be found in slightly drier habitats like damp hay meadows. In contrast, marsh wrens require standing water to feel at home.
True to their name, sedge wrens prefer to nest in sedge grass where males will build several false nests to impress females. An early account of the sedge wren reported that the occupied nests are lined with feathers, cottony materials, and even muskrat fur. Fancy critters!
- Scientific Name: Thryomanes bewickii
- Length: 5.1 in (13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8-12 g)
- Wingspan: 7 in (17.8cm)
Bewick’s wren used to be more frequently seen in the eastern states but has been declining for decades. They were probably never common in the northeast, but are now classified as ‘accidental’ in Delaware.
These spritely little birds are much more common in the southwest, where they’re usually found in dry thickets and open woodlands. They have a brown back, white-gray belly, long white eyebrows, and long tails.
If you do manage to spot Bewick’s wren in Delaware, be sure to report it to a local birding authority, such as the Delaware Ornithological Society.
Even though it’s a small state in a northerly position, Delaware is home to more than half of the eleven native wren species in the US.
From the large, assertive Carolina wren, to the minuscule, secretive winter wren, these enchanting birds are brimming with personality and are excellent fun to watch.
Aside from wrens, Delaware is home to countless other fascinating bird species like Red-tailed hawks and Pileated Woodpeckers. You can find out all about them in our guide to 25 Must-see Birds in The First State.