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Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

Wren ( Troglodytes troglodytes )

Order : Passerines (Passeriformes)
Subordination : Songbirds (passeri)
Superfamily : Certhioidea
Family : Wrens (Troglodytidae)
Genre : Troglodytes
Type : Wren
Scientific name
Troglodytes troglodytes
( Linnaeus , 1758)

The wren ( Troglodytes troglodytes ) is the only one in Eurasia occurring type of the bird family of wrens (Troglodytidae). It is the third smallest bird in Europe after winter and summer golden chickens . For a long time he was called the Snow King because he sings lively even in winter. The wren colonizes Europe, North Africa , Front , Central and East Asia and North America . Its diet consists of spiders , harvestmen and insects such as moths and flies , as well as their eggs and larvae . The species is currently not considered endangered.

In stories, the wren has a reputation for cunning and cunning. This gossip goes back to a fable by Aesop , according to which the birds once decided to make the king who would fly the highest. The eagle succeeded in doing this , but the wren managed by a ruse to surpass it.


The wren is - like all representatives of the genus - of a round shape with a mostly raised tail. The pointed, slightly curved beak is colored black-brown in the upper part and yellowish in the lower part. The iris of the eye is nut brown. The plumage is red-brown on the top and pale brown on the underside. An indistinct cream-colored over-eye line ends on the dark ear covers. There are dark brown wavy lines on the tail, wings and flanks. Males and females look alike. While the wings are 45 to 48 millimeters long in the female, they are between 49 and 53 millimeters long in the male. The feet are flesh-colored to brownish. Wrens have a body length of 9.5 to 11 centimeters. The wingspan is 14 to 15 centimeters and the body weight is usually between 7.5 and 11 grams.

The young birds are similar to the adults, but the dark banding is not as pronounced. The nestlings have short, thin, dark gray down on their head and back . The throat is bright yellow and the marginal ridges are pale yellow. The juvenile moult takes place in Central Europe between the end of July and the end of October, depending on hatching. The time of the breeding moult, a full moult of the adult birds, is from August to October. The rest moulting as a partial moulting takes place from January to April.

The wren can climb vertically up a trunk with long toes and strong claws, but cannot come down head first. It flies with rapid flaps of its wings in a straight line and directly over the ground.

Voice and singing

The wren's voice feel call is expressed in a loud, hard “tek” “tek”. When aroused, “dzrr-dzrr” is shouted, which can be stretched into a long “drrrrr”.

The male's song ? / i is blusteringly loud with trills and rollers and ends abruptly. It is made up of around 130 different sounds. Performed by higher singers, it can be heard at a source volume of 40 to 90  decibels at a distance of up to 500 meters. A full stanza is usually four to five seconds long, but it can last up to seven seconds. It is subdivided into the components "Introduction - Smash Tour - Intermediate Tones - Smash Tour - Intermediate Tones - Roller". Females sing less loud, simple songs. The singing can be performed both from the lower herb layer and from elevated singing rooms. The wren often changes position by jumping movements. During the breeding season, the males begin their singing in the early hours of the morning, often shortly after four o'clock, reaching their climax in the morning before the singing decreases significantly in the afternoon. Another peak can be observed in the early evening hours. The singing activities end in the late evening. Audio file / audio sample

European and Japanese wrens have a repertoire of six to seven frequently repeatable song types that are comparable in duration and complexity. The birds of eastern North America have a similar song organization, but the internal microstructure is simpler and contains only one to three types of song. These two singing groups are very different from the wrens of western North America, whose songs have a greater internal variety, more variable song sequences and a significantly larger repertoire of song types (30 or more).

Young males sing fewer and simpler songs than experienced males. The complexity of the singing increases especially after the early moult and in the spring, so that after a year there is a repertoire from soft whispering to loud territorial singing. Experienced males give an average of 21 song types with many variations, which could be shown by recording at least two mornings a week. Syllables are not arranged haphazardly in the chants; for example, certain types of syllables based on an acoustic figure are preferred in the introduction of a song. The possibilities for transitioning between syllable types are applied unevenly for consecutive syllables, but consistently over the years. The vocal repertoire is unlikely to be fixed, so the nature of the vocal types varies both in the breeding season and between years.

Sonagram examinations indicate that the variety of elements in the entire song potentially enables effective communication through information transfer over long and relevant distances. In addition, the variety of the singing opens up flexible possibilities to assess the ranking.

During the breeding season, males and females often perform a duet . Juvenile birds still sing softly and incompletely in the first year of life (youth singing). Full song begins when sexual maturity is reached. The main activity is in the breeding season. After the moult, the singing decreases significantly and increases again a little at migration time. In the winter months, the singing sounds rather soft and sparse. In autumn, according to Dallmann, you can mainly hear juvenile birds singing.

distribution and habitat

Distribution map

The wren colonizes Europe, North Africa, Front, Central and East Asia and North America. In Europe, it is absent in northern Fennoscandia and northern Russia . It lives in areas from the plain to an altitude of 4,000 meters. The wren is a resident bird in North Africa and North America , part migrant in Central and Southern Europe and Asia, and a migratory bird in Scandinavia , the Baltic States and Russia . Young birds that do not yet have a territory of their own join mostly migrating populations in order to migrate as far south as they want. In winter the wren is absent in the mountain forests of the Alps and in the low mountain range.

