Troglodytes aedon translates to the “songstress cave dweller” according to The Dictionary of American Bird Names by Ernest A. Choate (1985 revised edition). House Wrens do tend to nest in “caves” or cavity like nests, but it is the songstress appellation that strikes me the best. Wrens in general captivate me. I was delayed in posting this Ode to Ralph Hoffmann due to my inability to choose which wren to showcase. I am entertained outside the cottage by House Wrens during breeding season (literally breeding on the house), Bewick Wrens otherwise, and the occasional Canyon Wren in winter. A House Wren is singing this very moment out the back where their second nest is wedged in the eves. They are a never ending source of delight.
Few birds so well express the abounding vitality so characteristic of birds as the House Wren. In and out of brush and tangled thickets, expressing its moods with a variety of scolding and chattering notes, cocking its tail from the ridgepole, or on the dead limb in which it is nesting, or bubbling over with its energetic and tuneful song, in any situation and at any time the Wren is vigorous and alive. When feeding, the Wren threads its way through the foliage of low bushes, or in and out of brush heaps like a mouse, protesting against intrusion with a rapid churr, churr, churr or a harsh scolding note like the syllable chee.
The various subspecies of the Bewick Wren are often found either in the same region as the House Wren, or near by. The former breeds generally on wilder chaparral-covered slopes, while the House Wren prefers either forest country, or gardens and buildings. In winter most House Wrens migrate; only a few remain even in southern California. At this season Bewick Wrens move down from the chaparral and occupy the gardens. The House Wren has a shorter tail, a darker throat and breast and no white line over the eye. The song of the House Wren has a greater uniformity of character, not being readily separated into distinct parts like the Bewick’s. The scolding call of the House Wren is harsher and more guttural than the Bewick’s.
Hoffmann, Ralph. (1927). Birds of the Pacific States. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge.