Our analysis of the ND2 sequences revealed six clades within winter wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes). These clades corresponded to six geographical regions: western Nearctic, eastern Nearctic, eastern Asia, Nepal, Caucasus and Europe, and differed by 3–8.8% of sequence divergence. Differences among regions explained 96% of the sequence variation in winter wren. Differences among individuals within localities explained 3% of the sequence variation, and differences among localities within regions explained 1%. Grouping sequences into subspecies instead of localities did not change these proportions. Proliferation of the six clades coincided with Early and Middle Pleistocene glaciations. The distribution of winter wren clades can be explained by a series of five consecutive vicariant events. Western Nearctic wrens diverged from the Holarctic ancestor 1.6 Myr before the present time (MYBP). Eastern Nearctic and Palaearctic wrens diverged 1 MYBP. Eastern and western Palaearctic birds diverged 0.83 MYBP. Nepalese and east Asian wrens diverged 0.67 MYBP, and Caucasian birds diverged from European wrens 0.54 MYBP. The winter wren has a much greater degree of inter– and intracontinental differentiation than the three other Holarctic birds studied to date—dunlin (Calidris alpina), common raven (Corvus corax) and three–toed woodpecker (Picoides trydactylus)—and represents an example of cryptic speciation that has been overlooked.