The wren lives in bushes , hedges and in the thickets of forests , gardens and parks. If there is a corresponding offer of hiding places, it can be found in the open cultural landscape. His preferred habitats include stream meadows with cleared root systems and creeping and climbing plants, as well as undergrowth- rich forests and field trees. It also often colonizes areas near water . The wren overwinters in forests, parks and gardens with covering shrubs and a layer of herbs , often near large bodies of water. It can often be found individually in stables and barns , in natural gardens also on clad house walls, mostly gardens with garden ponds. He's not particularly shy there either.


Depending on the area of ​​distribution, the autumn migration can begin in September and extend into early November. The spring migration usually occurs between March and May. In mountainous areas there is a partial move into the valleys. Northern European populations usually migrate to central or southern Europe. The wrens in northern North America seek winter quarters in the central and southern US states or in northern Mexico . In Asia, the northern populations mostly move to southwest or south-east Asia.

The habitats in the winter quarters are often in forests, which are characterized by a thick herbaceous layer. Reed-rich habitats are also gladly accepted. In contrast to the breeding season, wrens are often found in stables, barns, greenhouses and similar places in localities. The train takes place both during the day and during the night.

On the basis of ring finds, statements about the wandering behavior of the wrens could be made for the first time. According to this, around 87 percent of the predominantly ringed captives and nestlings moved within a radius of up to 50 kilometers. Between three and four percent each resulted in distances of 51 to 100 kilometers and 101 to 200 kilometers. In addition, the ring finds showed significantly decreasing values, so that these probably come from migrants.

Way of life

Food and subsistence

Female with an insect in front of the nest with blocking young birds
Female feeds a caterpillar to a cub

The wren feeds mainly on animal food all year round. It prefers to eat spiders , harvestmen , mites , small crustaceans , woodlice , millipedes and insects as well as their eggs and larvae . Insects he destroyed mainly small moths , small dragonflies , the commons earwig ( Forficula auricularia ), Orthoptera , bugs , ants , Hymenoptera , lacewings , mosquitoes , butterflies , flies and mosquitoes . Its diet also includes tadpoles and mollusks . Sometimes it feeds on small seeds . Now and then he eats blackberries , raspberries and elderberries . Occasionally he also eats grapes by being able to slip through fruit nets himself. Small animals living in shallow water are also part of the diet.

The search for prey takes place mainly near the ground, in the roots , in brushwood and at the edge of the water. More rarely, the prey is picked up in the branches of trees or bushes . Foraging habitats are usually in the immediate vicinity of a body of water, since the food supply there is higher than elsewhere and is even given in winter. The wren slips through the undergrowth , penetrates with its long and slender beak into the smallest cracks and joints in the bark as well as into knotholes and finds insects, spiders and larvae there. The indigestible chitin parts are choked out as spits. At the edge of the water, the wren picks up small animals from the water. While females generally only look for food near the ground, males also go into the branches of tall trees.


The wren is active during the day and at dusk. However, the migration to the winter quarters can also take place at night. The wren usually leaves his sleeping place with the first light of day in the morning and looks for it again shortly after dark. During the rest phases, the wren is usually alone in dense ground vegetation, rarely in one of its electoral nests. However, females spend the night in the nest during the breeding season. The wren mostly hides in the thick vegetation of bushes. It often slips lively and skillfully from one bush to the next cover. He usually avoids flying longer distances. Usually it overcomes water surfaces at low altitude.

The wren usually clean its plumage in dense vegetation on the ground. It is cleaned with the beak and greased with a secretion from the root gland. The beak is usually sharpened on small branches and cleaned in this way. To bathe he looks for damp grass or takes a dust, sand or sunbath. He rarely goes into the water to do this.

The wren is a territorial loner all year round. While males are generally incompatible with one another, females can breed in close proximity to one another largely without conflict. Young birds in the first year of life can form smaller groups. The wren stalks his cock with slight agitation, curtsies sitting over medium excitement and tends with strong and sudden excitement to shock Mauser . Aroused males usually show an erect tail and sing louder. If the wren perceives other animals, it usually behaves inconspicuously in the bushes and makes clever use of cover. While females have a short distance to flee and behave very cautiously, males warn of danger with violent exclamations and appear excited. Males in particular often successfully drive away squirrels and cats with their hissing sound .

The male keeps and secures a territory all year round. The breeding area is defended particularly vigorously against the competition. If the singing from high singing observatories is not enough, male conspecifics are persecuted with insults, so that fierce fights often develop. The intensity of the territorial defense is strongest near the nest and becomes somewhat weaker towards the borders. The females are not true to their territory during the breeding season, but defend their own foraging territory in winter. Due to the increasing competition as a result, fights and border shifts are possible even outside the breeding season. The distribution of the territories is therefore subject to annual fluctuations that are stronger than usual after hard winters.

In winter, wrens occasionally try to shelter themselves in a dormitory at night when it's extremely cold. Up to twenty birds lie close to each other in a circle in an old wren's nest or nesting box, their heads stuck inwards and their tails outwards. Some sleeping places are used regularly over several winters. Occasionally wrens also use other birds' nests to spend the night.

Reproduction and development

The wren reaches sexual maturity in the first year of life. In Central Europe, the first brood takes place in late April / May and usually a second in June / July. As a rule, the male lives with several females, rarely monogamous .

Nest building


In spring the male looks for a breeding ground. There, upon arrival, several nests begin to be built in the shell. The choice of nest locations depends on both the terrain and the vegetation. The nests are usually at a height of no more than two meters under broken wood and tree roots, under washed-out brook banks or in thick bushes. Furthermore, hiding places in hedges, under bridges, in old walls or in stables are suitable nesting places. Nests are also found in dried up animal corpses, in laundry hung up to dry, in the nesting tubes of the kingfisher and sand martin , in nests of dipper , bag tit and other birds built. They can also be found in the framework of roofs or in appropriate nesting boxes . The wren often tolerates the nests of robins , dunnock , blackcocks , house sparrows and red-shouldered blackbirds in the immediate vicinity of their nesting site.

