Wrens in Louisiana

7 Wrens in Louisiana: Habits, Habitats, and Appearance

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Wrens aren’t very flashy birds, but they are lovely little birds. They are quite charming, which means that they have many devoted fans.

Wrens are fairly common birds across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but there are only about 10 different kinds of wrens in North America. They are cute, round birds that build ball-shaped nests in cavities, rafters, and even old boots on the ground.

Learning to spot wrens can be a fun birdwatching challenge – and there are almost always at least a few wrens nearby!

With over 400 bird species that have been documented in Louisiana, you will never get bored of watching birds here. Of those 400 species, you can spot 6 kinds of wrens – some in the winter, some in the summer, and one all year long. Our list has 7 kinds of wrens on it, though, because the Rock Wren is a rare vagrant to the state.

Before we get to our list of 7 wrens in Louisiana, let’s make sure we are all on the same page about what makes a wren a wren.

What Makes a Wren a Wren?

The first thing that wrens have in common is their small, round bodies. They also have tails that point upward most of the time. Some of them have long tails, others have very short, stubby tails, and there are a few in between.

All wrens are passerine birds that are members of the Troglodytidae family. “Troglodyte” is the Greek word for cave-dweller. Don’t get us wrong, wrens don’t live in literal caves. Rather, their nests are like little caves wrapped up in twigs and roots.

Wrens are often mixed up with sparrows but watch for that angled tail. Sparrows just don’t have the same silhouette, even if their coloring may be similar.

Another difference between wrens and sparrows is that wrens very rarely eat any fruit; their diet is made up almost entirely of insects and spiders. Sparrows eat a diet of fruits, seeds, nuts, and insects. When wrens deviate from their insect and spider-based diet, it is to eat the occasional frog or lizard.

Identification Tips for Spotting Wrens

These are the features that will help you spot and identify wrens:

  • Size. Because it can be difficult to estimate a bird’s size in the wild, take note of any other birds in the area to compare it to. Or compare it to a bird you are more familiar with. You can’t weigh a wild bird, but you can take note that it is half the size of a robin, or slightly smaller than a sparrow.
  • Plumage. Pay attention to the colors of the bird’s feathers. Note any unique markers on the bird’s wings, belly, back, head, tail, chin, etc.
  • Bill shape. How is the bill shaped? Is it long, short, pointy, thin, thick, or curved? Wrens tend to have sharp, pointed bills, but some will have a noticeable curve.
  • Behaviors. What is the bird doing? Unique behaviors can definitely help you identify a wren after the fact! Behaviors can include what they do when they build their nests, forage for food, interact with other birds, protect their territory, etc.
  • Location. Where in Louisiana were you when you saw the bird? Note the specific habitat and the region of Louisiana.
  • Date and time. Take note of when you saw the bird – both the time of day and the time of year.
  • Sounds. Try to record the bird’s songs, calls, and other vocalizations.

Advice for Spotting Wrens in Louisiana

Here’s some good advice for how to spot wrens in the wild in Louisiana. This list can actually be used for any birdwatching that you do in the state!

  • Research Before You Go: Just a little bit of research will help you prepare to be a better birder or birdwatcher. Spend some time looking at pictures and videos of wrens to educate yourself on what they look like. This list is a great place to start!
  • Choose the Right Time and Place: You are most likely to see wrens early in the morning when they are the most active. They are on the move, looking for food. Most wrens (although not all of them!) prefer densely vegetative areas, including woodlands, gardens, and shrubby areas. If you are near the coast, look for the Marsh Wren in both freshwater and saltwater marshes.
  • Practice Stillness: Once you find the right place, you’re going to need to settle in and get comfortable. This is how you go beyond identifying birds you just happen to see in your day-to-day life and instead start finding birds that you are interested in tracking down. Practice being as still as possible. Wrens are startled by sudden movements and loud noises, so your goal is to blend in with your surroundings.
  • Bring Some Binoculars. A good pair of binoculars will help you see birds from a distance, and it will keep you from disturbing any birds or wildlife. Check out our buyers’ guide for some ideas. You don’t necessarily need the most expensive pair you can find, but you probably want to get something better than a cheap convenience store set.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen. While you are patiently waiting, listen for wrens and their loud, melodious songs. Even if they are hidden, you may still be able to hear them! Check out the Merlin App from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for a great tool for identifying birds by their calls.
  • Behavioral Cues. Knowing how wrens behave will help you find them! They are known for foraging on the ground, hopping back and forth as they search for insects and spiders. They are usually on the ground, rather than flying in the air. They are very territorial, so you may see their aggressive behavior on display.
  • Use Field Guides or the Merlin App. Field guides, birding websites like Wild Bird Scoop, and apps like the Merlin App are incredibly helpful! Published field guides and apps will be even more useful if you are in an area without access to the internet.
  • Take Notes in a Journal: A notebook is the birder’s most useful resource! When you keep a birdwatching notebook or a birding journal, you can record your observations, including the date, time, and location of your sightings. This doesn’t just help you identify each bird – it also provides you with a record that you can use to notice patterns year after year.
  • Respect the Wildlife and Birdlife: Practice responsible birdwatching by respecting birds’ spaces and never disturbing their nests. Practice the principles of leaving no trace to protect their environment.
  • Join the Birding Community. A local birding club or online forum will help you connect with fellow wild bird enthusiasts. In no time, you will be sharing your experiences, giving each other tips, and talking about your unique sightings with other people who love to celebrate your birding victories with you!

