Crests & Wren

Goldcrest. Photo: f.c.franklin – flickr

This is our smallest bird, and not surprisingly it’s also very high-pitched. In fact, some find it difficult to hear, or can’t hear it at all.

This is a species which regularly frequents conifers, moving rapidly through the canopy, seeming hyper. If you hear a high-pitched call coming from the tops of a conifer, there is a very good chance that this will be a Goldcrest. The call is quite a simple, high-pitched, thin “tsee-see-see”. It’s a rather rapid sequence and mirrors the jittery behaviour of the species:

The song is also very high-pitched, and is difficult to confuse with much else because of this alone. It consists of a fast-paced loop of “ti-ti-loo”, and speeds up, rising pitch in a rather abrupt ending:

The subsong of this species is surprising, in that it is often rather mimetic, despite the species not being known as a mimic! Subsong is akin to a warmup song, given by young birds and even adults, as they practice in winter and spring, as they prepare for the big show! Subsong is often rather different to the main song and often lacks solid structure and/or flow. This often means it is difficult to identify birds giving subsong. With a keen ear, you can often pick up clues and solve the mystery, though. Listen below and see if you can hear the mimicry. There is at least mimicry of blue tit, great tit and chaffinch:


Don’t be fooled by its tiny size, the Wren packs an extremely powerful punch in the vocal department, and is a very commonly heard songster.

The song of this little passerine is one of the most familiar sounds of our dawn chorus, and there is a very handy trick to remember it by. Its best described as an explosive series of high-pitched thrills, but most importantly, it almost always contains a machine gun-like rattle somewhere in amongst the madness! If you’re having trouble remembering this song, just listen for the rattle! It’s a dead giveaway. Listen below and you’ll hear the rattle at approx 3.5 seconds:

If you can remember the rattle, you can then readily identify the alarm call, which is also frequently given. This is reminiscent to the rattle only slower:


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