House Wren vs. Carolina Wren

What do wrens eat - Carolina wren
© Steve Byland/

Written by Janet F. Murray

Updated: October 28, 2023

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Wrens are small birds that sing beautifully and with purpose. Their name comes from their song, which sounds like someone saying “wren.” Consequently, if you hear songbirds when you wake in the morning, it is likely a wren. Also, there are 88 wren species, but we will consider the differences and similarities between the house wren vs. Carolina wren.

House WrenCarolina Wren
Height4.3 – 5.1 inches4.7 – 5.5 inches
Weight0.3 – 0.4 ounces0.6 – 0.8 ounces
AppearanceBrown in color with darker wings and tailsReddish-brown to orange in color with a white eyebrow feature
BehaviorEnergetic and vocalEnergetic, vocal, and territorial
LifespanSeven yearsSix years

House Wren vs. Carolina Wren: Appearance

A House Wren brings insects to her chick who is nesting in a backyard birdhouse.

This female house wren is bringing insects to her chick, that’s nesting in a birdhouse.

©Patrick Messier/

House wrens are small birds with flat heads and long, curved beaks. They have short wings and cock or droop their tails above their body line as a signature sign of their species. They have an average length of 4.3 inches to 5.1 inches, a wingspan of 5.9 inches, and an average weight of 0.3 to 0.4 ounces. House wrens are usually brown and have darker wings and tails. Many wren species have a pale eyebrow feature, but the house wren’s pale eyebrow feature is fainter than other wren species.

Carolina wrens have a small, round body and a long tail known to cock upwards. In addition, these birds have large heads and small necks with a long, down-curved beak. Carolina wrens are not much larger than house wrens in size, but they have a more extensive wing span and average weight. They have an average length of 4.7 inches to 5.5 inches, a wingspan of 11.4 inches, and an average weight of 0.6 to 0.8 ounces. Carolina wrens are often reddish-brown to orange in color. In addition, these birds have a white eyebrow feature, a dark bill, and a white throat.

House Wren vs. Carolina Wren: Behavior

Carolina wrens courting on a branch high in a tree

These Carolina wrens are courting on a tree branch.

©Steve Byland/

House wrens are energetic and hop around trees and low branches. They also have an enthusiastic and cheerful song that is distinctive. Carolina wrens are prevalent in backyards and vegetated areas. These birds also cock their tails upwards while foraging and singing. Carolina wrens are constantly singing to defend their territory and assert dominance.

House Wren vs. Carolina Wren: Lifespan

The average lifespan of a house wren is seven years, while the average lifespan of a Carolina wren is six years. Therefore, the oldest house wren on record would have been over nine years old. This wren was banded in banding operations in New York in 1993. The oldest Carolina wren on record was seven years and eight months old. This wren was banded in 1997.

Mating and Nesting

A tiny fledgling House Wren sitting in the palm of a hand.

A fledgling house wren sitting in the palm of a hand.


Male house wrens court the female and defend their territory through singing. Male house wrens are known to have more than one mate, while female House wrens may leave the male to care for her young from her first brood before she moves to another territory and nests again. Males will build a range of nests, and the female will choose her favorite nest before completing the construction. Females make the structure by adding twigs, grass, animal hair, and feathers. Females are known to lay five to eight eggs and incubate for 12 to 15 days. Both wren parents feed their young, which leave the nest at roughly three weeks old. House wrens have two broods per year and may have three on rare occasions.

Carolina wrens are monogamous, and breeding pairs stay together for years. While together, both males and females build nests, often choosing to create them on branches, in tree holes, and on stumps. Sometimes they will make their nests on windowsills, mailboxes, and other available man-made spots. Female Carolina wrens lay roughly four eggs and incubate for two weeks. During incubation, the male Carolina wren will forage food for the female. And once the eggs hatch, both parents will feed the young before they leave the nest.

House Wren vs. Carolina Wren: Diet

If you want to create an appealing destination for house wrens, you should leave mealworms, bark butter, or sunflower chips out. In the wild, house wrens forage and find prey between bark and leaves. House wrens are known to eat:

  • Small insects
  • Worms
  • Spiders
  • Larvae

If you want Carolina wrens in your garden, leave suet, peanuts, and mealworms out for them. Carolina wrens eat the following:

  • Suet
  • Peanuts
  • Insects

Although Carolina wrens are carnivorous, most of their diet consists of nuts and vegetation.

House wren (Troglodytes aedon) in spring in a tree.

House wren (Troglodytes aedon) in spring in a tree.


House Wren Fun Facts

  • House wrens puncture the eggs or kick out the young of other birds that nest in cavities. They do this to protect their own eggs and young from foreign birds in their territory.
  • Both the male and female house wrens sing competitively and the outcome of prolific singing by the females means that they lose fewer eggs to ovicide.
  • If you would like to attract house wrens to your home, painting a nest box in red or green is likely to attract them.
  • House wrens build their nests with natural materials, like grass, hair, and feathers. However, they also make nests from materials like paper clips, wires, staples, tacks, nails, lint, hooks, fasteners, and bobby pins.

Carolina Wren Fun Facts

  • Carolina wrens are sensitive to cold weather, resulting in northern populations decreasing in size after severe winters.
  • Only the male Carolina wren sings loudly, which is unusual as both genders typically sing in this species.
  • One caged male Carolina wren is reported to have sung nearly 3,000 times in a single day.
  • Carolina wrens are monogamous, and pairs are known to forage and stay together in their territory all year-round.

Bonus: House Wrens Like to Have Spiders as Roommates

False widow spider egg sack.

House wrens have been known to distribute spider egg sacs around their nest.

©Chloe Langton/

House wrens are known to fight other birds such as bluebirds, warblers, and chickadees for the best nesting sites – and once they land the right spot – they work to make it perfect. These industrious little birds have come up with a method to keep their chicks free of mites and parasites. They gather spider egg sacks and distribute them around the lining of their nest. When the baby spiders hatch – they eat the pests that pester the little chicks! With ideas like that – its no wonder that house wrens have the largest distribution of any songbird in the Americas!

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with more than eight years of content creation experience. My content writing covers diverse genres, and I have a business degree. I am also the proud author of my memoir, My Sub-Lyme Life. This work details the effects of living with undiagnosed infections like rickettsia (like Lyme). By sharing this story, I wish to give others hope and courage in overcoming their life challenges. In my downtime, I value spending time with friends and family.

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