At no more than four inches (10 cm) long, the winter wren is one of the smallest birds in North America. However, it packs a powerful voice. Relative to this bird’s size, its song is ten times louder than the crowing of a rooster!
This species recently underwent a major scientific reclassification. Since their discovery in the 18th century, all winter wrens had been classified as the same species, Troglodytes troglodytes. However, scientists had known for years that the songs of wrens in eastern North America are much like those of wrens in England, while wrens in western North America sing songs more like those of wrens in eastern Asia.
New DNA studies show that, even though all of these wrens may look the same, the wrens with the western song do not interbreed with the eastern-singing wrens. As a result, the two groups have been classified as separate species. The western group earned the new name of Pacific wren, species Troglodytes pacificus. The eastern winter wren’s scientific name was changed to Troglodytes hiemalis, from the Latin for “of the winter.”
Photo: Paul Stein