HOUSE WREN

Troglodytes aedon parkmanii

Status:  Common regular spring and fall migrant and breeder statewide.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM6577, 24 May 1900 Monroe Canyon, Sioux Co.

Taxonomy:  There are some 31 subspecies recognized in five groups, all but two occurring in Mexico and southward to South America (Johnson 2014, Pyle 1997). Those north of Mexico are parkmanii of southwest and south-central Canada and west and central USA to northern Mexico, and aedon of southeast Canada and eastern USA (Gill and Donsker 2017).

Nebraska birds are parkmanii (Bruner et al 1904, AOU 1957). Birds in the western parts of the range of parkmanii tend to be somewhat grayer than those further east, although there is considerable variation (Pyle 1997).

The presence or absence of mantle barring as a character separating these subspecies has been raised (Frontiers of Birding Listserv; accessed 2008); Johnson (2014) noted that “The presence of barring on the dorsum and crissum varies across populations as well, but as with coloration a pattern is not evident”.

Spring:  Apr 1,2,2 <<<>>> summer

There are earlier reports 14 Mar 2018 Wayne Co (Brogie 2018), Mar 1992 Douglas-Sarpy Co and 31 Mar 1997 at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co. It is likely that reports earlier than these are of misidentified Winter Wrens; overwintering of House Wren has not been documented in Nebraska.

That the earliest birds are migrants and not arriving summer residents is suggested by the one-month gap in early arrival dates and early egg dates (see Breeding Phenology). South Dakota data show a similar differential (Tallman et al 2002). Females arrive around nine days after males and begin nesting immediately (Johnsgard 1979), suggesting that their mates arrive about 10 days earlier, or mid- to late Apr. First-time breeders may not arrive on territories to nesting until mid-to late June (Kendeigh 1941, Johnson 2014). Such birds may account for records of two banded in Nebraska in May 1985 being recaptured in North Dakota and Alberta in Jul 1985.

  • High counts:  351 in Pierce Co 8 May 1999, 302 in Hall Co 11 May 2002, and 224 in Sarpy Co 11 May 1996, 167 of which were at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co.  One person, one location counts are 300 at DeSoto NWR, Washington Co 6 May 2017, 100 at Fontenelle Forest 7 May 2017, and 80 at Wilderness Park, Lancaster Co 11 and 13 May 2018.

Summer: House Wren breeds statewide, although data for 2011-2015 show lower densities in the southern Panhandle and in the Sandhills (Sauer et al 2017), presumably since there is less suitable habitat. Two BBS routes in Cherry Co were run twelve times with no House Wrens recorded (Cortelyou 1978), although numbers have increased in the northern Sandhills 1966-2015 (Sauer et al 2017). This species is ubiquitous in open woodland in the east; elsewhere, it occupies riparian woodland and residential areas wherever brushy cover exists.   BBS trend analysis show House Wren has changed 0.18% (95 C.I.; -0.43, 0.81) annually statewide 1966-2013, indicating populations have been relatively stable during the period (Sauer et al. 2017).

Summering birds show strong site fidelity, especially successful males (Johnson 2014).

  • Breeding phenology:
    Nest building: 4 Jul
    Eggs: 29 Apr-28 Jul
    Nestlings: 20 Jun-24 Jul
    Fledglings: 28 Jun-13 Sep

A pair used two of three bird houses intended for chickadees to fledge four broods near Mitchell, Scotts Bluff Co in 2012, three from one house and one from the second.  A pair nested in a nest box that had just fledged Black-capped Chickadees in Lincoln 1 Jul. “Perhaps a third brood” was in a Fillmore Co yard 11 Aug.

  • High counts: 63 at Red Willow Reservoir, Frontier Co 30 Jun 2002, 62 at Wilderness Park, Lincoln 26 Jun 2010, and 47 there 29 Jun 2002.

Fall:  summer <<<>>> Oct 22,23,25

Departure is usually complete by mid- to late Oct, although there are a few later undocumented reports: three on 30 Oct 2006 Nebraska City, Otoe Co, 2 Nov 1996 Nebraska City, 5 Nov 1986 Lancaster Co, two on 8 Nov 2010 Dixon Co, 11 Nov 1998 Otoe Co (Falk 2002), 17 Nov 1981 Garden Co, 20 Nov 1982 Lancaster Co, 10 Dec 1993 Sarpy Co, 16 Dec 1989 Washington Co, 24 Dec 1963 Nemaha Co, and 1 Jan 1957 Adams Co, one found on the Hastings CBC, considered “… unbelievable date … but a quick note and answer from Burton Nelson shows this is no mistake” (Bliese 1957). House Wrens winter as far north as southeast Oklahoma and central Arkansas (Johnson 2014). Great Plains breeders apparently migrate southeast to the southeast United States (Johnson 2014).

High counts:  15 at Arbor Day Farm, Otoe Co 23 Sep 1998, 15 at Chadron SP, Dawes Co 1 Sep 2016, and 14 at Wilderness Park, Lincoln 25 Aug 2016.

Comments: Prescribed fire and thinning is increasingly being used to actively manage oak woodlands due to concerns that suppression of these disturbance regimes impairs oak regeneration and promotes the spread of invasive and/or undesirable species.  Sites where active management has recently occurred include Indian Cave and Ponca State Parks (Nemaha/Richardson and Dixon Cos respectively) and Fontenelle Forest.  Active management, however, affects avian communities and species disproportionately, with some species benefiting while others experience negative impacts.  Abundance of House Wren, along with Carolina Wren and Eastern Towhee, at Indian Cave SP was relatively low following and possibly because of recent active management in the park (Jorgensen et al 2014).

Abbreviations

BBS: Breeding Bird Survey
CBC: Christmas Bird Count
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum

Acknowledgement

Photograph (top) of a House Wren at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 7 May 2006 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1957. The AOU Check-list of North American birds, 5th ed.  Port City Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Bliese, J.C.W. 1957. Thirty-third Annual Cooperative Spring Migration and Occurrence Report. NBR 25: 51-72.

Brogie, E.  2018.  Checklist S43656058:  319 W 6th St, Wayne US-NE (42.2343,-97.0220) Ed Brogie Backyard Birds, Wayne County, Nebraska, US.  eBird.org, accessed 5 Jul 2018.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1978. The first eleven years of Breeding Bird Surveys in Nebraska. NBR 46: 38-62.

Falk, L. 2002. Birds in Otoe County. Published by the author, Nebraska City, Nebraska, USA.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: breeding species and their distribution.  University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Johnson, L.S. 2014. House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.  https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.380

Jorgensen, J.G., L.R. Dinan, M.A. Brogie, W.R. Silcock, J. Rink, C. Klaphake, and G. Steinauer. 2014.  Breeding Bird Diversity, Abundance and Density at Indian Cave and Ponca State Parks, Nebraska, 2012-2014. Nongame Bird Program of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Kendeigh, S.C. 1941. Territorial and mating behavior of the House Wren. Illinois Biological Monographs 18: 1-120.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Sauer, J.R., D.K. Niven, J.E. Hines, D.J. Ziolkowski, Jr, K.L. Pardieck, J.E. Fallon, and W.A. Link. 2017.  The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 – 2015 (Nebraska). Version 2.07. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland, USA.

Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2018.  House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), Version 1.0. In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org


Birds of Nebraska – Online