Now, it’s time to get to the list of Louisiana wrens!

Wrens in Louisiana All Year Long

There is only one kind of wren that is a year-round resident of Louisiana: the Carolina Wren. Additionally, it is the only wren that you are likely to see in the summertime, as there really aren’t any other wrens that migrate to Louisiana for the summer. If you see a wren during the breeding season, chances are good that it is a Carolina Wren.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren
  • Scientific Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.8 oz (18-22 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.4 in (29 cm)

The small Carolina Wren’s plumage is reddish-brown, but its tail and wings have white streaks on them. It has an upright posture with a tail that angles upward. Their most distinctive feature, aside from their colorful feathers, is their long buffy eyebrow stripe.

Males and females are not really distinguishable from one another.

Carolina Wrens are non-migratory residents who stay in one geographic area for their entire lives. They are found throughout Louisiana, both along the coast and inland. They are adept at coexisting with humans, so they can be found in backyards, suburban parks, and abandoned outbuildings.

They tend to take cover in brushy thickets and wooded areas.

Interesting facts:

  • Carolina Wrens eat a diet almost entirely made up of insects and spiders. Sometimes, they will eat small amounts of fruit – but it does not make up much of their diet.
  • You can find their dome-shaped nests in a number of locations, including in flower pots, abandoned boots, propane grills, trees, shrubs, and more. They will nest no higher than 3-6 feet off the ground.
  • Carolina Wrens have a fairly dramatic defense mechanism. They will respond to a threat like a predator by slamming their bodies into hard surfaces. The wind makes a loud whirring sound through their feathers. In the US Southeast, they will fling themselves into palmetto trees.

Wrens in Louisiana in the Summer

The only wren that arrives in Louisiana for the summer is just barely found in the state. Let’s talk about Bewick’s Wren.

Bewick’s Wren

Bewick’s Wren
  • Scientific Name: Thryomanes bewickii
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Length: 5.1 in (13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8-12 g)
  • Wingspan: 7 in (17.78 cm)

The Bewick’s Wren has subtle, mottled brown coloring with a dramatic white eyebrow stripe. Its undersides are very light gray. Its tail is quite a bit longer than other wrens, but it has that signature upward angle of its wren relatives.

They are found in a variety of habitats, ranging from woodlands and forests to shrubby areas. During the winter, they move into areas with more dense vegetation, especially into protective tree cavities. As long as there is suitable vegetation, Bewick’s Wrens will inhabit both urban and suburban environments.

Louisiana lies at the very eastern edge of the Bewick’s Wren’s habitat. In most of Texas, to the west, they are year-round, non-migratory residents. However, there is a stretch of territory in East Texas where they live for the breeding season. This small sliver of territory extends into the northwestern and southwestern corners of Louisiana, making it a possibility that you will see the Bewick’s Wren in Louisiana.

Interesting facts:

  • Bewick’s Wrens are known for having many different songs. Only the male sings, both to defend his territory and to attract a mate. He will sing between 9 and 22 different songs that are made up of trills, warbles, and buzzing sounds. Their songs only last for 2 seconds.
  • During the breeding season, male and female Bewick’s Wrens work together to build their nests and raise their babies. They build their nests much higher off the ground than many other wrens. In fact, they will nest up to 30 feet above the ground.
  • Adult Bewick’s Wrens will sometimes eat mud and small pebbles, as it aids in digestion by serving as grit.

