Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004
* Japanese name: Misosazai
* Scientific name: Troglodytes troglodytes
* Description: The wren is tiny, the smallest Japanese bird, only 10 cm long. It has brown upperparts and gray-brown underparts. There is a white stripe above the eye. (The Japanese name refers not to its brown color and thus similarity to miso soybean paste, but to mizo meaning trench: The name means "small bird living in a trench".) Wrens may be small but they sure are cocky, with rapid flight and a loud and explosive song. Males and females look the same.
* Where to find them: In mountain regions, forests, fields, alongside streams, reed-beds, in gardens: everywhere from Kyushu northward. While they are sometimes difficult to spot, their song is readily audible, its volume out of proportion to their size, and can be heard year-round. Being so small, wrens lose heat readily and will roost together in large numbers in the winter to try and stay warm. Cold weather is their biggest killer.
* Food: Mainly insects and spiders. Wrens have a slightly curved bill, and assume a crouching posture when hunting for food. In winter, hungry wrens will eat berries. They also sometimes eat snails, millipedes or even tiny fish, catching them from the edges of streams. Gardeners appreciate wrens as they will eat many garden pests, such as caterpillars.
* Special features: Why do wrens sing so loudly? To attract females, naturally. While doing this, the male will squat and shake his wings, cock his tail, wiggle it, and fan his wings. The songs are complex, sometimes lasting more than 8 seconds and consisting of more than 100 separate notes. Wrens are socially monogamous, but a rather high proportion of the young that a male will help his partner raise will not belong to him. In other words, they will often mate with birds other than their partner: All is not as meets the eye in the wren world and scientists only discovered the high levels of so-called "extra-pair copulation" after doing DNA tests. Wrens will lay two broods of six eggs per year.