Wrens in Michigan

5 Wrens in Michigan: Their Characteristics and Habitats

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Famous for its great lakes, islands, rivers, forests, and even mountains, Michigan has no shortage of beautiful landscapes. With 78 state parks, Michigan also has the largest state park system of any state.

These diverse, unspoiled surroundings provide a fantastic setting for birds and bird watchers alike. There have been around 450 bird species recorded in the Great Lake State, including 5 regularly occurring wrens.

But as urban dwellers know, wrens are not only found in the wild. As resourceful opportunists, some types of wren have adapted to human habitation and can be seen foraging or nesting in backyards, too.

Michigan residents can increase their chances of wrens visiting their homes by offering them suitable nest boxes and overgrown corners of the garden for them to hunt for insects.

But which 5 wren species can be found in Michigan? Can you guess them all? Also, don’t miss the end of the article where we’ll touch on two more wrens that make a very occasional appearance in Michigan.

Wrens in Michigan, Starting With the Most Commonly Seen

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)

House wrens are by far the most common wren species in Michigan but are only seen here during the spring and summer breeding seasons. In winter, they vacate the state for warmer climates in the Southeastern States and Central America.

These slim, agile little birds are entertaining to watch as they skip and hop their way through the undergrowth in search of invertebrates to eat. House wrens also possess a powerful bubbling song that will often give away their presence.

You can attract house wrens to your backyard by offering them a suitable nest box. Even without the invitation, these opportunistic birds have been known to nest in old mailboxes or old jars or tins lying in a quiet garage!

Like many other wrens, male house wrens will build several ‘dummy nests’ to impress females. Once the female has decided upon the suitable site, she’ll often ditch the male’s nesting efforts and start over with her own superior nesting materials!

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)

Unlike their migratory relatives, Carolina wrens are the only wren in the East to remain in the same territories throughout the year. But because of Michigan’s cold climate, they’re currently only regularly seen in the southern fringes of the state.

These large wrens are blessed with attractive features such as long white eyebrows, a white chin, and a buffy-orange belly. They have a tuneful, repetitive, and distinctive song that can also be useful to locate and identify them.

Carolina wrens mate for life and will sometimes nest in birdhouses. They have a wide-ranging diet that includes small animals such as reptiles, and they’ll sometimes visit platform feeders and tube feeders, too!

As the climate warms, the Carolina wren’s native range may stretch further north.

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)

The aptly named winter wren has the most northerly distribution of any wren in the United States and can be found in Michigan throughout the year. While the northern half of the state offers them a breeding ground, they overwinter along the state’s southern border, too.

The classic encounter with a winter wren is in a damp forest or shady thicket. The way that they creep hurriedly through the undergrowth may make you suspect a mouse rather than a bird!

The round, plump shape of the winter wren helps them survive cold climates, and these typically solitary creatures will occasionally congregate in birdhouses and other cavities during the coldest weather to keep warm!

The winter wren has one of the most impressive voices in the family. Listen out for their high-pitched trills that might make your heart stop if they catch you off-guard!

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)

Accurately named, the marsh wren is a true wetland dweller. Rarely seen anywhere without standing water, these highly territorial birds build their nests among dense, marshy vegetation such as cattails, tules, and reeds.

Amid a feisty family, marsh wrens are perhaps the fiercest of them all. During the spring, males fight for the affection of females, and will sometimes even destroy their rivals’ nests!

The eastern subspecies of marsh wren are summer visitors in Michigan when they can be seen throughout the state. In winter, they vacate to coastal regions in the east and south of the country.

To observe these elusive birds nesting, you’ll need a good pair of binoculars and a dedicated trip out to a marshland habitat. You might also spot them briefly passing through other parts of the state during the spring and fall migration seasons.

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)

A close relative of the marsh wren, sedge wrens are smaller, more peaceful versions of their macho cousins. They also have lighter plumage and a more gentle song.

Perhaps due to competition from marsh wrens, sedge wrens have evolved to nest in drier habitats than their cousins. Look out for them in sedge grass habitats and damp meadows.

Other than the extremely rare Sinaloa wren, sedge wrens are the rarest wren in the United States. While official reports suggest that their numbers are stable, some scientists In Michigan are concerned that habitat loss could be causing their numbers to decline.

At present, the sedge wren is reported by just under 2% of birdwatchers in Michigan during the summer months.

Two That Got Away

While sedge wrens are only seen by around 1 in 50 birdwatchers in Michigan, there are two more species that are seen far less often than that.

Rock wrens and Bewick wrens are both only spotted in Michigan every few years, meaning they can’t be considered true residents of the state, but make for a highly prized sighting!

If you do happen to spot either of these species in the northeast, try to get a decent photo and report it to a relevant birdwatching authority such as Michigan Audubon.


Of the eleven wrens in North America, five can be considered as regularly occurring in Michigan.

While house wrens are a fairly common sight here during the warmer months, other species of wren are either highly localized or fairly rare this far north.

Whether you’re a Michigan local or on a birdwatching excursion, you might enjoy our other birding guides to Michigan. A good place to start is our highlights of The Great Lake State: A Guide to 15 of the Most Iconic Birds in Michigan.

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