Wrens in Maine

6 Wrens in Maine: Our Guide to These Intriguing Birds

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Wrens are not the flashiest North American birds, nor are they most commonplace. However, they are still very common wild birds that can be found all over North and South America. They tend to be cute, round little birds who build small, ball-shaped nests out of sticks and twigs.

If you want to learn to spot wrens, there are almost always going to be some nearby! Some wrens are year-round residents of their territories, while others are migratory.

Nearly 300 kinds of birds have been documented in Maine, including just 6 kinds of wrens. That’s 6 out of the 10 kinds of wrens that are found in North America.

Before we get to our list of these 6 kinds of wrens, let’s take a look at some general wren information and some advice on how to spot them!

What Do Wrens Have in Common?

Most wrens are small with rounded bodies.

Their tails point or angle upward most of the time, although their tails can vary in length. Some are quite long, and others are short and stubby.

They are passerine birds who are part of the Troglodytidae family. They get their name from “troglodyte,” which comes from the Greek “cave-dweller.” Wrens don’t live in real caves, but they build little cave-like nests that are shaped like a ball.

They have loud and complex songs. Although they get mixed up with sparrows, one of the biggest giveaways is what they are eating. Sparrows tend to eat insects and fruits, seeds, and nuts. Wrens almost exclusively eat insects and spiders. Some will also eat frogs, lizards, and plant matter.

Features To Look for When Spotting Wrens

To identify a wren, pay attention to the following features:

  • The bird’s size. This can be difficult to tell in the wild, but you can note their size compared to other nearby birds or birds you are more familiar with.
  • The color of the bird’s feathers, including unique markings on the wings, belly, back, head, chin, tail, etc.
  • The length and shape of its bill. Wrens tend to have pointy, curved bills, but some will curve closer to the end of the bill than others.
  • What the bird is doing. Unique behaviors can be incredibly helpful in determining what bird you are looking at!
  • Where you were when you spotted the bird (region of Maine plus specific habitat).
  • When you saw the bird (time of day plus time of year).
  • Calls, songs, and other vocalizations.

General Advice for Wren-Spotting in Maine

Here’s some good advice for how to spot wrens in the wild in Maine.

  1. Research Before You Go: Before you head out to look for wrens, take some time to research them. (This article is a great start!) Familiarize yourself with their appearance, behavior, habitat preferences, and the sounds they make. This knowledge will help you identify them more easily in the field.
  2. Choose the Best Time and Place: Wrens are most active during the early morning and late afternoon when they are searching for food. Find a suitable location with dense vegetation, such as woodlands, gardens, or shrublands. Some wrens also live in marshy areas, so if you are looking for the Marsh Wren, head to the coast.
  3. Stay Still and Be Patient: Once you’re in the right location, find a comfortable spot and try to blend in with the surroundings. Wrens tend to be quite reserved and secretive, and they are startled by sudden movements or loud noises. Stay still and be patient, allowing them to get used to your presence.
  4. Invest in a Good Pair of Binoculars. This will help you get a great look from a distance, without having to disturb the birds. Check out our buyers’ guide. We recommend that you practice using them beforehand to adjust the focus and get a steady view.
  5. Listen Carefully: Wrens are known for their loud, melodious songs. Familiarize yourself with their vocalizations and listen carefully for their distinctive calls. This will help you locate them even when they are hidden in foliage or dense vegetation.
  6. Observe Unique Behaviors: Pay attention to the ways that wrens behave. They are known for their active foraging habits, hopping and searching for insects and spiders. Note their feeding patterns, flight patterns, and any unique behaviors you may observe. They are also very territorial.
  7. Use Field Guides and a Good App. The Merlin App from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is especially good for tracking and identifying birds.
  8. Keep a Journal: Keep a notebook or a birding journal to record your observations. Note down the date, time, location, and any interesting behaviors or interactions you witness. Not only will this help you remember which birds you saw and when, but it will also help you know what to look for from one year to the next.
  9. Respect Wildlife and the Environment: Remember to be a responsible birdwatcher. Respect the birds’ space and never disturb their nests. Leave no trace and follow ethical guidelines to protect both the birds and their environment.
  10. Join the Birding Community in Your Area. Consider joining a local birding club or online birding forums to connect with fellow wild bird enthusiasts. Soon, you’ll be sharing experiences, tips, and sightings with other birdwatchers, which will enhance your knowledge and passion for birdwatching.

Ready for our list of wrens in Maine? Let’s get to it!

The Year-Round Wren in Maine

There is only one kind of wren that is found year-round in Maine: The Carolina Wren. This is the only wren that you will consistently see during the winter in Maine.

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 Carolina Wren has reddish-brown plumage, and its tail and wings are streaked in white. It is quite small, with an upright posture. Its tail tends to point upwards at an angle. They are fairly easy to recognize thanks to their long white eyebrow stripe. There are no significant differences between males and females.

