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This article is about the bird family. For other uses of the word wren, see Wren (disambiguation).
Wrens

Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Superfamily: Certhioidea
Family: Troglodytidae
Swainson, 1832
Genera

Some 20, see text

The wrens are passerine birds in the mainly New World family Troglodytidae. There are about 80 species of true wrens in about 20 genera. The genus eponymous of the family is Troglodytes. Only one species of Troglodytes occurs in the Old World, where in Anglophone regions it is commonly known simply as the “wren” as it is the originator of the name; it is called the Winter Wren in North America. The name wren has been applied to other unrelated birds, particularly the New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae) and the Australian wrens (Maluridae).

Wrens are mainly small and inconspicuous, except for their loud and often complex songs. These birds have short wings and they cannot see at night. Several species often hold their tails upright and sleep on the ground. Wrens are insectivorous, eating insects and spiders but they will also eat fish, small rodents and lizards.

Contents

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[edit] Name and use of the term wren

The English name wren derives from Middle English wrenne, Old English wraenna, attested (as werna) very early, in an 8th century gloss. It is cognate to Old High German wrendo, wrendilo and Icelandic rindill (the latter two including an additional diminutive -ilan suffix). The Icelandic name is attested in Old Icelandic (Eddaic) rindilþvari. This points to a Common Germanic name *wrandjan-, but the further etymology of the name is unknown.[1]

The wren is also known as kuningilin “kinglet” in Old High German, a name associated with a legend of an election of the “king of birds”. The bird who could fly to the highest altitude would be made king. The eagle outflew all other birds, but he was beaten by a small bird who had hidden in his plumage. This legend is already known to Aristotle (Hist. animalium 9.11) and Plinius (Naturalis hist. 10.74 ), and was taken up by medieval authors such as Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg, but it concerns Regulus, and is apparently motivated by the yellow “crown” sported by these birds (a point noted already by Ludwig Uhland).[2]

The family name Troglodytidae is derived from troglodyte, which means “cave-dweller”, and the wrens get their scientific name from the tendency of some species to forage in dark crevices.

The name “wren” is also ascribed to other families of passerine birds throughout the world. In Europe, species of Regulus are commonly known as “wrens”, the Common Firecrest and Goldcrest as “fire-crested wren” and “golden-crested wren”, respectively.

The 27 Australasian “wren” species in the family Maluridae are unrelated, as are the New Zealand wrens in the family Acanthisittidae, the antwrens in the family Thamnophilidae, and the wren-babblers of the family Timaliidae.

[edit] Description

Wrens are small birds, among the smallest in the New World. They range in size from the White-bellied Wren, which averages under 10 centimetres (4 in) and 9 grams (0.3 oz), to the Giant Wren, which averages about 22 cm (9 in) and 50 g (2 oz). The dominating colours of their plumage are drab, composed of grey, brown, black and white, and most species show some barring, especially to tail and/or wings. One particularly distinguishing characteristic of the family, absent in most all other songbirds, is barring on the retrices. The plumage of the wrens is soft. There is no sexual dimorphism in the plumage of wrens, and little difference between young birds and adults.[3]

[edit] Habitat and distribution

Cobb’s Wren is an insular endemic, restricted to the Falkland Islands

Wrens are principally a New World Family, distributed from Alaska and Canada to southern Argentina. A single species, the Winter Wren, is found not only in North America but also in Eastern Asia, Europe and marginally into North Africa. There are a number of insular species, including the Clarion Wren and Socorro Wren from the Revillagigedo Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and the Cobb’s Wren in the Falkland Islands, but they are rare on the islands of the Caribbean, with only the Southern House Wren in the Lesser Antilles and the highly restricted Zapata Wren in a single swamp in Cuba.

The various species occur in a wide range of habitats, ranging from dry, sparsely wooded country to rainforest. The vast majority are found at low levels, but some members of the genus Campylorhynchus and both members of the genus Odontorchilus are commonly found at canopy height. A few species, notably the Winter Wren and the House Wren, are often associated with humans. Most species are non-migratory, remaining in Central and South America all year round, but the few temperate species typically migrate to warmer climes in winter.

[edit] Behaviour

Although wrens have a reputation for extreme secretiveness, they vary from highly secretive species such as those found in the genus Microcerculus to the highly conspicuous genus Campylorhynchus, the members of which will frequently sing from exposed perches. The family as a whole exhibits a great deal of variation in their behaviour. Temperate species generally occur in pairs, but tropical species may occur in parties of up to twenty birds.[3]

Wrens build dome-shaped nests, and may be either monogamous or polygamous, depending on species.[4]

[edit] Genus list in taxonomic order

Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris

Bay Wren Thryothorus nigricapillus

House Wren Troglodytes musculus

Timberline Wren Thryorchilus browni

Revised following Martínez Gómez et al. (2005) and Mann et al. (2006). The taxonomy of some groups is highly complex, and future species-level splits are likely. Additionally, undescribed taxa are known to exist. The Black-capped Donacobius is an enigmatic species traditionally placed with the wrens more for lack of a more apparent alternative and/or thorough study. It was more recently determined to be most likely closer to certain “warblers“, possibly the newly established Megaluridae, and might constitute a monotypic family.[5]

FAMILY: TROGLODYTIDAE

Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)

  • Genus Troglodytes (10-15 species, depending on taxonomy; includes Nannus which may be distinct however)

[edit] References

  1. ^ Kluge-Lutz, English Etymology tentatively suggest association with Old High German (w)renno “stallion”, but Suolahti (1909) rejects this as unlikely.
  2. ^ Suolahti, Viktor Hugo, Die deutschen Vogelnamen : eine wortgeschichtliche Untersuchung, Strassbourg (1909), 80-85.
  3. ^ a b Kroodsma, Donald; Brewer, David (2005), “Family Troglodytidae (Wrens)”, in del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Christie, David, Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10, Cuckoo-shrikes to Thrushes, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 356–401, ISBN 84-87334-72-5 
  4. ^ Perrins, C. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph. ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 190. ISBN 1-85391-186-0. 
  5. ^ Alström, Per; Ericson, Per G.P.; Olsson, Urban; Sundberg, Per (2006). “Phylogeny and classification of the avian superfamily Sylvioidea”. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38 (2): 381–97. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.05.015. 
  • Mann, Nigel I.; Barker, F. Keith; Graves, Jeff A.; Dingess-Mann, Kimberly A. & Slater, Peter J. B. (2006): Molecular data delineate four genera of “Thryothorus” wrens. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 750–759. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.04.014 (HTML abstract)
  • Martínez Gómez, Juan E.; Barber, Bruian R. & Peterson, A. Townsend (2005): Phylogenetic position and generic placement of the Socorro Wren (Thryomanes sissonii). Auk 122(1): 50–56. [English with Spanish abstract] DOI:10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122[0050:PPAGPO]2.0.CO;2 PDF fulltext
  • Theory on the etymological roots of the word “Wren” submitted by Matthew Wren, 2009.

[edit] External links

Look up wren in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Troglodytidae
Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wren

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