ES Views: Wild London: Wrens — tiny birds with a loud song

The tiny wren is reputedly 10 times louder, weight for weight, than an enthusiastic farmyard cockerel

The tiny wren weighs less than a £1 coin but the male’s song packs a mighty punch, cutting through the noise of the city.

They possess a remarkable vocal volume for such a tiny bird, and are reputedly 10 times louder, weight for weight, than an enthusiastic farmyard cockerel greeting the rising sun.

The restless, mouse-sized males are as bold as they are loud and can currently be seen all over London, with their stumpy tails flicking in pert, upright excitement as they sing to attract females. They can keep this up for hours and are just as enthusiastic when it comes to nest-building.

Each male will create six or seven almost spherical nests, tucked into bushes and holes in walls in the hope of enticing female attention.

If a female seems interested, he approaches fluttering his wings and slurring his song, as if mumbling with first-date nerves. If breeding is successful, the female will lay five to eight whitish, red-speckled eggs.

If he has been lucky with the ladies he may have fathered two or more other broods in nearby nests. He remains a constant ball of energy, singing, attending to the females and keeping his nests tidy, but he stops short of providing food for the growing chicks.

Wrens tend to fly in short, straight bursts, whirring their wings like a hummingbird in a hurry. They cannot hover, but are fast and agile flyers that seldom stray far from shelter. Wrens have adapted well to London and can be found here all year, even in central London’s squares, parks and gardens, as long as there is shelter and sufficient food such as spiders, beetles and other insects.

Numbers have risen by almost 20 per cent in London in recent years, perhaps because the warmer conditions of the city provide protection from the hard frosts that can kill their country cousins.


The London Wildlife Trust campaigns to protect the capital's wildlife and wild spaces. It is backed by Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts.

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