The nest is oval and spherical closed with a side entrance; Size and material vary depending on the location. The ball nest is usually built from moss , dry leaves , fronds of ferns , stems and small branches and roots. The male first forms the nest floor and back wall from moist leaves and then reinforces the whole thing with stalks, roots and branches. After about a hemisphere has been made, it continues to build mostly with damp moss until the sphere is closed. Some nests are made entirely from moss. It is important that the material is damp so that it can solidify its shape when it dries. The nest is usually about 16 inches high and 13 inches wide. The side entry hole has a diameter of 2.5 centimeters and is specially reinforced at the edges. The male builds up to eight shells before the first copulation. Then it can make another two to four nests.

Courtship and mating

As soon as a nest has been built, the male begins to sing to attract a female. If someone comes near him, the singing becomes soft and incomplete. If interested, the female adopts a courtship posture by moving her fanned tail up and down and sideways to and fro with its hanging, constantly twitching wings. Now the male flies to the female. However, sometimes the female flies away, whereupon the male follows him. After singing again, it flies back with the female. The male finally slips into one of his nests while singing to show it off. The female looks at the nest from the outside and sometimes slips in for a period of at least ten seconds up to a minute to check the nest for stability, size and structure. If the female shows her interest with a slight "tzerr", she is ready to mate and changes her posture. In a crouching position, it trembles with its wings off and flaps its fanned tail downwards. Immediately after copulation , the male flies to his song observatory.

In the following days, the female upholstered the nest with moss, wool and feathers . Meanwhile the male tries to build more nests and to win over every approaching female. Mating with five females was observed in one breeding season.

Five nestlings

Egg laying and brood care

Females in front of ball nest with barring cubs

Five to six days after the first copulation, the female lays the first egg. Each day, shortly before sunrise, another one is laid until five to eight eggs are in the nest. The basic color is matt white with rust-red points, which condense towards the blunt pole. On average, they measure 16.6 × 12.6 mm. Their fresh weight is 1.36 grams and the shell weight is 0.074 grams. After the last egg has been deposited, the female incubates alone for 14 to 18 days. It has to provide for itself with food during the breeding season. If the first brood is lost, a second clutch follows.

Fledgling wren chick shortly after leaving the nest

After the first brood has fled out, the female takes care of the second clutch. It could not be observed that the young were involved in rearing the second brood. Occasionally wrens feed nestlings of other species: blue tit , great tit , coal tit , bloodline , tree sparrow , dipper and chiffchaff .

The eggs of corvids are threatened , especially jays in forests , but also rats , mice and hedgehogs . The cuckoo poses a further risk for the brood . In this case, the female brings the egg with her beak into the nest through the entrance hole, so that the young bird sticks its head out of the entrance hole just before it leaves and with each feeding Kick your feet until the nest bursts apart.

Development of the young birds

After hatching for a day, the young are naked and blind. The female carries the eggshells up to 25 meters from the nest. If there is a body of water nearby, they will be thrown into it. The female eats the excrement up to the fifth day, from the sixth day it carries it away (see series of images). From the fourth day the boys' eyes begin to open. After eight days, begging calls can be heard, encouraging the male to participate in the feeding. However, it only helps sporadically and irregularly. By the tenth day, the boys are from the female brooded . In the event of danger, they can usually leave the nest within 14 to 17 days. Sometimes they can do this as early as ten days.

After flying out, the young birds are led by the male, but rarely fed. The unoccupied nests are now used as sleeping nests. The boys are still traveling together long after they fledged. They are particularly at risk from cats , martens , squirrels , rats and foxes, but also from sparrowhawks , hawks and falcons .

The average life expectancy is three to four years. The wren will not live to be more than seven years old.


External system

Until 1990 the genus Donacabius belonged to the monophyletic family of wrens (Troglodytidae). The wren ( Troglodytes troglodytes ) has also been considered a close relative of the American species of the genus Troglodytes . Phylogenetic studies from 1999 based on studies of mitochondrial DNA sequences from ten species of the family of wrens (Troglodytidae) reveal new insights into the relationships between the groups. Accordingly, the genus divides troglodytes in a tropical montane group the House Wren ( troglodytes aedon ) and troglodytes musculus includes, and a north-flachländische group comprising the two northernmost montane taxa ( troglodytes rufociliatus , troglodytes brunneicollis contains). In order to emphasize the marked differences to the American species of the genus Troglodytes and to avoid paraphyly , the wren ( Nannus troglodytes ) is classified in the monotypical genus Nannus , which is closely related to the mountain wren ( Thryorchilus browni ).

Other studies of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences in 2003 concluded from their results that the family of wrens (Troglodytidae) is monophyletic. The only exception is the genus Donacabius in the group with Zosterops , Prinia and Sitta in order to avoid paraphyly. Furthermore, the family Trogloditae with the genus Polioptila from the family of mosquito catchers (Polioptilidae) should form a sister group. In addition, the genera Troglodytes and Cistothorus represent sister groups, whereby the genus Salpinctes ( rock wren ( Salpinctes obsoletus )) is related to all species of the Trogloditae. Investigations from 2004 assume that the genus Troglodytes , which contains the mountain wren ( Thryorchilus browni ), forms a separate group with Cistothorus . Here the domestic wren ( Troglodytes aedon ) and Troglodytes musculus intermedius represent the closest relatives of the wren.

