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The wrens are passerine birds in the mainly New World family Troglodytidae. There are about 80 species of true wrens in about 20 genera. The genus eponymous of the family is Troglodytes. Only the Eurasian Wren occurs in the Old World, where in Anglophone regions it is commonly known simply as the "wren" as it is the originator of the name. The name wren has been applied to other unrelated birds, particularly the New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae) and the Australian wrens (Maluridae).
Most wrens are small and rather inconspicuous, except for their loud and often complex songs. Notable exceptions are the relatively large members of the genus Campylorhynchus, which can be quite bold in their behavior. Wrens have short wings that are barred in most species, and they often hold their tails upright. As far as known, wrens are primarily insectivorous, eating insects, spiders and other small arthropods, but many species also eat vegetable matter and some will take small frogs/lizards.
Name and use of the term wren
The English name wren derives from Middle English wrenne, Old English wraenna, attested (as werna) very early, in an 8th century gloss. It is cognate to Old High German wrendo, wrendilo and Icelandic rindill (the latter two including an additional diminutive -ilan suffix). The Icelandic name is attested in Old Icelandic (Eddaic) rindilþvari. This points to a Common Germanic name *wrandjan-, but the further etymology of the name is unknown.
The wren is also known as kuningilin "kinglet" in Old High German, a name associated with a legend of an election of the "king of birds". The bird who could fly to the highest altitude would be made king. The eagle outflew all other birds, but he was beaten by a small bird who had hidden in his plumage. This legend is already known to Aristotle (Hist. animalium 9.11) and Plinius (Naturalis hist. 10.74 ), and was taken up by medieval authors such as Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg, but it concerns Regulus, and is apparently motivated by the yellow "crown" sported by these birds (a point noted already by Ludwig Uhland).
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