Wrens in Louisiana in the Winter

There are more wrens in Louisiana in the winter than at any other time of year. In addition to the year-round Carolina Wren, the wrens you will find in winter are the House Wren, the Marsh Wren, the Sedge Wren, and the Winter Wren.

House Wren

House Wren
  • Scientific Name: Troglodytes aedon
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (10-12 g)
  • Wingspan: 5.9 in (15 cm)

Meet the lovely little House Wren. These plentiful birds have soft brown coloring above and lighter brown – almost beige – below. They are quite a bit lighter in coloring than other wrens.

They have a short tail that points upward, giving them an alert and attentive look. Look for the delicate brown barring on their wings to identify them quickly.

House Wrens live in most of the Western Hemisphere. Throughout South America, they are year-round residents. Although they are comfortable at relatively high elevations of up to 10k feet, they still avoid the very high-altitude Andes Mountains. Many House Wrens spend the winter in a range that stretches across the Southern US and Mexico, and they are breeding-season residents of most of the US and into Canada.

Louisiana is safely nestled into the House Wren’s winter range. They can thrive in a number of different habitats, including areas where there is a lot of human activity. You won’t see their nesting habits on display in Louisiana, which is unfortunate because they have really fascinating nesting behaviors!

They build nests in abandoned cavities, including tree cavities and holes in human-constructed buildings, like barns, houses, and sheds. Male House Wrens will often build “dummy nests,” or “false nests,” which are loosely constructed nests for a female to choose from. It may also be a part of their territoriality.

Interesting facts:

  • House Wrens are opportunistic nesters who will use birdhouses, buildings, treehouses, playgrounds, and even empty pots.
  • Their diet consists almost entirely of insects and spiders, but they will sometimes eat snails. The snail shells serve as grit, which most birds need for digestion. Snail shells are also a good source of calcium.
  • House Wren females are entirely responsible for building the real nests where they will raise their hatchlings. She may start with one of the false nests provided by her mate.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren
  • Scientific Name: Cistothorus palustris
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Length: 4.5-5.5 inches (11-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-12 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.7-7.1 inches (17-18 cm)

You might be noticing by now that wrens tend to be pretty similar to one another in their appearance. The Marsh Wren is another brown wren with a cocked tail. Their bill is longer than some other wrens, which must come in handy for foraging among the tall grasses of their preferred habitats.

Look for the black and white streaks on their backs to differentiate them from other wrens in the area during the winter.

Marsh Wrens live in marshes, wetlands, and other vegetation-rich areas. They especially like cattails and reeds. They live in both freshwater and saltwater marshes.

In Louisiana, you are most likely to find Marsh Wrens during the winter months, in Acadiana, the Florida Parishes, and Greater New Orleans.

Interesting facts:

  • Marsh Wrens forage for insects and spiders in the tall grasses, picking their prey right off of the stems and undersides of leaves. They will sometimes pick insects right off the surface of the water, and on rare occasions, they will fly briefly into the air to catch a flying insect.
  • Marsh Wrens have complex vocalizations. Their songs include raspy notes, musical trills, and gurgling sounds.
  • House Wrens suspend their dome-shaped nests in marshy vegetation, anchoring them to several stems for good stability.
  • Male House Wrens are very territorial. They will defend their nests with aggressive displays of strength.

Sedge Wren

Sedge Wren
  • Scientific Name: Cistothorus platensis
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Length: 3.9-4.7 in (10-12 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (7-10 g)
  • Wingspan: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)

The delightful little Sedge Wren is black, brown, and rufous in color, darker on top than from below. There is also a bit of a yellow wash on its feathers. The color variation of their feathers makes them excellent at camouflage.

Sedge Wrens have short, curved bills and the typical short, upward-pointing tail.

Their name comes from the sedges that grow in their preferred habitat. They can also be found in meadows, prairies, hayfields, and marshes. They prefer wet habitats, but not deep marshy waters (which are inhabited by the Marsh Wren).

Sedge Wrens have long legs, which they use to forage through tall grasses and sedges.

In the summer, their breeding grounds include the Midwest and Southern and Central Canada. In the winter, they live along the coasts of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. They have a much more limited range than other wrens.