Further investigations of mitochondrial DNA sequences see the wren 2005 also as an isolated nannus troglodytes , but want to determine its final systematic position only after clarification of the classification of the genera Cistothorus and Thryorchilus in relation to troglodytes . Therefore two models (see below) are assumed. In both cases, Troglodytes brunneicollis is seen as closely related to the domestic wren ( Troglodytes aedon ) and Troglodytes musculus as well as to Thryomanes sissonii (clade A).

Cladogram 1

 Cistothorus platensis


 Thryorchilus browni


 Troglodytes rufulus


 Troglodytes ochraceus


 Troglodytes solstitialis


 Troglodytes rufociliatus


 Troglodytes brunneicollis

  Clade A  

 Troglodytes sissonii


 Troglodytes musculus


 Troglodytes aedon


 Wren ( Nannus troglodytes )

Cladogram 2

 Thryorchilus browni


 Troglodytes rufociliatus


 Troglodytes rufulus


 Troglodytes ochraceus


 Troglodytes solstitialis


 Troglodytes brunneicollis

  Clade A  

 Troglodytes sissonii


 Troglodytes musculus


 Troglodytes aedon


 Wren ( Nannus troglodytes )


 Cistothorus platensis

Internal system

Twenty-eight subspecies are known according to the IOC World Bird List.

  • Troglodytes troglodytes islandicus Hartert, E , 1907 occurs in Iceland .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes borealis Fischer, JCH , 1861 is widespread on the Faroe Islands .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes zetlandicus Hartert, E , 1910 occurs on the Shetland Islands .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes fridariensis Williamson , 1951 is distributed on Fair Isle .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis Seebohm , 1884 is widespread on St. Kilda .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes hebridensis Meinertzhagen, R , 1924 occurs on the Outer Hebrides except St. Kilda.
  • Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus Clancey , 1937 is common in Ireland and Great Britain .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes troglodytes ( Linnaeus , 1758) occurs in most of mainland Europe.
  • Troglodytes troglodytes kabylorum Hartert, E , 1910 is distributed in northwestern Africa , the Balearic Islands and southern Spain .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes koenigi Schiebel , 1910 occurs in Corsica and Sardinia .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes juniperi Hartert, E , 1922 is common in northeast Libya .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes cypriotes ( Bate , 1903) occurs in Cyprus , western and southern Turkey to northern Israel .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes hyrcanus Zarudny & Loudon , 1905 is distributed in the Crimea , northern Turkey, the Caucasus, and northern and western Iran .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes tianschanicus Sharpe , 1882 is distributed over the mountains of Central Asia in northeastern Afghanistan .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes subpallidus Zarudny & Loudon , 1905 occurs from north-east Iran through south Uzbekistan and north-west Afghanistan.
  • Troglodytes troglodytes magrathi ( Whitehead, CHT , 1907) is common in southeastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes neglectus Brooks, WE , 1872 occurs in the western Himalayas .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes nipalensis Blyth , 1845 is common in the central and eastern Himalayas.
  • Troglodytes troglodytes idius ( Richmond , 1907) occurs in north-central China .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes szetschuanus Hartert, E , 1910 is widespread in western central China.
  • Troglodytes troglodytes talifuensis ( Sharpe , 1902) occurs from southern China through northeast Myanmar .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes dauricus Dybowski & Taczanowski , 1884 is distributed in south-east Siberia , north-east China, Korea and Tsushima .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes pallescens ( Ridgway , 1883) occurs on the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Commander Islands.
  • Troglodytes troglodytes kurilensis Stejneger , 1889 is widespread in the north of the Kuril Islands .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes fumigatus Temminck , 1835 occurs in the south of the Kuril Islands, on Sakhalin and in Japan .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes mosukei Momiyama , 1923 is common in the Izu Islands .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes ogawae Hartert, E , 1910 occurs on Yakushima and Tanegashima .
  • Troglodytes troglodytes taivanus Hartert, E , 1910 is common in Taiwan .

Other sources, however, assume that there are significantly more subspecies. The traditional three-part division (1. T. t. Troglodytes group: North Africa, Europe to Inner Asia: 11 UA; 2. T. t. Fumigatus group: East Asia and Himalayas: 13 UA; 3. T. t. Hiemalis group : North America: 8 UA) recognizes 32 subspecies, while another source recognizes three new groups (1. East: T. t. Hiemalis group; 2. Pacific: T. t. Pacificus group; 3. Pribilofs: T. t . alascensis group). Finally there is a source that assumes 46 subspecies. The Borodino wren ( Troglodytes troglodytes orii ) recorded there is particularly controversial.

Comparative studies of the wren's song behavior in Europe, Japan, and eastern and western North America coincide with the hypothesis that populations in the montane region of western North America were probably isolated before the wren of "eastern" North America colonized the Old World across the Bering Strait .

Inventory and inventory development

The wren has a large distribution area of ​​21,800,000 km². The expansion in Africa and America is estimated to be 5,430,000 km². The total population ranges in size from approximately 200,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 individuals. Due to its high population, the species is classified as not endangered (LC). The size of the brood population is largely determined by the severity of the winter. Harsh winters with prolonged cold spells and periods of snow can lead to sensitive populations (up to 80 percent) in regions, as many birds can freeze to death or starve to death. Due to the polygamous way of life and with two annual broods, losses in population density can usually be compensated for within several years.

