Wren vs Sparrow: What Bird Are You Seeing?

Some small brown birds are hard to identify in the backyard. Learn how to tell the difference between a wren vs a sparrow.

Wren vs Sparrow: ID Challenge

House Wren

Bnbbyc19 Amy HarknessCourtesy Amy Harkness
House wrens are small brown songbirds.

The house wren and house sparrow are small brown birds with similar names. Both species are commonly seen in backyards. However there are some easy ways to tell the difference between a wren vs a sparrow.

A house wren has a longer, thinner bill that is perfect for catching and eating insects. You will rarely see them stop by your feeding station for seeds and suet. However, these cavity nesting birds will often use birdhouses to raise a family in your yard. House wrens migrate south in winter and are most often spotted across most of the United States in the summer months. They are also are smaller birds than house sparrows and tend to prefer low, brushy habitats more than wide open areas.

wren vs sparrowCourtesy Karen Elliott
House wrens are one of the most common cavity nesters throughout the United States.

Some other wrens you might see in the United States include Carolina wrens and cactus wrens.

Enjoy 16 delightful pictures of wren birds.

House Sparrow

Two House SparrowsPaulFleet/Getty Images
Male and female house sparrows perched on a branch

The house sparrow has a thicker, sturdier bill for eating seeds and cracked corn. This species commonly visits bird feeders. Males have a distinctive black bib, but the female is more plainly colored. Though this species also uses bird houses, these invasive birds are are seen as undesirable by birders. This is because they kill or harm native species such as bluebirds. Here’s how to keep their nests out of bluebird boxes.

wren vs sparrowCourtesy Clay Finney
Male house sparrow with nesting material

House sparrows are extremely adaptable birds. You can frequently spot them at restaurant patios and anywhere they can snag a spare crumb on the ground.

Though house sparrows tend to have a bad reputation, there are many other native sparrow species you might see across North America. Look for the song sparrow, the chipping sparrow, and the white-throated sparrow.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor's degree in agricultural and environmental communications from the University of Illinois. Lori enjoys growing vegetables and flowers for pollinators in her backyard gardens. She also is an avid bird-watcher.