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Bewick’s Wren

These Warblers have a complex and varied song that consists of a series of musical notes, trills, and warbles.

Sixteen subspecies of Bewick’s Wren are reported, and the two subspecies occurring in eastern North America have both declined substantially, perhaps due to competition from House Wrens which destroy Bewick’s Wren’s eggs. One Bewick’s Wren in California reached the age of eight years in the wild.

Unlike Carolina Wrens which remain paired all year, Bewick’s Wren pairs separate for the winter. They are year-round residents in most areas, and so may encounter their mate during the winter, though pairing actually takes place in early spring.


Description of the Bewick’s Wren


The Bewick’s Wren has variably brown or grayish-brown upperparts, pale grayish underparts, a long, white line above the eye, and a long, brown tail barred with black that is usually held cocked upright.  Length: 5 in.  Wingspan: 7 in.

Bewick's Wren


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Juveniles are similar to adults.


Bewick’s Wrens inhabit brushy undergrowth, gardens, and woodlands.


Bewick’s Wrens primarily eat insects, but also, rarely, berries.

Bewick's Wren

Photograph © Glenn Bartley


Bewick’s Wrens forage by hopping on trunks, branches, or on the ground.


Bewick’s Wrens are resident along the West Coast, throughout the southwestern U.S., and in parts of the eastern U.S. They leave some eastern breeding areas in the winter. The population is stable, except in the eastern U.S., where it is declining.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Bewick’s Wren.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird’s wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species’ identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History.

Fun Facts

There are 10 subspecies of Bewick’s Wrens north of Mexico, and they vary in plumage and song.

Eastern populations have diminished substantially in both range and number, possibly due to competition with House Wrens.


The song is extremely variable, but is generally a series of buzzes and trills.


Similar Species

Carolina Wren
Carolina Wrens have buffy-orange underparts, which do not show up well in this image. Tail of Carolina Wren is barred and brown. Tail of the Bewick’s Wren is edged with white spots.

House Wren
House Wrens lack the bold white eyeline.


The Bewick’s Wren’s nest is made of twigs and lined with leaves and bark strips. It is placed in a tree cavity, nest box, or a variety of unusual locations.

Number: 5-7 eggs.

color: White with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 12-14 days and fledge at about 14 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for another several weeks.


Bent Life History of the Bewick’s Wren

Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.

Bent Life History for the Bewick’s Wren – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.



Bewick’s wren, the type race of the species, is the eastern representative of a widely distributed species that has been subdivided into 12 additional subspecies in western North America within the limits of our Check-list. Although it has the widest range and has been known for the longest time, it does not seem to have been so thoroughly studied as some of the western races. Its breeding range, according to the 1931 Check-list, is from southeastern Nebraska, northern Illinois, southern Michigan, and central Pennsylvania south to central Arkansas, northern Mississippi, central Alabama, central Georgia, and the highlands of South Carolina.

The local distribution of Bewick’s wren seems to be dependent on, or limited by, the local distribution of the house wren, for the two do not seem to get along well together, as several observers have noted. Perhaps the gentle Bewick’s wren is no match for the more aggressive house wren.

Dr. George M. Sutton (1930) says: “The House Wren and Carolina Wren may inhabit precisely the same region without friction; but the House Wren and Bewick’s Wren, or the Bewick’s Wren and Carolina Wren, or all three species, evidently do not.” (See also Bayard H. Christy’s 1924 paper.)

Whatever the local situations may be, or whichever wren may be the aggressor, the fact remains that Bewick’s wren has been steadily extending its general range northward into the States named above, as well as in Ohio and Indiana, in regions where it was unknown 50 years ago; most of this northward extension seems to have occurred during the last decade of the last century and the first ten years of this. This movement is discussed in more detail by Leon J. Cole (1905) and more lately by W. E. Clyde Todd (1940), for those who care to study its progress.

Where Bewick’s wren replaces the house wren it becomes the “house wren” of the community, avoiding the swampy woodlands and frequenting open woodlands, upland thickets and hills, fence rows near houses, and orchards, where it is often seen perched on telephone wires or even the roofs of houses and farm buildings, pouring out its delightful song. Ridgway (1889) says: “No bird more deserves the protection of man than Bewick’s Wren. He does not need man’s encouragement, for he comes of his own accord and installs himself as a member of the community, wherever it suits his taste. He is found about the cow-shed and barn along with the Pewee and Barn Swallow; he investigates the pig-sty; then explores the garden fence, and finally mounts to the roof and pours forth one of the sweetest songs that ever was heard.” William Brewster (1886) says that, in western North Carolina, it was “confined almost exclusively to the towns, where it was usually one of the most abundant and conspicuous birds. * * * At Asheville it was breeding in such numbers that nearly every shed or other out-building harbored a pair.”

Nesting: Almost any suitable cavity or place of support will suit this wren for a nesting site. Dr. S. S. Dickey (Todd, 1940) writes: “Odd and wonderful are the sites that Bewick’s Wren habitually chooses for its summer home. Away from the haunts of man, it selects locations suggesting its primitive habits: knotholes in fallen trees in the woods or open fields, natural cavities and woodpecker-holes in trees, or now and then the center of a dense brush heap. But civilization has provided this bird with an unusual variety of homes. Any opening of ready access invites its attention; among those used are holes in fence posts, tin cans, empty barrels, discarded clothing hung in buildings, baskets, bird boxes, deserted automobiles, oil wells, and crevices in stone, brick, or tile walls.”

Ridgway (1889) adds the following:

Usually it is in a mortise-hole of a beam or joist, or some well-concealed corner. One was beneath the board covering of an ash-hopper; another, in a joint of stovepipe which lay horizontally across two joists in the garret of a smoke-house; a third was behind the weather-boarding of an ice-house, while a fourth was in the bottom of the conical portion of a quail-net that had been hung up against the inner side of a buggy shed. None of these nests would have been found had not the bird been seen to enter.

The nest is generally very bulky, though Its size is regulated by that of the cavity in which it is placed. Its materials consist of sticks, straw, coarse feathers, fine chips, etc., matted together with spiders’ webs, and lined with tow and soft feathers of barnyard fowls.

Myra Katie Roads writes to me of a nest that was built in a mail box and disturbed every time the mail was deposited or removed; it was destroyed before the eggs hatched. There is a set of eggs in my collection, taken by Dr. Dickey; the nest was built on top of and partly inside a last year’s nest of the phoebe; this was plastered to the side of a horizontal beam against the ceiling of the lower story of a sheep shed, 8 feet above the ground.

In addition to the materials named above, nests have been found to contain green moss, dead leaves, cotton, hair, wool, and occasionally a piece of cast-off snakeskin.

On at least two occasions, a cowbird’s egg has been found in the nest of this wren, according to Dr. Herbert Friedmann (1929).

A. Dawes DuBois tells me of a nest he found that “was between two sheets of loosely placed sheet iron in the flat roof of a farmer’s shelter for pigs; he has another in his collection that “was in a sack hung up with seed corn in an old outhouse; there was a hole in the side of the sack and through this the wrens entered.” And Aretas A. Saunders writes to me that he saw one building a nest in a wood pile.

Eggs: The commonest numbers of eggs found in the nests of Bewick’s wren run from 5 to 7; perhaps 7 might be called the average; as few as 4 and as many as 11 have been found, and sets of 8 or 9 are not very rare. The eggs are often very pretty; the ground color is white, and they are more or less irregularly spotted and dotted with reddish brown, umber, various shades of lighter brown, purplish brown, drab, or lavender. The markings are sometimes concentrated in a ring about the larger end. Some are very finely and faintly sprinkled with minute dots; and some are nearly immaculate. The measurements of 40 eggs in the United States National Museum average 16.4 by 12.7 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 17.8 by 12.7, 16.8 by 13.2, 14.6 by 12.8, and 15.3 by 11.7 millimeters.

Young: The period of incubation has been estimated as 10 to 14 days, but most observers agree on 14 days as the average. Probably only the female incubates, as suggested by one of the western races. The young remain in the nest about 14 days and are fed by both parents while in the nest and for 2 weeks or more after they leave it. Two broods are generally raised in a season, and sometimes three in the South. Butler (1898) says that the young return “every night to roost in the nest after they are able to fly.”

M. B. Skaggs (1934) timed the feedings of a brood of four young for four periods of one hour each on three different days, with the following results:

First day: Rain almost constantly. Fed 13 times at an average of 4.61 minutes. Second day: a. m., fed 24 times at average intervals of 2.50 minutes; p.m., fed 19 times at average intervals of 3.15 minutes. Third day: fed 23 times at average intervals of 2.61 minutes. The average interval was 3.04 minutes; the longest Interval was 15 minutes; the shortest interval was ½ minute.

Assuming that the feeding was done only 13 hours per day, 250 trips were made daily. If young were in nest only 12 days, this would mean about 3,072 insects were consumed in addition to what the adults ate. The food for the young seemed to consist mostly of green worms with a few moths and caterpillars. Obviously this destruction of insect life must have been very beneficial to the near-by apple orchard.

Plumages: I have seen no very young nestlings. Ridgway (1904) describes the plumages as follows: The young in juvenal plumage are “similar to adults, but ground color of middle rectrices brown, like back, etc., feathers of chest (sometimes throat also) more or less distinctly margined or edged with grayish or dusky, and under tail-coverts more brownish and less distinctly barred.” Young birds, showing the postjuvenal molt, are scarce in collections, but apparently this molt occurs in August or September, involving the contour plumage, the wing coverts and the tail, but not the rest of the wings. This produces a first winter plumage that is practically indistinguishable from the winter plumage of the adult. Ridgway (1904). says that winter adults, at least in fresh plumage, are “more brightly colored, the upper parts more chestnut-brown,” than in spring birds, “middle rectrices browner (broccoli brown to light bistre), sides and flanks more strongly tinged with brown, the under tail-coverts with ground color brownish white or pale buffy brown.” Wear and fading produce somewhat duller colors before spring. Adults apparently have a complete postnuptial molt in August and September.

Food: No comprehensive study of the food of the eastern Bewick’s wren seems to have been made, but it probably does not differ widely from that of the California races. It is undoubtedly an insectivorous bird, as are all the wrens. It has been credited with eating boll weevils in the South and locusts in Nebraska.

Behavior: Bewick’s wren is a gentle, confiding bird, rather courting than avoiding human society, being a familiar dooryard bird throughout most of its range. What has been said about its haunts and nesting habits illustrates this point. Mr. Brewster (1886) writes of its actions: “This species resembles other Wrens (especially T. ludovicianus) in habits and motions, creeping and hopping about under eaves of buildings, and along fences, entering every hole and crevice, and appearing and disappearing like a mouse. Its slender shape and long tail give it, however, a somewhat peculiar appearance: much like that of the Polioptilae. The tail is habitually carried above the line of the back, although its position and inclination are constantly changing. It is not moved in the usual jerky Wren-fashion, but rather slowly and deliberately. In a breezy situation it often seems quite beyond the bird’s control, waving about with every passing puff of air.”

Ridgway (1889) says that, as the bird hops about, its long tail is “carried erect or even leaning forward, and jerked to one side at short intervals. In its movements it is altogether more deliberate than either T. ludovicianus or T. aedon, but nothing can excel it in quickness when it is pursued.”

Voice: Bewick’s wren is a fine singer. Mr. Brewster (1886) says that “the song is sweet and exquisitely tender – one of the sweetest and tenderest strains that I know. It recalls that of the song sparrow, but is more prolonged, varied, and expressive.” A. W. Butler (1898) reports a long period of song, as heard in Indiana, from the last of March until the end of August; and once it was heard on October 14. He says that the common alarm note is plit; and they have “a finer rattling note than that uttered by the Carolina Wren. * * * One song I have written chip, chip chip, te-da-a, te-dee; another, cheep, cheep, che-we-e-e-e. A third song sounds something like whee-to-weet, a-her, che-chee, while one of its most familiar efforts seems to be expressed by chick, click, for me- é, for you.”

Ridgway (1889) says that the song is “not a voluble gabble, like the House Wren’s merry roundelay, but a fine, clear, bold song, uttered as the singer sits with head thrown back and long tail pendent, – a song which may be heard a quarter of a mile or more, and in comparison with which the faint chant of the Song Sparrow sinks into insignificance.”

Howell and Oldys (1907) made a careful study of various songs of this wren, and state that “in imitative ability the Bewick Wren has, apparently, no rival among our eastern birds other than the Mockingbird, by which, however, it is greatly excelled. * * * It seems to be better entitled to the sobriquet of ‘Mocking Wren,’ than the Carolina Wren, on which the name is sometimes inappropriately bestowed.”