The European area accounts for less than a quarter of the world's distribution. The European population is very large with more than 23,000,000 breeding pairs or around 20,000,000 to 50,000,000 breeding pairs. The wide range of the population estimate, especially in the total population, is explained by the already mentioned considerable fluctuations in the population. The population was stable on average from 1970 to 1990 and between 1990 and 2000 there was a slight increase in populations outside of the main European range. This was particularly true of the United Kingdom . The species is consequently listed as secure.

The wren is according to § 10 Abs. 2 Nr. 5 and Nr. 11 BNatSchG a strictly protected species in Germany. It was bird of the year 2004 in Germany and Austria because it is losing more and more intact habitat, as near-natural front gardens and gardens are increasingly disappearing . The population in Germany is estimated at 2.0 to 2.5 million pairs, so in 2008 the species is currently the twelfth most common breeding bird species.

In Switzerland, the wren was bird of the year 2012.

Wren and human

Faroe Islands postage stamp with wren

Etymology and naming

According to a fable by Aesop (around 600 BC), the birds once decided to make the king who would fly the highest. The eagle succeeded in doing this , but when it had to go down again, the little wren that had hidden in its plumage rose up, flew even higher and shouted: “ I am King! “Then the whole choice fell apart. As a punishment, they locked him in a mouse hole, from which he eventually escaped. The story can be found in various literary genres (fairy tales, poems) in almost all European national literature . Consequently, the wren is also called "basileus" (king) or "basiliskos" (little king) by Aristotle (4th century BC) and Plutarch (1st century AD).

The wren was later referred to as the “king of the birds” in Lithuania , Poland , France , Italy , the Netherlands and Switzerland , and even in Japan; the Japanese also call the wren “king of the air”.

While the old Germanic term “wrendo” has held up in English (“winter wren”, winter king), it has been displaced in Germany. This bird has long been called the "Snow King" because it sings vigorously even in winter. The saying “happy like a snow king” is derived from this.

The bird's scientific name was coined in 1758 by Carl von Linné , who referred to the wren as Sylvia troglodytes . The Latin name of the wren ( troglodytis , troglodytic [= cave dwelling] ' ) goes back to an ancient Greek word ( ancient Greek τρωγλοδύτης trōglodýtēs , German ' who slips in caves, lives in caves' ), which specifically designates a bird similar to our wren.

Linguistic relationships with the fence only become tangible in German fairy tales. In Germany, Aesop's fable in the fairy tale The Wren was modified by the Brothers Grimm in the children's and house tales so that the wren could see God sitting on the chair on the back of the eagle. After the unsuccessful choice of a king, the birds set the new condition that the king who can fall “deepest into the earth” becomes king. Thereupon the then nameless wren slips into a mouse-hole and claims the royal dignity. Now they want to keep the cunning bird trapped in its hole with the owl as a guard and starve to death. When the guard falls asleep in the morning after a night of sleep, the king of the birds escapes. As a punishment, the owl is no longer allowed to be seen during the day. Since the wren also fears the birds' displeasure, he slips around in the fences . Only when he feels completely safe does he call: "King bün ick!"

In addition to the Brothers Grimm, at least two other German-language works deal with the supposedly original origin of the name of the wren. In Nikolaus Bär's didactic poem Regillicinium - Gesang über das Königlein (1700) the wren tells the story of his naming in Latin and German rhymes. Even Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolai is dedicated to the poem , as the fence panties king was the subject.

In the fairy tale The Wren and the Bear , the wren children are accused of lying by the bear because they would not have that rank. The children choose to starve until their honor is restored. So her father is forced to fight a battle "winged cattle against four-legged friends" against the bear and his general, the fox . After they win, the bear apologizes as requested. In contrast to the literature references cited above, there is no cause here for the king's name, which apparently emerged from nowhere, which is only to be proven in retrospect.

Other German names are Zaunsänger, Tannkönig, Mäusekönig, Meisenkönig, Schupkönig, Zaunschnerz, Backöfelchen. In Mecklenburg and Lower Saxony the wren was called “Grot-Jochen” (Groß-Joachim), in contrast to its size. For the same reason, after Count Buffon , he was given the name "Bœuf" (ox) in many French provinces. In the Westphalian , Dutch, Swedish and Danish , however, it is called "Thumbling". In Austria it bears both the name "Zitzerl" (small piece) and "Zwergvogerl". Often names such as "Pfutschepfeil", "Pfutschekönig" or "Kinivögerl" are used. In Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's German dictionary, it is also referred to as "little panties" or "little fence panties". In Switzerland it is also known as Haagschlüferli, Müserli, Studeritschger, Schiterchingeli or Haghäxli.

fairy tale

In the Welsh fairy tale How the Wren Became King of the Birds for Half an Hour , the Wren reveals himself to be insightful and voluntarily renounces the throne.

In the Scottish folk tale Robin Redbreast's Christmas Song , a robin and a wren get married . This is what Robert Burn's children's story The Marriage of Robin Redbreast and the Wren is about .


