On a per-pound basis, the winter wren generates more song for its weight than any other North American songbird. This stubby-tailed, chocolate-brown mouse of a bird frequents wooded streamside habitats and coniferous forests, both in winter and summer. The long burbling song can be given from an exposed treetop perch in spring, or from inside a jumble of logs and tree roots when the wren takes a break from foraging. Winter wrens can be found almost anywhere there are dense woods. The more jumbled and tangled the forest floor is the better.
What to Look and Listen For
The winter wren is one of North America’s smallest birds, kinglet-sized and rounded in shape like a small teapot, with a short stubby tail for a spout. Its bill is short and thin. Dark brown feathers suit its skulking habits, for this is a bird that likes to hide among the leaf litter or crawl into dark crevices in rocks or the cavities created by fallen logs. (Its scientific name, Troglodytes, means "cave dweller.") Often found along stream banks or thick roadside tangles, this wren may pass unnoticed much of the time unless you are attuned to its double-click chip note. In the breeding season, however, males will often establish a perch on top of a snag and remain there for long periods as they sing their glorious, bubbly song.
Like all wrens, this little bird lives mainly on insects and spiders, although it has been known to eat fish on occasion, and may take berries in fall and suet from feeding stations in winter if the opportunity arises and other food is scarce. It tends to forage on the ground in a furtive manner, scrabbling about under fallen leaves. It creeps like a mouse along logs and rock fences, or down low in shrubbery, bobbing its head as it gleans insects from twigs, trunks, and foliage. It may also search, nuthatch-fashion, up and down tree trunks and along the larger limbs, probing bark crevices for prey.
The winter wren is an uncommon migrant and winter resident in the eastern two-thirds of the state, occurring most commonly in northeast and north-central Texas. They are present on average between mid-October and late March. They frequent woodlots and riparian corridors and are quite vocal in the winter, especially at dawn, revealing their presence in places where they might otherwise be overlooked.
Other wrens that might be found in the San Saba area in winter are house, sedge, and marsh. The house wren is lively, bouncy and inquisitive; with tail cocked, it explores nooks and crannies in trees and logs, often pausing briefly to sing. It stays low in vegetation, often along fencerows and in woodland undergrowth. The sedge wren frequents marshes and damp grassy areas, but typically avoids the dense stands of cattails that marsh wrens frequent. It creeps along reeds and grasses searching for insects and spiders, generally staying low and out of sight. It sidles up and down stems with agility and occasionally sallies out for a passing insect. Except for its preference for dense stands of cattails, the marsh wren is found in a similar habit and has essentially the same feeding behavior as the sedge wren. This little guy often gives his position away by fussing at intruders which aids in spotting it in dense riparian plant growth. These three winter visitors add a touch of pizzazz to our already spirited group of year round wrens which include Carolina, Bewick’s, cactus, rock and canyon.
(Article taken in part from Bird Watchers Digest.)