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Bewick's Wren

Bewick's Wren
Thryomanes bewickii

The Bewick's Wren was once a fairly common bird in Tennessee. It was found on rural farms, open woodlands, and upland thickets throughout the state; wherever it could find a suitable nesting "cavity," including in the centers of brush piles, rock crevices, outbuildings, and abandoned automobiles. By the 1940s it was in decline and is now basically found only in Rutherford County in Middle Tennessee. This species is much more widespread out west, though declining, and is found in the Mid-western states, and along the Pacific coast south to central Mexico.

Description: In the east, this small songbird is light brown above, whitish-gray below, and has a long white eye-line. the tail is moderately long tail, often cocked over its back, with small white corners on the tail feathers. Male and female are similar in appearance.
Length: 5.25"
0.35 oz

Voice: Song a series of high clear notes, and musical trills; remarkably similar to the Song Sparrow.

Similar Species:

  • Carolina Wren is similar, but is a chunkier bird, rich buffy-orange below, and has a shorter tail with no white tips to the tail feathers.
  • House Wren is smaller, more uniformly colored, and lacks the white eye-stripe and spots on the tail.

Habitat: In Tennessee found mainly on rural farms with brushy hedgerows and old buildings.

Diet: Insects and spiders.

Nesting and reproduction: In Tennessee nesting activities have been recorded in late February, but most birds begin nesting in late March.

Clutch Size: 4 to 9 eggs, with 6 most common.

Incubation: The female alone incubates the eggs for 12 days.

Fledging: Both adults feed the nestlings, which leave the nest in 13 to 14 days. Two broods are often raised.

Nest: Both birds build the nest in a cavity-like located in an old building, a junk car, a bird house, or in a brush pile. The nest is globular in shape with a side opening, made of sticks, grasses, weed stems, and lined with moss and other fine materials.

Status in Tennessee: Rare breeding bird in Tennessee. Currently only 1 or 2 pairs are found per year in Rutherford County. Due to a declining population, the Bewick's Wren is a designated as Threatened in the state of Tennessee. In 2010, 4 singing males were found in Rutherford County. One of these birds had a mate and a nest was documented at a second location. The remaining two singing males were thought to be unmated.

Dynamic map of Bewick's Wren eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • Between 1966 and 1994 the Bewick's Wren declined by 22% per year on Tennessee Breeding Bird Survey routes. This is the largest decline ever recorded for a Tennessee bird. The entire eastern population of Bewick's Wren has experienced a significant decline. The cause of the rapid decline is unknown, but severe winter weather prior to 1966, the use of pesticides on agricultural lands, and habitat destruction may have contributed.
  • It is suggested that the House Wren, which frequently removes eggs from nests in cavities, was directly responsible for the decline. However, the decline of the Bewick's Wren in Tennessee preceded the expansion of the House Wren in the state.
  • Male Bewick's Wrend learn their song while still on their parents' territory, but not from their father. Research has found that young birds learn the song from the neighboring territorial males and they retained this song repertoire for life.
  • The first Bewick's Wren was collected by John James Audubon on its wintering ground in Louisiana in 1821. He described the bird and named it for his friend, Thomas Bewick, a British engraver.

Obsolete English Names: Southern House Wren

Best places to see in Tennessee: Rutherford or Wilson County, including Lytle Creek Rd

For more information:


Kennedy, E. D., and D. W. White. 1997. Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii). The Birds of North America, No. 315 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. of TN Press, Knoxville, TN.

Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.

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