The wren is also often mentioned in William Shakespeare's works. So it says in King Richard III. in the third scene: “The world is grown so bad, That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch.” In the fourth act of Macbeth , Lady Macduff says: “For the poor wren (The most diminutive of birds) will fight, Her young ones in her nest, against the owl. ”According to Tieck, the German translation reads“ Fights the weak wren, the smallest bird, the owl for its brood in the nest ”or, according to Wieland,“ The poor wren even, the smallest of them Birds, has the courage to fight the owl when its young are in the nest ”. In the fourth act of the drama King Lear , the title character rebukes his loveless daughters: “... Your offense? Was it adultery? You shall not die: not for adultery! No: The wren does that, the little golden fly makes me see it. "

In the third act of Midsummer Night's Dream , Master Zettel sings for the elf queen Titania: “The woosel cock so black of hue, With orange-tawny bill, The throstle with his note so true, The wren with little quill - ... The finch, the sparrow , and the lark, The plain-song cuckoo gray, Whose note full many a man doth mark, And dares not answer nay. "In the fifth act of The Merchant of Venice, the beautiful Portia says:" The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark When neither is attended; and I think The nightingale, if she should sing by day When every goose is cackling, would be thought No better a musician than the wren. How many thing by season seasoned are To their right praise and true perfection! "

The Wren Limmershin tells the story of The White Seal in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling .

The wren is also mentioned in English poetry . Published in John Webster A country Dirge , Robert Burns The Wren's Nest (fragment) and William Wordsworth A Wren's Nest . Edward Lear also wrote the nonsense poem There Was an Old Man with a Beard . Emily Dickinson's poem For every Bird a Nest and Mark van Doren's No Communication also mention this bird. The best known is probably the old nursery rhyme When Jenny Wren Was Young . Furthermore there is the Haiku Wren on a Low Bush from Masako Takahashi :

Wren on a low bush;
hardly a handful of fluff…
acres of song.
- Masako Takahashi

As a German poet, Joachim Heinrich Campe dedicates himself to this bird in Der Zaunkönig . Also Eugen Roth gives him with The wren in the birds a place:

You may meet some onlookers today,
but the wren, he is rare,
who scurries through the gardens, surrounded by green bushes,
as tiny as a mouse.
–Eugen Roth

Robert Don Hughes addresses the wren in the work Spring is coming again .

Music, art and architecture

The wren has also left its mark on art. Richard Eilenberg's Opus 213 Le Roitelet (The Wren). for four-hand piano is a good example of this.

Adolf Dietrich dedicates himself to this bird in the painting Wren in a Spring Landscape . Karl Wilhelm de Hamilton does the watercolor A Wren. Attributed to ( Passer Troglodytes ). Basil Edes dedicated himself to the bird in the work Wren in the Sea Buckthorn .

The internationally known bird painter Peter Barrett designed The Wren as a life-size carved porcelain bell that was released by Franklin Porzellan in 1981.

Richard Müller and Emil Högg designed the Zaunkönig liqueur room .

Medicine, omens and caged bird

According to Aristotle and Pliny the Elder , the Greek physician Aetius von Amida provided a description of the wren in his encyclopedia , indicating the small figure, raised tail, short wings and dynamic song. He attributed a healing effect to the salted raw meat against kidney and bladder stones. In the 12th century Hildegard von Bingen denied the healing properties of his meat because it was too small. As a good addition to medicinal plants , however, the body burned to powder is suitable without the head or intestines. In the 16th century Conrad Gessner mentioned some patients whom this medicine is said to have helped ( Von dem Zaunschlüpfflein ... ).

Among the druids , fortune was prophesied from the twittering of the wren. The bird was also called in Cormac's Glossary "Drui-den", the bird of the druids, Irish "drean". According to Suetonius , on the day before Caesar's murder, a wren with a laurel branch flew into the curia of Pompey , who was pursued and torn apart by various birds from the nearby grove . According to legend, Saint Stephen was constantly accompanied by this noisy bird when he tried to hide from his enemies. Therefore, in Ireland , Scotland and parts of England, St. Stephen is traditionally remembered on St. Stephen's Day (December 26th) by the hunting and killing of wrens. Following the Celtic tradition , the captured animals are carried in procession through the village or town.

The wren was kept as a cage bird due to its powerful song. It was caught in March by bringing a close-knit tit lump covered with mealworms near the bushes. The keeping took place in a very close bird house . Sometimes he was allowed to fly free. The bird was a popular pet because it was cheaper and easier to care for than a nightingale .

Even today the wren is kept as an ornamental bird. However, wild-caught animals are illegal according to § 39 BNatSchG .

