Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - wiki
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[Photo] Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), adult with hatchlings, picture taken on May 5th, 2007 in Bensheim (Germany). Date May 5th, 2007. Author Sonja K??belbeck http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kuebi
The Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) is a very small bird, a member of the mainly New World wren family Troglodytidae. It is the only wren which occurs in the Old World; in Great Britain it is commonly known simply as "the" Wren.
The scientific name, meaning "cave-dweller", refers to its habit of disappearing into cavities or crevices whilst hunting arthropods or to roost. Sometimes, it is placed in a monotypic genus Nannus to reflect its distinctness from the American Troglodytes. It might actually be closely related to Cistothorus (Mart??nez G??mez et al. 2005), but the available data could not resolve this isusue to satisfaction.
It is common in Europe, a belt of Asia from northern Iran and Afghanistan across to Japan, and North America. It is only migratory in the northern parts of its range.
Description and subspecies
The 9???10.5 cm long Wren is rufous brown above, greyer beneath, barred with darker brown and grey, even on wings and tail. The bill is dark brown, the legs pale brown. Young birds are less distinctly barred.
The plumage is subject to considerable variation, and where populations have been isolated, the variation has become fixed in one minor form or another. There are around 27 Eurasian subspecies of this taxonomically complex bird, with around 12 more in North America. The disputed subspecies orii, the Daito Winter Wren, became extinct around 1940 ??? if it is indeed a valid taxon and not merely based on an anomaly.
Thus in the British Isles, in addition to the typical bird, T. t. indigenus, there are two distinct insular forms; one, T. t. hirtensis, is confined to the island of St Kilda, and another, T. t. zetlandicus to Shetland. The St. Kilda Wren is greyer above, whiter beneath, and with more abundant bars on the back; the Shetland Wren is darker.
Recent DNA and vocalisation studies suggest that the subspecies in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, which has a harsher, more complex song, may well be a different species from the eastern North American and European forms. The latter two populations are also genetically distinct, but possibly not sufficiently to be split as separate species. This research did not include the distinctive Scottish forms.
This small, stump-tailed Wren is almost as familiar in Europe as the Robin. It is mouse-like, easily lost sight of when it is hunting for food, but is found everywhere from the tops of the highest moors to the sea coast.
In North America, most of northern Europe and Asia, the winter wren nests mostly in coniferous forests, where it is often identified by its long and exuberant song. Although it is an insectivore, it can remain in moderately cold and even snowy climates by foraging for insects on substrates such as bark and fallen logs.
Its movements as it creeps or climbs are incessant rather than rapid; its short flights swift and direct but not sustained, its tiny round wings whirring as it flies from bush to bush.
It is a bird of the uplands even in winter, vanishing into the heather when snow lies thick above, a troglodyte indeed. It frequents gardens and farms, but it is quite as abundant in thick woods and in reed-beds.
When annoyed or excited its call runs into an emphatic churr, not unlike clockwork running down. Its song is a gushing burst of sweet music, loud and emphatic. It has an enormous voice for its size, ten times louder, weight for weight, than a cockerel.
Individuals vary in quality as well as volume of their song. The song begins with a few preliminary notes, then runs into a trill, slightly ascending, and ends in full clear notes or another trill. At all and any season the song may be heard, though most noticeable during spring. Despite its generally mouse-like behaviour, the male may sing from an exposed perch as its whole body quivers from the effort.
At night, usually in winter, it often roosts, true to its scientific name, in dark retreats, snug holes and even old nests. In hard weather it may do so in parties, either consisting of the family or of many individuals gathered together for warmth.
For the most part insects and spiders are its food, but in winter large pupae are taken and some seeds.
The male Wren builds several nests, up to 6 or 7 in Europe, but fewer in North America. These are called "cock nests" but are never lined until the female chooses one to use.
The normal round nest of grass, moss, lichens or leaves is tucked into a hole in a wall, tree trunk, crack in a rock or corner of a building, but it is often built in bushes, overhanging boughs or the litter which accumulates in branches washed by floods.
Five to eight white or slightly speckled eggs are laid in April, and second broods are reared. The eggs of the St. Kilda Wren are marginally larger and often more boldly spotted; six is the usual number.
Myths and legends
According to European folklore, the Wren is the King of the Birds. Long ago the birds held a contest to see who could fly the highest; at first it looked as though the Eagle would win easily, but just as the Eagle began to tire, the Wren, which had hidden under the Eagle's tail feathers, crept out and soared far above. The wren's majesty is recognized in such stories as the Grimm Brothers' The Willow-Wren and the Bear.
The wren also features in the legend of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who supposedly was betrayed by the noisy bird as he attempted to hide from his enemies. Traditionally, St. Stephen's Day has been commemorated by Hunting the Wren, wherein young Wrenboys would catch the bird and then ritually parade it around town. The tradition, and the significance of the wren as a symbol and sacrifice of the old year, is discussed in Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough.
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