Tennessee is a state best known for birthing classic American iconography such as Tennessee whiskey and the blues. If you’re a birding fan in the area, you’ll be able to find 6 different wren species, too!
How does the smooth and hilly terrain of Tennessee attract a bird species known for favoring wetlands and forests? With winding streams and romantic steppes, even wrens can’t resist taking up roost.
Some wren species actually prefer rockier and drier areas where they can more easily access certain insects. Other species may also shake up their migration patterns depending on their age.
Which wrens can you expect to see in Tennessee? My guide below will offer some tips on spotting them as well as prime birding locations.
- Species Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
- Length: 12 cm to 14 cm
- Weight: 18 grams to 22 grams
- Wingspan: 29 cm
Let’s start off the list with the most common wren in the state! Despite sharing a name with a different state, you can expect to see this bird year-round here.
These plump birds have a light tan-yellow belly and warm brown body. Their round shape and bold white eyestripe give them a charming appearance.
Males and females look very similar, as is the case with most wren species. A sharp eye may notice that males have longer beaks and are a little heavier.
While these wrens are common in the state, they’re also a little on the shy side. They have a tendency to duck and hide in dense vegetation, shrubs, and forest edges.
However, a shrubby and overgrown backyard will be very enticing…
Carolina wrens usually forage for insects or spiders, both of which are quite common in their favorite forested areas. That said, they may eat the occasional frog or lizard – pretty impressive considering how thin their beaks are!
Their diverse diet also includes a craving for sunflower seeds and suet, particularly when it gets cold. Keep your feeder stocked during the winter months to bring them over.
Carolina wrens have a soft and repetitive call of low, simple warbles. They have a noticeable pattern of twu-wee-er or twu-chwee-er-chwee-er.
Three’s a crowd! While songbirds are known for traveling in flocks, the Carolina wren usually travels solo or in a pair.
- Species Name: Troglodytes hiemalis
- Length: 8 cm to 12 cm
- Weight: 8 grams to 12 grams
- Wingspan: 12 cm to 16 cm
This wren makes it easy to remember when they usually show up in Tennessee – during the winter! Fortunately, this state often sees milder winters that are perfect for birds who can’t stand the cold.
The winter wren has a soft brown body with a noticeable barred pattern along its belly, wings, and tail. If you look closely (or have a pair of binoculars), you’ll notice white flecking on their wings.
They also have a faint white streak along their eyes, though this is not always noticeable.
These wrens usually show up across the state during nonbreeding season. They travel up north throughout Canada once it’s time to mate, then promptly migrate back down.
Dense forests are their favorite environments due to the abundance of insects. They prefer to forage along the ground and are more likely to duck into shrubs when danger arrives.
These active birds work hard to forage and dig for their favorite food groups – insects and spiders. They’ll even eat millipedes and snails!
It’s easier to spot these birds in their natural habitat – lush and tangled forest. If you’re in the mood for a trip, consider visiting the gorgeous Rainbow Falls Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This bird’s distinctive song is the very definition of sugary sweet. Expect to hear bright, high-pitched trills and chirps.
This bird is often compared to a mouse due to its brown body, plump shape, and habit of foraging along the ground.
- Species Name: Troglodytes aedon
- Length: 11 cm to 13 cm
- Weight: 10 grams to 12 grams
- Wingspan: 15 cm
This wren is a rather common sight in the state and a great pick for people who like to shake up their birding habits. They’re just as likely to show up in urban environments as well as forest locations.
The house wren blends easily into the foliage of their environment with their tan stomach and gray-brown wings. They have light barring along their back and tail.
Like most adult wrens, they have a thin, tweezer-like beak and plump body. Their tail sometimes sticks up straight like a flag.
These birds tend to show up year-round in Tennessee, though they usually migrate through the western portion of the state. They’re just as comfortable in forests as they are in your backyard.
These active birds love to forage and explore for all kinds of insects. They’ll eat grasshoppers, crickets, millipedes, moths, and plenty of spiders!
They’re not big fans of bird feeders, but there’s another way to attract them – nest boxes. Building a bird nest is tough work, so they’re eager to save energy when they can.
House wrens have a playful and jaunty call with no discernible patterns. One moment they’ll be chirping, the next they’ll be trilling!