Sources and further reading

Individual evidence

  1. Sound sample (WAV file; 317 kB)
  2. Sound sample (WAV file; 106 kB), spectrogram
  3. Sound sample (WAV file; 234 kB), spectrogram
  4. Donald E. Kroodsma, Hiroshi Momose: Songs of the Japanese Population of the Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) . The Condor Vol. 93: 424-432, 1991, web link (PDF file; 829 kB)
  5. ^ Beatrice Van Horne: Assessing Vocal Variety in the Winter Wren, a Bird with a Complex Repertoire . The Condor, Vol. 97: 39-49, 1995, web link
  6. Jo Holland, Torben Dabelsteen, Simon Boel Pedersen, Ole Næsbye Larsen: Degradation of wren Troglodytes troglodytes song: Implications for information transfer and ranging . The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 103: 2154-2166, 1998, web link
  7. ^ A b Manfred Dallmann: The wren. Troglodytes troglodytes. Neue Brehm Bücherei 577, Westarp Wissenschaften Verlag, Wittenberg, 2003, ISBN 3-89432-230-6
  8. Stefan Bosch, Behavior of wrens in communal sleeping places in winter, Vogelwarte, Volume 52 (2014), pages 191-199, available online, pdf
  9. ^ Einhard Bezzel: FSVO Handbook Birds . BLV Buchverlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, pages 382-383, 2006, ISBN 3-8354-0022-3
  10. ^ A b C. G. Sibley, JE Ahlquist: The relationships of the starlings (Sturnidae: Sturnini) and the mockingbirds (Sturnidae: Mimini) . Auk 101, 230-243, 1984
  11. ^ A b C. G. Sibley, JE Ahlquist: Phylogeny and Classification of Birds: A Study in Molecular Evolution . Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1990
  12. ^ A b C. G. Sibley, BL Monroe Jr .: Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World . Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1990
  13. ^ A b F. Keith Barker: Monophyly and relationships of wrens (Aves: Troglodytidae): a congruence analysis of heterogeneous mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data . Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 31: 486–504, 2004, web link (PDF file; 322 kB)
  14. ^ Nathan H. Rice, A. Townsend Peterson, Griselda Escalona-Segura: Phylogenetic Patterns in Montane Troglodytes Wrens . The Condor, Vol. 101: 446-451, 1999, web link
  15. A Brief Guide to Wren Relationships , Weblink ( Memento of September 3, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Juan E. Martínez Gómez, Brian R. Barber, A. Townsed Petersen: Phylogenetic Position and Generic Placement of the Socorro Wren (Thryomanes Sissonii) . The Auk Vol.122: 50–56, The American Ornithologists' Union, 2005, Weblink ( Memento from December 17, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  17. IOC World Bird List Dapple-throats, sugarbirds, fairy-bluebirds, kinglets, hyliotas, wrens, gnatcatchers
  18. Ernst Hartert (1907), p. 26.
  19. ^ Johan Christian Henrik Fischer (1861), p. 14.
  20. Ernst Hartert (1910), p. 777.
  21. Kenneth Williamson (1951), p. 599.
  22. ^ Henry Seebohm (1884), p. 333.
  23. ^ Richard Meinertzhagen (1924), p. 135.
  24. Phillip Alexander Clancey (1924), p. 143.
  25. ^ Carl von Linné, p. 188.
  26. Ernst Hartert (1910), p. 780.
  27. Guido Schiebel (1910), p. 102.
  28. Ernst Hartert (1922), p. 140.
  29. Dorothea Minola Alice Bate (1902), p. 51.
  30. a b Nikolai Alexejewitsch Sarudny u. a. (1905), pp. 107-108.
  31. ^ Richard Bowdler Sharpe (1882), p. 273.
  32. ^ Charles Hughes Tempest Whitehead (1907), p. 19.
  33. William Edwin Brooks (1872), pp. 328-329.
  34. ^ Edward Blyth (1845), p. 589.
  35. ^ Charles Wallace Richmond (1907), p. 498, plate 59.
  36. Ernst Hartert (1910), p. 783.
  37. ^ Richard Bowdler Sharpe (1902), p. 11.
  38. Benedykt Tadeusz Dybowski u. a. (1884), p. 155.
  39. ^ Robert Ridgway (1883), p. 93.
  40. ^ Leonhard Hess Stejneger (1889), p. 548.
  41. Coenraad Jacob Temminck (1835), pp. 161-162.
  42. Tokutaro Momiyama (1923), S. 402nd
  43. Ernst Hartert (1910), p. 784.
  44. Ernst Hartert (1910), p. 776.
  45. SIBLEY GUIDES: Winter Wren. Troglodytes troglodytes ( Memento of July 3, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  46. Avibase Database: Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) (Linnaeus, 1758)
  47. Donald E. Kroodsma, Hiroshi Momose: Songs of the Japanese Population of the Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) . The Condor Vol. 93: 424-432, 1991, web link
  48. Birdlife Factsheet: Winter Wren
  49. a b NABU: Der Wren - Vogel des Jahres 2004 , Weblink ( Memento from June 25, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  50. a b Birds in Europe: Winter Wren
  51. cf. C. Sudfeldt, R. Dröschmeister, C. Grüneberg, S. Jaehne, A. Mitschke & J. Wahl (2008): Birds in Germany - 2008. DDA, BfN, LAG VSW, Münster, p. 7. Full text, PDF
  52. Hekaya: The wren
  53. ^ Karl Ernst Georges : Comprehensive Latin-German concise dictionary . 8th, improved and increased edition. Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hannover 1918 ( zeno.org [accessed October 31, 2019]).
  54. ^ Wilhelm Pape , Max Sengebusch (arrangement): Concise dictionary of the Greek language . 3rd edition, 6th impression. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig 1914 ( zeno.org [accessed October 31, 2019]).
  55. The wren: a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm
  56. The wren and the bear: A fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm
  57. Online German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in 16 volumes in 32 sub-volumes. Leipzig 1854-1961. List of sources Leipzig 1971. Online version from February 11, 2013 - keyword: little panties.
  58. King of the Undergrowth (Bird of the Year 2012) , waldwissen.net
  59. ^ Robert Don Hughes: Wren
  60. ^ Richard Eilenberg: Op. 213. Le Roitelet (The Wren). Morceau caractéristique p. Piano à 4 main. Leipzig, Cranz Mk 1.80.
  61. ^ From the little fence hatch: From Conrad Gessner's bird book of 1598


