Wrens in Massachusetts

6 Wrens in Massachusetts: Our In-depth Bird Spotters’ Guide

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Despite being the 7th Smallest state in The Union, Massachusetts has a surprisingly rich ecology. From the coastal planes in the east to The Berkshire Mountains in the west, the state is packed with forests, lakes, and natural wonders.

And despite being one of the most densely populated states in America, human habitation has created some new opportunities for certain bird species. Peregrine falcons use the state’s high tower blocks as nest sites, and backyard birds profit from the care offered by Massachusetts residents.

One of the most enchanting of all backyard birds is the humble wren. Seven of America’s eleven species of wren can be found in Massachusetts, and two of them can be seen regularly in backyards and suburban parks.

We can help wrens thrive in these northerly latitudes by installing nest boxes for them, and they’ll also appreciate residents who leave weedy corners of their gardens for them to forage about in.

But which wren species can you hope to see in Massachusetts? Whether you’re a local, or just passing through on an excursion, we’ve got everything you need to know about Massachusetts’ wrens.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren
  • 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 common wren of the east but become more scarce as one goes north. While they’re marked down on almost 50% of report cards in Maryland, they only make it onto 16% of birdwatcher’s reports in Massachusetts.

These pretty wrens are adorned with 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.

Carolina wrens are frequent backyard visitors and can be encouraged by offering them a birdhouse for breeding and roosting, and also a platform feeder or tube feeder during the winter.

The intelligent Carolina wren exhibits complex social behavior. They mate for life and sometimes huddle together in birdhouses during the cold winter months to stay warm!

House Wren

House Wren
  • 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)

The house wren is even more common than the Carolina wren during Massachusetts’s summers, but their absence during the winter means they’re the second most common wren here overall.

House wrens are endearing and beautiful birds that love to visit backyards. They’re much smaller than the Carolina wren, and more slender than the winter wren, meaning they should be fairly easy to identify in Massachusetts.

Seemingly unafraid of humans, they’ll often make their nests in garages, porches, in old mailboxes, or even tin cans! Watching them build their nests and raise their young can be great fun, and you can increase the chances of them choosing your garden by installing an appropriate bird box.

House wrens are extremely courageous for their size and won’t shy away from defending their nests against larger birds and predators. This territorial behavior, however, sometimes prevents other birds from using vacant nest sites.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren
  • 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 our first two species, the marsh wren is not a backyard bird and is found almost exclusively in vegetation growing in standing water.

This makes spotting and observing marsh wrens much more challenging, and they may be more common than reports suggest. You’ll normally need a good pair of binoculars to observe them!

By far the best way to locate these secretive birds is to learn their raucous song that’s sung at dawn and dusk, and sometimes right through the night! Listen out for a rapid-fire series of buzzes and trills that reflect this bird’s assertive character.

Marsh wrens are only regularly seen during the breeding season in Massachusetts. The male builds several ‘dummy nests’ to convince female wrens that he’ll be a good partner. He may then go on to mate with multiple females!

Winter Wren

Winter Wren
  • 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 its western cousin, the Pacific wren, the tiny winter wren shares the joint honor of being North America’s smallest wren. Believe it or not, smaller adults are only about as long as a Post-it note!

Winter wrens are highly nomadic birds that almost never spend summer and winter in the same place. Massachusetts lies at the frontier of their summer and winter grounds, meaning you can see them in the north of the state during the summer and in the south in winter.

The favorite haunt of these enchanting birds is damp forests and shady thickets, especially near streams or anywhere they can find crevices to forage about and shelter in. They’ll sometimes also visit backyards, especially if you leave them with some overgrown edges and a nest box to shelter in for the winter.

Winter wrens have one of the most complex songs of all songbirds in North America. Listen out for a long series of high-pitched, tinkling warbles and trills, belted out with astonishing vigor and might.

Sedge Wren

Sedge Wren
  • 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)

Sedge wrens spend their winters in the South East, their summers in the Northern Midwest, but are rarely seen in New England. Although they’re classed as a resident of Massachusetts, they’re only recorded by less than one in a thousand bird watchers in the state.

Similar in many ways to their close relatives, the marsh wren, the sedge wren is slightly smaller and certainly less aggressive than its ruffian cousin!

Sedge wrens also tend to inhabit drier territories than marsh wrens. While marsh wrens usually depend on standing water to feel at home, sedge wrens will happily make their home in a damp meadow.

If you do see a sedge wren in Massachusetts, try to get a decent photograph and report it to a local ornithological authority such as Massachusetts Audubon.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren
  • Scientific Name: Salpinctes obsoletus
  • 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 classic image of a rock wren is a slender grayish bird with a long bill and long legs, bouncing up and down on top of a rock, singing its rhythmic series of metallic trills.

True to their name, rock wrens are nearly always found among rocky surroundings, especially around cliffs and boulder piles.

But don’t go expecting to see rock wrens in Massachusetts! While these birds have an extensive migratory range in the West, they’re incredibly rare on the east coast, especially this far north.

The last confirmed siting of a rock wren in Massachusetts was more than a decade ago, but they’ll probably be seen again at some point!

Wrens Now Extinct in Massachusetts?

If you live in the West, you probably wouldn’t consider Bewick’s wren to be a rare species. But these birds have been disappearing from the east for the last century, and nobody seems to be quite sure as to why.

Competition from house wrens, as well as habitat loss, are two of the foremost theories, but whatever the cause, they’re no longer seen in many of the regions that they once inhabited.

Although they would have never been common this far north, old birding records show that they were once present in New England, including Massachusetts.

Maybe one day, conservation efforts will restore Bewick’s wren populations to the east side, but until then, they can no longer be considered a species belonging to The Bay State.


It’s possible to spot up to six species of wren in Massachusetts in a wide variety of habitats.

Whether you’re feeding Carolina wrens at your backyard feeder, or watching a family of noisy marsh wrens among cattails on a lakeside, there’s plenty of opportunities to encounter these magical little birds in The Bay State.

Considering its small size, you might be amazed to learn that Massachusetts is home to more than 400 other species of birds besides wrens! We’ve whittled them down to 24 of the most alluring, in our Birding Highlights of Massachusetts.

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