From Philly cheesesteaks to the Declaration of Independence, Pennsylvania has modern and historical staples to enjoy. If you’re thinking of doing a little birding here, you’ll be glad to know there are 7 wrens you can spot.
This state is a little underrated for birdwatching, but it’s still a prime location thanks to its diverse environment. Pennsylvania not only has plenty of valleys and forests, but it also has dozens of swamps.
Wrens are a little picky about their environments, generally preferring wetter and overgrown areas where they can forage for insects.
If you’re curious about spotting these charming birds, I’ll give you a few tips. Below is a list of the most common and uncommon species by their appearance, birdsong, and behaviors.
- Species Name: Troglodytes hiemalis
- Length: 8 cm to 12 cm
- Weight: 8 grams to 12 grams
- Wingspan: 12 cm to 16 cm
Despite the state’s generally humid climate, its winters can get pretty brutal. If you feel like birding during the colder months, the winter wren is a must-see bird.
The winter wren will stand out stark against its frosted environment with its cinnamon-brown body, barred wings, and tall barred tail. They have faint flecks of white along their wings.
Like most wrens, males and females look similar.
These wrens are a little less common in Pennsylvania but often crop up in late fall, winter, and very early spring. They occasionally show up in the middle of the state year-round.
These adorable little birds are fond of overgrown and shrubby areas. They’re also regularly spotted near streams and babbling brooks.
If you enjoy hiking or nature photography, try looking for these wrens on the Chuck Keiper Trail or the Black Forest Trail. These scenic routes have all the streams and dense shrubbery these birds love.
You may even spot a few owls while you’re there!
Winter wrens will eat just about any insect they can find – ants, beetles, caterpillars, you name it. They’re particularly fond of spiders and may eat the occasional snail, especially since they’re common in wet environments.
If you don’t feel like backpacking, try attracting these birds to your feeder with mealworms or suet.
Why are winter wrens a must-see bird? Because they’re a must-hear bird – they have a delightfully sweet and melodic song.
The scientific part of winter wrens’ name – troglodytes – comes from the Greek word ‘trogle’. This word means ‘hole’, referring to their foraging and feeding habits.
- Species Name: Troglodytes aedon
- Length: 11 cm to 13 cm
- Weight: 10 grams to 12 grams
- Wingspan: 15 cm
Don’t feel like braving the Pennsylvanian cold? Fortunately, the house wren appears in the state most of the year and is easy to find.
The house wren has soft and earthy coloration, boasting a light gray-brown stomach with darker brown wings. They have thin barring along their wings and tail.
Males and females look very similar. However, if you look closely, you may notice a light, thin eyestripe.
These cute brown birds show up all throughout the state most of the year, though they’re most common during breeding season. They often migrate for winter, though some may linger year-round.
House wrens are adventurous and not exactly shy, frequently appearing in parks and people’s backyards. They love to dive into shrubs and leaf piles where they can eat their fill of insects.
Small insects are the go-to diet for house wrens, particularly crunchy ones like beetles and crickets. Like most wrens, they have a fondness for spiders.
They’re less likely to visit bird feeders, but you may entice them with suet or some peanuts. Increase your chances of bringing them over by creating leaf piles where they can dig for food.
They also love nest boxes where they can easily take care of their young!
House wrens have one of the most dynamic and complex songs in the bird kingdom. Instead of noticeable patterns, they vary up chirps, cheeps, warbles, and chattering notes.
Male house wrens take their courtship ritual seriously, showing prospective females several nests for her to choose from.
- Species Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
- Length: 12 cm to 14 cm
- Weight: 18 grams to 22 grams
- Wingspan: 29 cm
Another accessible bird on this list is the Carolina wren, a year-round staple with more distinctive plumage. They’re a great pick for people who like hiking and staying home.
These round little birds have a light, yellow-brown belly with darker brown wings. Their tall, barred tail and white eyebrow stripe make them a little easier to identify at a glance.
Males and females look similar, but you may notice that males have longer beaks and slightly larger bodies.
Name a location and the Carolina wren is probably there. These adaptable birds are fond of heavily forested areas, but will quickly visit a bird feeder if it has their favorite treats.
While most wrens stick to insects, the Carolina wren has a more diverse diet. Their staple foods are insects such as millipedes and grasshoppers, but they’ll also eat seeds and berries.
You may be able to attract these common wrens to your feeder with sunflower seeds and mealworms. Keep in mind they’re a little more shy than house wrens, so try to place your feeder somewhere shrubby and overgrown.
The Carolina wren song is a short, repetitive warble of twu-chwee-er-chwee-er-chwee-er.
Why do Carolina wrens have such thin, pointy beaks? Like most wrens, these beaks are an adaption to make it easier to stab and pluck up insects.
- Species Name: Cistothorus palustris
- Length: 10 cm to 14 cm
- Weight: 9 grams to 14 grams
- Wingspan: 15 cm
Do you enjoy going on fishing expeditions or scenic kayaking trips? The marsh wren will be easier to spot since they prefer to stick to wetlands and swamps.