  • Dorothea Minola Alice Bate: A communication from Miss Dorothy MA Bate described the Wren grom Cyprus as follow . In: Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club . tape 13 , 1903, pp. 51-52 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • HG Bauer, P. Berthold: The breeding birds of Central Europe: existence and endangerment. Wiesbaden, 1993
  • Einhard Bezzel: FSVO manual birds. BLV Buchverlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, 2006, ISBN 3-8354-0022-3
  • Einhard Bezzel: Compendium of the birds of Central Europe. Songbirds. Wiesbaden, 1993
  • Edward Blyth: Notices and Descriptions of various New or Little Konown Species of Birds . In: The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal . tape 14 , no. 164 , 1845, pp. 546-602 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ). }
  • William Edwin Brooks: On two undescribed Cashmir Birds . In: The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal . tape 41 , no. 4 , 1872, p. 327-329 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ). }
  • Hans Bub: Identification and moulting of the songbirds part 3. Waxwing, dipper, wren, brown flies, scoffers, warbler, golden cockerel. Westarp Sciences Verlag, 1995, ISBN 3-89432-335-3
  • Phillip Alexander Clancey: A new race of Wren from Western Scotland . In: Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club . tape 57 , no. 406 , 1937, pp. 142-143 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Manfred Dallmann: The wren. Troglodytes troglodytes. Neue Brehm Bücherei 577, Westarp Wissenschaften Verlag, Wittenberg, 2003, ISBN 3-89432-230-6
  • Benedykt Tadeusz Dybowski, Władysław Taczanowski: List of the Oiseaux du Kamtschatka et des Iles Comandores . In: Bulletin de la Société zoologique de France . tape 9 , 1884, p. 145-161 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Johan Christian Henrik Fischer: The Faroese wren, Troglodytes borealis n. Sp. In: Journal of Ornithology . tape 9 , no. 49 , 1861, pp. 14-16 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim : Handbook of the birds of Central Europe 14/2, Passeriformes. Aula Verlag, Wiesbaden 1997, ISBN 3-89104-610-3 .
  • W. Huber: wren breeding. European bird life page 150/1985
  • Ernst Hartert: Dr. Ernst Hartert described a new form of Wren from Iceland . In: Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club . tape 21 , 1907, pp. 25-26 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Ernst Hartert: The birds of the Palearctic fauna systematic overview of the birds occurring in Europe, North Asia and the Mediterranean region . tape 1 , volume 6. R. Friedländer & Sohn, Berlin 1910 ( biodiversitylibrary.org - 1910–1922).
  • Ernst Hartert: Dr. Ernst Hartert made remarks on his expedition to Cyrenaica, and described the following new subspecies . In: Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club . tape 42 , 1922, pp. 140 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Claus-Peter Lieckfeld , Veronika Straaß : The myth of the bird. BLV Buchverlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, 2002, ISBN 3-405-16108-8
  • Carl von Linné: Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, Cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis . 10th edition. tape 1 . Imprensis Direct Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm 1758 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Richard Meinertzhagen: A Note on Scottish Wrens (Troglodytes) with characteristics of a newly defined herberidean race . In: The Scottish naturalist . No. 149 , 1924, pp. 135 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • J. Merz: Successful wren breeding. European bird life page 1/1986
  • Tokutaro Momiyama: New forms of birds from the Izu Islands . In: Dobutsu Zasshi . tape 35 , 1923, pp. 400-414 .
  • Charles Wallace Richmond in Bailey Willis, Eliot Blackwelder, Rufus Harvey Sargent: Research in China: Descriptive topography and geology . tape 54 , no. 1 . Carnegie Institution of Washington publication, Washington 1907 ( books.google.de ).
  • Robert Ridgway: Description of some birds supposed to be undescribed, from the Commander Islands and Petropaulovski, Collected by Dr. Leonhard Stejneger, US Signal Service . In: Proceedings of the United States National Museum . tape 6 , 1883, p. 90-96 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • W. Rohdich: Little King - really big. Feathered World 46/2001
  • Nikolai Alexejewitsch Sarudny, Harald von Loudon: Preliminary remarks on three ornithological novelties from Persia . In: Ornithological monthly reports . tape 13 , no. 6/7 , 1905, pp. 106-108 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Guido Schiebel: New bird shapes from Corsica . In: Ornithological Yearbook . tape 21 , no. 3 , 1910, pp. 102-103 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Henry Seebohm: On a new species of British Wren . In: The Zoologist (=  3 ). tape 8 , 1884, p. 333-335 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Richard Bowdler Sharpe: Catalog of the Passeriformes, or Perching Birds in the collection of the British Museum . tape 6 . Order of the Trustees, London 1882 ( biodiversitylibrary.org - 1881).
  • Richard Bowdler Sharpe: Dr. Bowdler Sharpe also exhibited some interesting species of birds from Yun-nan, collected by Colonel G. Rippon . In: Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club . tape 13 , 1902, pp. 11-12 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Leonhard Hess Stejneger: Review of Japanese birds. IX .. The wrens . In: Proceedings of the United States National Museum . tape 11 , 1889, p. 547-548 ( biodiversitylibrary.org - 1888).
  • Coenraad Jacob Temminck: Manuel d'ornithologie, ou, Tableau systématique des oiseaux qui se trouvent en Europe: précédé d'une analyze du système général d'ornithologie, et suivi d'une table alphabétique des espèces . 4th edition. tape 3 . H. Cousin, Paris 1835, p. 161-162 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Charles Hughes Tempest Whitehead: Lieut. Whitehead also described a new species of Wren from the Safed Koh range . In: Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club . tape 21 , 1907, pp. 19 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ). }
  • Kenneth Williamson: The wrens of Fair Isle . In: The Ibis . tape 94 , no. 4 , 1951, pp. 599-601 , doi : 10.1111 / j.1474-919X.1951.tb05461.x .
  • NABU : Der wren Vogel des Jahres 2004. Bonn 8/2009, no ISBN or ISSN

Web links

Wiktionary: wren  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Schneekönig  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Wren  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files