The Wren: Small but Mighty
Today, the first Sunday in May, is International Dawn Chorus Day. This day is an annual celebration of the peak of the spring dawn chorus symphony. All over the country there are early morning walks and events planned to celebrate the most magical of natural phenomenon. From 4am the countryside wakes up, one species of bird at a time, and music seems to emanate from everywhere. In a few weeks the orchestra will start to thin out as the birds become busy with feeding young, but for now the thin morning air is filled with the celebratory sound of bird song.
I thought today would be a good day to spotlight the Wren. This diminuitive little brown bird, with it’s funny sticky-uppy tail, has a surprisingly loud singing voice. The wren is a key chorister in the dawn chorus synphony. It is relatively easy to pick out the wren song from amongst the other dawn voices, partly because the wren’s fast little song is so high. A wren sings up to one full octave above the top note of a piano and the sound carries above the rest of the orchestra, like a piccolo. Apparently the implausibly loud noise is possible because of an organ called a syrinx with a resonating chamber in the wren’s throat and special membranes that utilise all the air in the lungs and can provide two notes at the same time.
Wrens have a special place in human hearts. In our house when my sister and I were growing up there was a bird-identification poster in front of the loo in the bathroom. It had photographs of different species, a brief description and the latin names. The only latin name I remember to this day is the name for the wren – Troglodytes Troglodytes. Two silly-sounding words that make my heart happy.
And now the word Wren has a new happy meaning for me as my oldest friend and her partner have recently had a little baby boy called Wren. We’re hoping that my son and Wren will become each other’s oldest friends. So now the word Wren represents friendship and hopefulness to me.
I was surprised to learn that the wren is the most common breeding bird in the UK. There are approximately 8.5 million breeding territories. These little brown birds might be small, but they are getting something right.
There’s an absolutely gorgeous article here about the wren and about bird song. Also, if you ever need a quick pick-me-up just google images of baby wrens. SO CUTE. [That reminds me, someone once described fledgling wrens to me as maltesers that were slightly fluffy from being rolled along a carpet!]