Maine has begun to see increasing numbers of Carolina Wrens over the last 10 years, and they are now fairly widespread across the state.

Generally, these birds are found in the southeastern United States and parts of Mexico and Central America. They are non-migratory residents who stay in one area all year long. They prefer a mix of woodland, shrubland, and suburban areas.

Like House Sparrows, these adaptable wrens thrive in human-altered environments, making backyard gardens and parks their preferred habitat. They protect themselves by hiding in brushy thickets and wooded residential areas. You will also find them in overgrown farmland, falling-down homes, and outbuildings.

Interesting facts:

  • Their diet mostly consists of insects and spiders, but they will also eat small amounts of fruit.
  • They construct dome-shaped nests, which you can find in a variety of locations. Often, they build nests in trees and shrubs, about 3-6 feet above the ground, but they will also build in surprising places like flower pots, abandoned shoes, propane grills, and more.
  • Male Carolina Wrens have an interesting territorial defense mechanism. If they hear a threat, they will slam themselves into hard surfaces like trees in order to make a loud, whirring sound with their wings. They are especially likely to do this in Florida, where they use palmetto trees for this activity.

Wrens in Maine in the Summer

In addition to the year-round resident Carolina Wren, you will find three other wrens in Maine during the summer: The House Wren, the Marsh 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 House Wren!

House Wrens are fairly plain in their coloring. Their feathers are rich brown on top and lighter brown below. They usually hold their short tail at an upward-pointed angle, which makes them look alert and attentive. They also have some recognizable barring on their wings.

They are year-round residents of almost all of South America, except for the highest Andes Mountains peaks. In North America, they are found across most of the US during the summer, then the Southern US and Mexico in the winter.

In Maine, they are summer-only residents who tend to be present in the southern part of the state.

Their habitat preferences are quite varied, as they have such a wide territorial range and are able to adapt to many different environments. They live in forests, swamps, and at relatively high elevations (10k feet). They make their nests in abandoned cavities, including human-built spots like outbuildings, barn rafters, and the roofs of houses.

Interesting facts:

  • Their diet includes insects and spiders (beetles, earwigs, daddy longlegs, caterpillars, flies, etc), as well as snail shells. The snail shells probably give them calcium and grit, which is useful for digestion.
  • Male House Wrens participate in a very interesting behavior–building “dummy nests,” which may also be called false nests or phantom nests. These nests are loosely constructed and lack the signature hollowed-out cavity for the female to lay her eggs. Researchers believe this is because he is either protecting his territory in an interesting way or he is providing a potential mate with several nesting areas that she can choose from. If she chooses one, she will rebuild the nest completely.
  • Like other wrens on our list, House Wrens are opportunistic in their nesting. They will use birdhouses, tree cavities, or little crevices in buildings, treehouses, playgrounds, and empty pots.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren
  • Scientific Name: Cistothorus palustris
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Length: 3.9-5.5 in (10-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (9-14 g)
  • Wingspan: 5.9 in (15 cm)

The Marsh Wren is small and plump with the signature upward-pointed tail of many wrens. Its plumage is mottled brown with a light brown belly. You will be able to see thin black streaks on its back and subtle white bars on its wings.

Depending on the time of year, you can find Marsh Wrens in most of the United States. They prefer wetland areas, including marshes, grassy swamps, and meadows. The denser the vegetation, the better! Marsh Wrens build their nests in sedges and tall aquatic grasses.

Marsh Wrens are found in the summer in Maine, but only along the coast in the southern half of the state. You won’t find them much farther north than the Rockland/Penobscot Bay area.

Interesting facts:

  • Marsh Wrens are ground foragers, but they will sometimes fly into the air briefly to catch an insect. They usually pick spiders and insects off of the grasses and leaves in the marshes where they live.
  • Marsh Wrens tend to return to the same breeding territory each year, so the ones you see in Maine during one summer might be the same ones you saw the summer before!
  • They can sort of “shimmy” up thick reedy stems of the plants that give them cover. Sometimes males will perch to sign atop these reeds.

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)

Talk about a tiny bird! The Winter Wren is plump but very small, and its stubby little tail points upward most of the time. It is mostly brown in color, which means it can easily camouflage itself among the dense undergrowth of its habitat. There are subtle variations in its feathers, but the most distinctive thing about the Winter Wren is that it is shaped a bit like a small, round ball.

Males and females look alike.

Winter Wrens are forest-dwelling birds who are comfortable in both evergreen and deciduous forests. You are more likely to find them in old-growth forests of both varieties than you are to find them in younger areas. They are found in Northern New England and Canada during the summer. Then, they migrate slightly south to the Midwest and Southeast, where they spend their time in brushy fields, dense forest undergrowth, and gardens.