The marsh wren sticks out rather starkly against green and yellow grass stems, boasting a light gray-brown body and pointed tail. Their wings are flecked with black and white spots.
These busy birds usually show up in Pennsylvania during the breeding season, though their numbers briefly pick up once they migrate in the fall.
Marsh wrens prefer to stick to swamps where they can bounce between grass stalks. They’re quite active in the morning, so early birds (pun intended) will have more luck spotting them!
From flying insects to spiders, marsh wrens will chase after just about anything. They’ll also eat a healthy diet of snails, a common sight in wet and overgrown swamps.
You’re not likely to see these birds at a feeder, but keep them in mind for your next outdoor adventure. Thunder Swamp is a prime pick for spotting these wrens, but make sure to wear long sleeves and bring bug spray.
The marsh wren has an extremely buzzy song, sounding more like a zipper than a traditional songbird. Considering their habitats are usually peaceful and well-tended swamplands, you’ll hear them instantly.
The marsh wren is quite a musical fellow, able to remember up to 200 different songs.
- Species Name: Cistothorus stellaris
- Length: 10 cm to 12 cm
- Weight: 7 grams to 10 grams
- Wingspan: 12 cm to 14 cm
This rare bird doesn’t show up often in Pennsylvania, but it’s not an accidental species. You’ll likely see them in the same environments as the similar-looking marsh wren.
The sedge wren has rather warm coloration with its light yellow-brown stomach and brown wings. It’s flecked with black along its head and black with bright orange legs.
It’s easy to confuse the sedge wren with the marsh wren but keep a close eye on their wing patterns. Sedge wrens have more flecking and barring than their marsh cousins – they’re also a little lighter.
The sedge wren has a similar range to the marsh wren, preferring wetlands and marshes where it’s easy to forage. They usually crop up in the western portion of the state during breeding season.
However, their lower population numbers make them tricky to spot.
These plump birds enjoy a wide variety of bugs such as caterpillars, locusts, and weevils. Say it with me now – they also can’t resist a crunchy, leggy spider.
Sedge wrens aren’t fond of feeders and tend to be shy, so only the sharpest-eyed birder will be able to spot them on a marshland trail.
These wrens may be tricky to find, but their song is quite distinctive. They let loose bright, sharp chirps and buzzy trills.
While female sedge wrens usually feed their chicks, males will sometimes take over feeding duty.
- Species Name: Salpinctes obsoletus
- Length: 12 to 15 cm
- Weight: 15 grams to 18 grams
- Wingspan: 22 cm to 24 cm
What wren is even rarer in Pennsylvania than the sedge wren? The good, ol’ rock wren is an accidental species you’ll have to get lucky to spot.
The rock wren earned its title by being able to blend easily into its smooth, mountainous environment. Their bodies are a light gray-brown with extensive barring on their wings and tail.
While males and females look similar, males are often more chatty and spend much of their time singing.
These wrens much prefer dry and mountainous areas where there are few trees. As such, steer clear of marshlands and see if you can spot them while on a mountain hike.
Beetles and spiders are the rock wren’s favorite food – interestingly enough, this bird rarely drinks water. They get more than enough moisture from their diet.
The rock wren is not only rare, but their bird call doesn’t make things any easier. They have a diverse call that will change in pitch and frequency constantly.
Just how little water do rock wrens drink? When held in captivity, these incredible birds still refuse any water given to them.
- Species Name: Thryomanes bewickii
- Length: 13 cm
- Weight: 8 grams to 12 grams
- Wingspan: 18 cm
This wren is even rarer in Pennsylvania, widely considered to be an accidental species. They used to be common back in the 70s before vanishing.
I always thought the Bewick’s wren had a more gull-like appearance. It has a light brown back, a bright white stomach, and a tall blue-gray tail.
These secretive wrens are quite fond of shrubby thickets, dense vegetation, and woodland areas. If you’re lucky, you may spot them while traversing one of Pennsylvania’s many forest trails.
The Bewick’s wren is fond of both crunchy insects as well as larvae. Interestingly enough, they’ll often chase after bees.
The backyard birder may be able to attract a few with suet or mealworms, but you’ll have to be patient and very lucky!
This wren has a sharply rising call followed by warbling trills. They almost sound like they’re swooping in and out of earshot.
This wren was named after Thomas Bewick, a close friend of the famed birder John James Audubon.
Pennsylvania Is Lush With Swamps and Forests for the Active Birder
The outdoor birder will have the pick of the litter when seeking out wren species in Pennsylvania. Most of these birds prefer to forage in trails or stick to their favorite marshlands.
However, backyard birders willing to get strategic with their feeders may be able to attract house wrens or an elusive Bewick’s wren.
I highly recommend the scenic Thunder Swamp, Chuck Keiper Trail, or Black Forest Trail for spotting the majority of these wren species. They’re particularly lovely photography spots, too.
If you’re curious to spot other species, we’ve got the guide for you. Our birds in Pennsylvania list will help you find finches, grouses, and more.