Francis H. Allen (MS.) writes the song as “tzip-ta-tzee-ta-trill-zip, or pit-zee-ta-trill, both infrequent.” And he calls the scolding note a buzzing dzz. He says that the ordinary song is like a song sparrow’s, but has a minor strain near the beginning suggestive of the fox sparrow, and ends in a trill.

Field marks: Bewick’s wren is smaller than the Carolina wren and larger than the house wren. It has a much longer tail than either; the tail is rounded at the tip and appears broader there than at the base; the lateral tail feathers are tipped with white spots, which show when the tail is spread; the tail is frequently in motion. There is a conspicuous white line over the eye. The back is grayer, less reddish brown, than in the Carolina wren, the underparts are lighter colored, and the bird is more slender.


Range: From the southwestern British Columbia and the Pacific coast region; and from central United States to southern Mexico.

Breeding range: The Bewick’s wren breeds north to southwestern British Columbia (Comox, V. I., Chilliwack, and casually to Howe Sound) through Washington and Oregon west of the Cascades, to northeastern California (Sugar Hill and Cedarville); southern Nevada (Pahrump Mountains and St. Thomas) ; southern Utah (Iron City); southwestern Wyoming (Green River Valley); central Nebraska (Kearney); southern Iowa (Iowa City and Davenport); southern Wisconsin (Prairie du Sac); southern Michigan (Grand Rapids and Aim Arbor) ; and central Pennsylvania (Beaver and State College). East to central Pennsylvania (State College and Blue Ridge Summit); the eastern slope of the Alleghenies, south to northern Georgia (Brasstown Bald and Ellijay). South to northern Georgia (Brasstown Bald and Ellijay); central Alabama (Woodbiana and Prattville); northern Mississippi (Iuka and New Albany); central Arkansas (Conway and Rich Mountain); northeastern Oklahoma (Tulsa County) to central Oklahoma and Texas and to southern Mexico (Oaxaca). West to Oaxaca (Oaxaca); Jalisco (Lake Chapala and Guadalajara); Baja California (San Juanico and Cedros Island); north through California, Oregon, and Washington west of the Cascades to British Columbia (Victoria and Comox).

Winter range: Bewick’s wren winters north to southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia (Courtenay), and south through Washington and Oregon west of the Cascades to southern California (Death Valley); southern Nevada (opposite Fort Mojave); central Arizona (Prescott); southern New Mexico (Silver City and Deming); central Texas (Fredericksburg, Waco, and Dallas); central Oklahoma (Oklahoma City); central Arkansas (Hot Springs); southern Illinois (Olney); and southwestern Ohio (Xenia). East to southwestern Ohio (Xenia); central Kentucky (Lexington); central Tennessee (Nashville and Murfreesboro); central Georgia (Athens and Macon); South Carolina (rarely Chester County and Charleston); and northern Florida (Daytona). South to northern Florida (Daytona and Pensacola); the Gulf coast to southern Texas (Brownsville); and southern Mexico (Oaxaca). West to Oaxaca (Oaxaca); Baja California (Cedros Island); Guadalupe Island, formerly; and the Pacific coast north to Vancouver Island.

The range as outlined is for the entire species, which has been divided into 16 subspecies or geographic races. The typical race (T. b. bewickii) breeds from Nebraska eastward to central Ohio; the Appalachian Bewick’s wren (T. b. altus) breeds from central Ohio and Pennsylvania through the mountains to Alabama; the Texas wren (T. b. cryptus) is found from central Texas to Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon; Baird’s wren (T. b. eremophilus) occurs in southeastern California, Arizona, southern Utah, and Colorado to extreme western Texas to Coahuila, Durango, and central Zacatecas; the Seattle wren (T. b. calophonus) is found on the Pacific slope from British Columbia to Oregon; the Nicasio wren (T. b. marinensis) occupies the coastal belt from southwestern Oregon to Mann County, Calif.; the Warner Valley wren (T. b. atrestus) occurs in southern Oregon from the Warner Valley west to Medford and Ashland; Vigor’s wren (T. b. spilurus) is found from San Francisco Bay to northern Monterey County, Calif.; the San Joaquin wren (T. b. drymoecus) occurs from the lower San Joaquin Valley and the western slope of the Sierra Nevada north to northern California; the San Diego wren (T. b. correctus) is found in the coastal belt from San Benito and Monterey Counties, Calif., to near the Mexican boundary; the Santa Cruz wren (T. b. nesophilus) occupies Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands, Calif.; the Catalina wren (T. b. catalinae) occurs on Santa Catalina Island; the San Clemente wren (T. b. leucophrys) occurs on San Clemente Island; the sooty wren (T. b. charienturus) is found in northwestern Baja California, south to latitude 300; the Cedros Island wren (T. b. cerroensis) occurs on Ccdros Island and the adjacent mainland; the Guadalupe wren (T. b. brevicauda) ,formerly a full species, now considered a subspecies of the Bewick’s wren, occurred on Guadalupe Island but is probably now extinct.

