Winter Wren Portrait

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Naturalist John Burroughs (1837-1921) described the Winter Wren’s song as “a tremulous, vibrating tongue of silver” and he wrote that “the silence was suddenly broken by a strain so rapid and gushing, and touched with such a wild, sylvan plaintiveness, that I listened in amazement.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was equally impressed by the “exceptionally brisk and lively strain” with an “incessant twittering flow” that sounded like a “fine corkscrew stream issuing with incessant lisping tinkle from a cork, flowing rapidly.” Poets have quite a way with words, don’t they?

The Winter Wren breeds in northern forests, high mountains, and Pacific coastal forests— from Maine and the Maritime provinces across Canada to the Pacific coast. Winter Wrens also breed at high altitudes in the Appalachian Mountains, as far south as Georgia (see range map).

Winter Wren Song, Normal Speed & Slowed Down:

Here is a single Winter Wren song played at normal speed:

One song of a Winter Wren played at normal speed. Recorded by Lang Elliott in the Adirondack Mountain region of upstate New York.

Now here is the same Winter Wren song, slowed down to about one-third speed so that you can more easily discern the intricate melody. Listen carefully — there are over 100 notes in this single song, many delivered as slurrs and trills! Even when slowed-down, it is difficult to count all the notes.

One song of a Winter Wren slowed down to about one-third normal speed. Recorded by Lang Elliott in the Adirondack Mountain region of upstate New York.

Winter Wren Soundscape Recording:

I’ve recorded many a Winter Wren over the years, but this is my all-time favorite. It is a magical, pristine stereo recording of a Winter Wren singing from the top of a Balsam Fir next to a trickling brook. The location is Shindagin Hollow, a state forest natural area near Ithaca, New York.

While the wren dominates the soundscape, two Wood Thrushes can be heard singing in the background and a Ruffed Grouse periodically drums in the distance (you’ll need good headphones or a subwoofer to hear his low thumping). Other bird sounds include Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ovenbird and Mourning Dove. Close your eyes and enjoy this marvelous soundscape. How relaxing . . . the lively gurgling of the stream punctuated by the bubbling songs of the wren, set against a backdrop of subtle bird sounds . . . a beautiful audio impression of the mixed forest habitat in upstate New York.

Winter Wren singing from top of a Balsam Fir next to a stream, 9 May 2006, 5:45am, Shindagin Hollow, near Brooktondale, New York. Recorded by Lang Elliott.

Shindagin Hollow


  1. I absolutely love the recordings and the video! It’s amazing how complex the song of the Winter Wren is. The winter wren is a target find for me because I have never seen or heard one. I am deprived.

    There are so many forest birds in the backgrounds of the video and recordings: Scarlet Tanager, Black-Throated Green Warbler, Wood Thrush, Pileated Woodpecker, and so on. The Red-Breasted Nuthatch sounds loud for such a tiny bird. I’ve seen Red-Breasted Nuthatches before but I’ve never heard their song.

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