Could this be the last week of lockdown? Who can say? Either way, while we keep holding down the lock your double weekly dose of birdie thoughts and feelings keeps circling like a Vulture in an updraft.
Now, looking at these birds you might think, hmm they don’t seem to have a lot in common. And you would be right. So what even is a Wren? Well, for this week’s bonus bird, I’m here to help you unravel that very term. I know, you’ve all been up nights stressing about it.
The word “wren” is rather fiendish. First, of those four birds, an ornithologist would only consider the Musician Wren to be a “True Wren”. There are about 88 or so birds belonging to the Wren family Troglodytidae, and all of them live in the Americas, with the exception of the Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes).
This little guy (as the name suggests) lives in Eurasian and is in fact the bird where the name “Wren” originally comes from. In Europe it is known simply as the Wren. They’re rather cute, what with their bum always in the air.
Now, the Fairywren and Emu-wren that we in Australia are more familiar with are unrelated to these birds. They are properly Australasian Wrens in the family, Maluridae. And in my opinion, they’re also the prettiest.
Likewise Lyall’s Wren (again unrelated to every other bird here) belongs to a group of birds known as New Zealand Wrens in the family Acanthisittidae. Sadly, only two New Zealand Wrens still exist today, all the others having gone extinct with European settlement, Lyall’s Wren included.
So now we’ve covered all our Wrens, right? Wrong. Hold onto your tail feathers because it’s about to get weird.
Next up we have the Antwrens: neotropical birds also unrelated to every other bird we’ve mentioned. Why are they called Antwrens? Who knows. Their diet consists of grasshoppers, cockroaches, caterpillars and pointedly not ants. So not sure what’s up with that.
But hang on a tick, here comes the Wren-babblers. These guys live in India and again, are unrelated to every other bird. Do they babble though? One can only hope. On the plus side, they are impossibly cute, as the Pygmy Wren-babbler (Pnoepyga pusilla) attests to with its big old eyes and complete lack of tail.
Okay, so to recap: one family of true wrens, another two families from Australia and New Zealand, along with the Antwrens and Wren-babblers (which are not distinct taxonomic families themselves, but a subset of larger families (Thamnophilidae and Timaliidae, respectively)), none of them directly related. Have you got that straight? Good.
Because here’s the Wren-like Rushbird (Phleocryptes melanops)…
Not a Wren, just wren-like… I mean, is it really wren-like? I don’t even know at this point. It lives in the swamplands of South America. Is it related to any of the other birds we’ve spoken about today? If you’re still asking that question, I feel like you haven’t been paying attention. No, it belongs in the family Furnariidae. Are any of the other members of its family called ‘wren-like’? They are not.
At this point that we must concede that language has no inherent meaning and give up.
Wrens — they’re whatever you want them to be.
This has been a Bird of the Week Wren Rant.