When males find a mate, they produce a ‘whispering song’ where they don’t open their beaks at all.
- Species Name: Cistothorus palustris
- Length: 10 cm to 14 cm
- Weight: 9 grams to 14 grams
- Wingspan: 15 cm
These wrens are a little less common in the state due to the gradual loss of the state’s wetlands. However, conservation efforts have ensured the marsh wren will still show up occasionally!
The marsh wren has a light gray belly, brown body, and speckled black-and-white wings. Their tail often sticks straight up, almost like they’re trying to send a signal.
Some birds will have a little white eyebrow stripe, though this can be hard to see at a glance.
These birds are tricky to spot since they steer clear of urban environments, greatly favoring the reeds and stalks of wet marshlands. They also tend to show up during migration, so keep a close eye during the fall.
If you’re traveling with family and want to go birding somewhere with plenty to do, visit Meeman-Shelby State Forest Park. You’ll have access not just to marshes and swamps, but campsites!
These birds are incredibly agile, hopping from stalk to stalk to pluck any unsuspecting insects from the water. Like most wrens, they can’t resist spiders and snails.
Marsh wrens have an extremely buzzy song that can get very fast. Sometimes they’ll sound like a sprinkler going che-che-che-che-che.
Despite the bird’s coarse and buzzy call, they’re incredibly creative – some marsh wrens can sing up to 200 songs!
- Species Name: Cistothorus stellaris
- Length: 10 cm to 12 cm
- Weight: 7 grams to 10 grams
- Wingspan: 12 cm to 14 cm
These wrens are also less common in Tennessee but keep an eye out while on the open trail. They also enjoy wetlands as well as overgrown, lush meadows.
The sedge wren looks pretty similar to a marsh wren but with a few subtle differences. They have heavier stripes and streaking than marsh wrens as well as a brighter stomach.
Sedge wrens are scarce in the eastern portion of Tennessee, but show up in the rest of the state during migration.
They stick to grasslands and marshes where they can forage for plenty of insects.
These wrens enjoy a diverse diet of insects such as beetles, locusts, caterpillars, and ants. If you want to spot them more easily, look to the ground instead of the sky – they spend much of their time foraging.
While most wrens are warblers and trillers, these birds have a unique call of very short chirps. Expect to hear the occasional chit-chit-chrrrrr.
While these birds usually forage along the ground, they’ll still snatch insects in mid-air if they’re hungry enough.
- Species Name: Thryomanes bewickii
- Length: 13 cm
- Weight: 8 grams to 12 grams
- Wingspan: 18 cm
This wren species is an extremely rare sight in Tennessee, but it’s worth putting on the list for its gorgeous appearance. They look more at home near the sea than in a landlocked state!
The Bewick’s wren is an elegant fellow with a bright white stomach, light brown body, and tall blue-gray tail. They have a thin gray bill and a bold whitish eyebrow.
These secretive birds prefer to stick to shrubby fields, woodlands, and hilly areas. Since they’re so rare in Tennessee, you may increase your chances of spotting them with some backyard birding.
The Bewick’s wren is an incredibly active bird, foraging for insects and their eggs in their favorite overgrown thickets. However, they’re keen on visiting feeders in the winter when their food supply is scarce.
Keep your feeder stocked with suet, sunflower seeds, or mealworms. You may get lucky and spot one!
This bird’s sweet songs make me think of a happy freefall. They let loose rising notes that end in bubbly trills.
When the Bewick’s wren raises its children, it doesn’t teach them songs – the chicks will learn their songs from other territorial males.
Tennessee Has Plenty of Opportunities for Quiet, Peaceful Birding
With Tennessee’s rollicking and charming culture, it’s easy to overlook its more peaceful birding opportunities. The state’s gorgeous forest trails and fiercely protected marshlands make it prime for spotting wren species.
If you don’t have the ability or time to visit the Meeman-Shelby State Forest Park or the Rainbow Falls Trail, try a little backyard birding. House wrens love visiting homemade nest boxes and you may attract Carolina wrens with their favorite treats!
Plan on doing more birding in Tennessee? Our Birds in Tennessee guide covers several bird species throughout the state such as warblers, sparrows, and woodpeckers.