Interesting facts:

  • With their limited range and their incredible ability to camouflage themselves among dense vegetation, Sedge Wrens are quite difficult to study.
  • Sedge Wrens are unpredictable. They will thrive in an area one year and then go to a totally different area the next year – without any obvious reason for the change. Their behaviors are quite nomadic.
  • Sedge Wren males, like some other wrens, will build several nests that their mates can choose from. They will abandon all of the other nests. Sedge Wrens are late-season breeders who will sometimes build their nests as late as July.
  • You can sometimes coax a Sedge Wren out of hiding by making a “pshing” sound.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren
  • Scientific Name: Troglodytes hiemalis
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • 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)

The tiny little Winter Wren is plump, with a stubby tail that almost always points upward. It is good at camouflaging itself in dense undergrowth, thanks to its overall brown appearance. The Winter Wren is perhaps easiest to describe as a round, ball-shaped bird.

Females and males look alike, with few differentiations between them.

Winter Wrens are almost exclusively found in forested woodlands. They thrive in both deciduous and evergreen forests, but they are more likely to be found in old-growth forests than young ones.

In the US, they are only found in the eastern half of the country. In Canada, their territory stretches as far as Alberty and the eastern edge of British Columbia, as well as the southern border of the Northwestern Territories.

Their winter territory spans most of the Midwest and Southeastern US. They do not, however, inhabit the Florida peninsula. They are widespread in Louisiana through the winter. They are found in the state’s brushy fields, gardens, and dense forests.

Interesting facts:

  • Winter Wrens contribute a lot to pest control! They eat ants, flies, caterpillars, mites, and beetles, as well as spiders. If you see them foraging, you will see them peck and scratch into the decaying bark of dead trees, fallen logs, and stumps.
  • They are cavity nesters who will fill whatever cavity they find. That means that the nest size of a Winter Wren can vary dramatically from one bird to the next. They will build up to a football-sized nest.
  • When the male Winter Wren offers his mate several nests to choose from, she will accept the nest and will then help him line it with hair, feathers, and soft materials. This is different from a bird like the House Wren female, who completely reconstructs the nest.

Rare Wrens in Louisiana

Sometimes, birds will end up off their traditional migration routes and become what are called rare vagrants. One of these rare vagrants in Louisiana is the Rock Wren.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren
  • Scientific Name: Salpinctes obsoletus
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Length: 4.9-5.9 in (12.5-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-0.6 oz (15-18 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-9.4 in (22-24 cm)

The Rock Wren is larger than some other wrens. It has light grayish-brown feathers because it needs to blend into the rocky gray background of its rocky habitat. Contrast the Rock Wren with the brown wrens that live in woodland and shrubby habitats.

The Rock Wren’s bill is long, sharp, and slightly curved at the end, and its tail is held upright like other wrens. Males and females look alike.

Rock Wrens are found almost exclusively in the American West and Southwest. They live year-round in Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, and central Mexico. During the summer, they move into the Interior West of the US.

Notice which place is not on that list? Louisiana.

Rock Wrens only end up in Louisiana when they are blown off-course by strong headwinds or end up in the wrong place for some other reason. You’ll notice that Louisiana just doesn’t have the habitat that Rock Wrens love: rocky slopes, canyons, and desert cliffs.

As of 2018, there had been over a dozen sightings of Rock Wrens in Louisiana – mostly in the winter.

Interesting facts:

  • Rock Wrens build their nests using twigs, grass, feathers, and animal hair. Their nests are tucked into rocky cavities.
  • Rock Wrens are great at foraging for their food. They eat insects and spiders for the majority of their diet.
  • They are monogamous birds. Females choose a mate that brings them excellent food. When the babies hatch, male Rock Wrens must protect their territory – especially from the House Wrens that will try to destroy their nests and smash their eggs. To protect their nest, Rock Wrens will beat intruders with their wings.
  • Rock Wrens have never been documented drinking any water. This makes them well adapted to the desert, as they can get all of their moisture from the insects and spiders that they eat.

More Birds to Spot in Louisiana

In addition to wrens, Louisiana is home to many other fascinating and beautiful birds.

At Wild Bird Scoop, we publish lists like this one to help you quickly identify the birds you are likely to see here, whether you live in Louisiana or are just visiting.

Here are some guides to check out!

We hope that these lists help you have a great year of spotting fascinating, beautiful, and charming birds in Louisiana.

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