House Wren vs. Carolina Wren: 5 Key Differences

The house wren and Carolina wren both look very similar, but there are a few ways to set them apart. We will explore the differences between house wren vs. Carolina wren in this blog.

Carolina wrens and house wrens both belong to the family of brown birds called Troglodytidae. This family consists of 88 species of birds, including the common wrens that visit your yard in the spring.

House wrens and Carolina wrens are both tiny birds and may look very similar to amateur bird enthusiasts.


House Wren Vs Carolina Wren


But bird watchers can tell the difference based on their physical attributes, feeding and nesting habits, and where and when you can see them.

In this article, we will talk about the differences between these two birds.

Physical Traits


House wrens are primarily brown. Their entire body is covered with brown feathers with barred-brown feathers on the wings, which are slightly darker in color.

Carolina wrens have rust-brown colored feathers on the upper body, while their feathers are light cinnamon colored in the breast region.

Patch on the eyes

Like most Wren species, Carolina wrens bear a distinct color patch above the eye. They have a white-colored patch, which is missing or very faded in house wrens.


House Wren vs. Carolina Wren: 5 Key Differences



House wrens have greyish beaks with yellow at the base, but the beaks are short and straight. Carolina wrens have downward pointed beaks that are slender and long.

Size and Weight

Carolina wrens are slightly bigger than house wrens. Carolina wrens measure roughly 4.9 to 5.5 inches in length with a 10-12 inches wingspan.

House wrens are 4.3 to 5.5 inches long with a wingspan length of 5.9 inches. Moreover, Carolina wrens weigh around 0.6 to 0.85 oz, while house wrens weigh only 0.35 to 0.42 oz.

Feeding Habits

Another distinguishing feature of house wrens and Carolina wrens is their feeding habits.

While you can find Carolina wrens visiting seed feeders in the garden or backyard, you will rarely find house wrens visiting a feeder.

Carolina wrens enjoy insects such as caterpillars, true bugs, bottles, grasshoppers, and others. But they prefer to feed on fruits, fruit pulp, berries, seeds, and nuts. You can attract Carolina wrens by placing suet feeders in your garden or backyard filled with grains.

In contrast, house wrens eat a wide variety of invertebrates, including spiders, millipedes, bottles, crickets, grasshoppers, true bugs, and more. But they do not feed on seeds like Carolina wrens.



Nesting Habits

Both house wrens and Carolina wrens are cavity-nesting birds. There are many cavity nesters in the bird kingdom, including woodpeckers and chickadees.

Male house wrens find several nesting cavities and then stuff them with sticks to make nests. The female chooses one of these nests to lay eggs while the male continues to defend all the sites.

In contrast, Carolina wrens make only one cavity as their nest. Their preferred habitat is in nest boxes, behind the windows, or even behind doors. They are friendly and aren’t afraid of humans being near their nests.

Multiple house wrens can nest in the same cavity, whereas only a single pair of Carolina wrens can nest in one cavity.

House wrens tend to take over nests made by other birds if they like the nesting site. So when house wrens arrive, Carolina wrens typically move to deeper areas in the woods, tangles, and brushes.

Where And When Can You See Them

Carolina Wrens arrive in early spring, and within a few days into spring, you can hear their songs. House wrens appear in the United States in late April.

When all wrens have already migrated for winter, you can catch a glimpse of another species of wren, aptly called the winter wrens.

House wrens love bird baths, especially if they have a small fountain in them. As mentioned earlier, Carolina wrens love suet feeders and bird boxes in your yard.

You can find house wrens across America, whereas Carolina wrens are rare in the Northern and western parts of the continent.


House Wren Vs Carolina Wren



House wrens might be tiny and sing melodious bird songs, but they can be quite savage. They fight for any nests they want and sometimes kill the mama bird to take over the nest.

House wrens often kill bluebirds in this way. Because of their aggression, many people don’t welcome these birds in their gardens.

Carolina wrens are also territorial during the breeding season and defend their nests fiercely.

However, they are not as bad as house wrens, who do not tolerate any birds around their nesting territory.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the nest of a Carolina Wren look like?

Carolina wrens build nests inside cavities such as mailboxes or man-made birdhouses. Inside the cavities, there is a cup of a length of 2.5 to 3 inches. Outside the cavity, nests are dome-shaped with the entrance on a side.

Which direction should the wren house face?

You should build any birdhouse in a protective location, such as below tree branches. In general, the house should face away from the direction of the wind. Therefore, the direction depends on where you live.

What month do house wrens nest?

House wrens start appearing in late April. They start finding nests right away and begin nesting in early May. The nesting process could continue throughout the summer months till August. Soon after this, they start migrating towards the south.

Where do Carolina Wrens go in the winter?

Carolina wrens are sedentary; they do not migrate but rather stay in their territory. They build their winter nests inside bird boxes or other hollow cavities with insulating materials such as dried grasses to protect themselves from the winter.

Wrap Up

Although both Carolina and house wrens belong to the same family, they are vastly different in terms of plumage, size, and when you can see and observe them.

Apart from that, their behavior is very different. While house wrens are aggressive neighbors, Carolina wrens are much more friendly. Thank you for reading!

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

One Comment

  1. This article was a great help! I noticed a pair of small brown/reddish birds building a nest in an old cardboard box on my porch. I had just brushed my golden retriever and saw one taking some fur to the box. Thanks to your article, I’m sure it’s a pair of Carolina wrens that have decorated their nest with my dog’s fur! Hopefully I can keep the squirrels and raccoons away from their nest and soon I’ll be hearing some baby wrens calling for their breakfast! ❤️

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