In Maine, they are found throughout the state, all summer long. Maine gives them plenty of forested territory to choose from!

Interesting facts:

  • Winter Wrens eat large amounts of insects, including ants, flies, beetles, caterpillars, millipedes, and mites. They also eat spiders. They find their food by pecking and scratching into the decaying bark of dead trees and fallen logs.
  • Their woven nests vary greatly in size. They will fill the cavity, as large as it may be, so some nests are even football-sized. The male will build several nests that the female can choose from. Unlike the House Wren female, who will completely rebuild the nest offered by the male, the female Winter Wren accepts the nest as it is and adds some lining of feathers and animal hair. The male helps with lining the nest, too.

Rare Vagrant Wrens in Maine

Sometimes, a bird will leave its normal migration path and end up far away from where it is supposed to be. That is true of the Rock Wren, which has been spotted in Maine only a handful of times. These spotting are often newsworthy. The Sedge Wren, on the other hand, is a rare breeding season visitor in Maine. Here is some information about both of these birds and their presence in Maine.

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 medium-sized for a wren and has light grayish-brown plumage. Wrens that hide among grasses tend to be variations of brown; the Rock Wren camouflages into its rocky habitat and is instead mostly gray.

It has a long, thin, sharp bill that has a slight curve at the end. It holds its tail upright. They are sexually monomorphic, which means there are no distinctive differences between males and females.

Rock Wrens live almost exclusively in the American West and Southwest. They are year-round residents of areas in Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, and central Mexico. Their summer habitat spans the Interior West of the United States.

These areas provide them with their necessary habitat: rocky slopes, canyons, and desert cliffs. They hide among the rocks and crevices and forage on the ground.

So what are they doing in Maine?! That’s a great question, and there is no clear answer. Birds that fly far off course from their normal migration paths are called vagrants, and it’s possible that they were affected by unexpectedly strong headwinds as they migrated. If this happens, they may choose to coast in the winds rather than use all their energy to keep fighting their way forward.

Rock Wrens have been documented in Maine two times. In 2020, the second sighting occurred in the state, and over 100 birders came to a parking lot in Ogunquit to see the Rock Wren in person!

Interesting facts:

  • Rock Wrens build their nests in rocky cavities. They use twigs, grass, feathers, and animal hair to construct their study nests.
  • They are excellent ground foragers and will rarely fly to catch insects. Now this is interesting: the Rock Wren has never been documented drinking water! It is presumed that they get all of their necessary hydration from the insects and spiders that they consume.
  • Rock Wrens are monogamous, and males attract mates by bringing them food. The male’s job is to protect the territory from predators, including House Wrens, which will destroy the Rock Wrens’ nests and eggs. If they can’t frighten away other birds by making themselves look larger and performing threatening body language, they will go into a full attack and slam their bodies into the other birds! Then they will beat the intruder with their wings. They may be small birds, but they are brave and vicious!

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 Sedge Wren is a cute little wren with black, rufous, and brownish feathers. It has a bit of a yellow wash to its appearance, and its topside is darker than the belly. To identify the Sedge Wren, look for the white chin and buffy eyebrow stripe. The Sedge Wren also has a short, curved bill and a short, upward-pointed tail.

Sedge Wrens get their name from their nesting habitat. They live in areas with tall sedges, as well as meadows, marshes, prairies, and hayfields. They prefer wet, shrubby areas. Despite preferring wetlands, it does not nest in deep water marshes like the Marsh Wren. Their long legs help them to forage in the tall grasses where they live.

Their summer breeding grounds stretch across Central Canada and the Midwest of the US. In the winter, they live in the US Southeast.

They are rare breeders in Maine, meaning that they are not here with any consistency – but they do show up from time to time in a few areas during the summer. Specifically, they have been found a number of times in Penobscot.

Interesting facts:

  • Sedge Wrens are a bit mysterious. They will thrive in an area one year and then refuse to return to that area the next year, and no one really knows why. They tend to be nomadic.
  • Their nests are shaped like balls. Like other wrens, the male will build several nests, offer them to his mate, and she will choose one. The other nests are abandoned.
  • They build their nests much later in the season than other birds – sometimes as late as July. If you think there is a nearby Sedge Wren, you may be able to coax it out of its hiding places in the grasses by making a “pushing” sound.

Final Advice on Spotting Wrens in Maine

Wrens are delightful little birds with great, attentive postures. They may blend in with other birds, like sparrows, but you can often rule out other birds by looking for those raised, upward-pointed tails.

If you want to spot wrens in Maine, paying attention to the subtle differences in the bird’s appearance and behavior will help you differentiate one species from another.

And if you are enjoying birdwatching in Maine, don’t forget about our other helpful lists!

Good luck and have fun!

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