Physical characteristics: The winter wren averages 3.6 to 4 inches (9 to 10 centimeters) in length, with an average weight of 0.3 to 0.4 ounces (8 to 11 grams). It is a very small, short-tailed wren marked heavily by bars. Its upperparts are a warm dark brown, with pronounced markings of narrow dark bars on the wing and tail feathers. Its chin and throat are a grayish brown with a descending color that becomes more reddish. Its flanks are also a deep reddish brown with darker bars. The eyes, bill, and legs are brown. Both sexes are similar. The juvenile bird has faint spotting on its chest, and flank bars that are even less distinct.
Geographic range: The winter wren is found across four continents, including North America from Alaska southward to the mountains of California, and eastward across Canada to Newfoundland and south to the mountains of Georgia; wintering all the way south to northern Mexico. It can be found in the Old World from Iceland to Scandinavia, south to Spain, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya; eastward to Russia, Caucasus, Turkey, and Iran; and in central Asia from Afghanistan to eastern Siberia, Japan, China, and Taiwan, including many offshore islands in Europe and east Asia.
Habitat: The winter wren can be found in enormously varied habitats, from the forested areas of North America to the European and Asian bush and woodland areas, as well as in suburban areas and treeless offshore islands with low scrubby vegetation. In fact, it is the only member of the wren family that can be found in Europe.
Diet: The winter wren is primarily an insectivore, or insect-eater, but it is occasionally known to eat spiders and rarely known to eat juniper berries. These birds feed on the forest floor and sometimes along stream banks, scurrying through leaves and brush in a mouse-like manner.
Behavior and reproduction: Winter wrens are protective of their territories during the breeding season, but will sometimes roost communally during the winter with several dozen birds. These birds spend most of their time down in vegetation, hopping through the dense tangles. Flights are always short and low, from cover to cover. Their song is loud and abrasive, with a long series of trills and clear notes.
Winter wrens and people: These birds are both familiar to and popular with humans, and a common subject of folklore in many countries. It is so well known in England that it was given the name of "Jenny Wren."
Conservation status: Winter wrens are not considered to be threatened, and are a generally abundant species throughout their geographic range. ■
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