Spring migration: Late dates of spring departure are: Florida: Chipley, March 27. Georgia: Beachton, March 26. North Carolina: Raleigh, April 3. Mississippi: Ellisville, March 29. Louisiana: Baton Rouge, March 9. Arkansas: Delight, April 2. Texas: Bonham, April 4. Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, March 16. Arizona: Tucson, May 2.

Early dates of spring arrival are: Virginia: Lynchburg, March 14. West Virginia: French Creek, March 19. Pennsylvania: State College, April 10. Tennessee: Knoxville, February 19. Kentucky: Bowling Green, March 1. Ohio: Columbus, March 3. Indiana: Lafayette, March 17. Illinois: Urbana, March 17. Iowa: Blacksburg, March 19. Kansas: Manhattan, March 10. Nebraska: Hastings, April 6. Arizona: Tombstone, February 18. Colorado: Fort Morgan, May 4.

Fall migration: Late dates of fall departure are: Colorado: Fort Morgan, November 17. Arizona: Tombstone, November 15. Iowa: National, October 1. Missouri: Jasper City, November 12. Arkansas: Rogers, October 30. Illinois: Rantoul, October 25. Indiana: Richmond, October 14. Ohio: Cleveland, October 24. Kentucky: Versailles, October 20. Pennsylvania: Beaver, October 2. West Virginia: French Creek, October 12. Virginia: Naruna, November 18.

Early dates of fall arrival are: Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, October 15. Texas: Bonham, September 29. Arkansas: Delight, September 18. Louisiana: New Orleans, August 28. Mississippi: Bay St. Louis, September 21. North Carolina: Raleigh, September 24. South Carolina: Summerton, October 10. Georgia: Macon, September 27. Alabama: Greensboro, September 17. Florida: Pensacola, September 29.

Casual records: Two nests have been found near Augusta, Ga.; at Point Pelee, Ontario, specimens were taken in April of 1909 and 1917; one was collected at Appin, Ontario, on December 13, 1898; at Alton, N. H. a bird was shot on April 25, 1900; one was recorded at New Hamburg, Pa., on January 1, 1891; it was recorded on December 22, 1890, at Washington, D. C., and there are several records of occurrence there from March to November but no record of breeding.

Egg dates: California: 120 records, March 26 to June 18; 60 records, April 17 to May 13, indicating the height of the season.

Lower California: 7 records, April 11 to May 21.

Missouri: 5 records, March 28 to June 17.

Texas: 106 records, March 17 to July 22; 54 records, April 8 to May 10.

Washington: 23 records, March 29 to June 27; 12 records, April 25 to May 4.

West Virginia: 9 records, April 15 to June 8.



One more race, an eastern one, is added to the long list of subspecies of this plastic species, to which Dr. John W. Aldrich (1944) has given the above name. He describes it as “similar to Thryomanes bewickii bewickii, but darker and more sooty (less rufescent). In fresh autumnal plumage: above near mummy brown instead of Prout’s brown of Ridgway’s ‘Color Standards’. * * * There seems to be no significant size difference between this race and bewickii.”

“The breeding range,” says Dr. Aldrich, “extends: north to northeastern and central western Pennsylvania, and central Ohio, casually to central northern Ohio; west to southwestern Ohio, southeastern Kentucky, east central Tennessee, and northwestern Alabama; south to central Alabama, north central Georgia, and central South Carolina; and east to central South Carolina, central and northeastern Virginia, southern New Jersey (casually), and northeastern Pennsylvania.” It winters north to near northern limit of breeding range; south to northern Florida and the Gulf coast; and west to northeastern Texas.”




The wrens of this group, ranging from Kansas through Texas to Tamaulipas and Nuevo Le6n, in Mexico, have been given the above name. The subspecies is described by Ridgway (1904) as “similar to T. b. bewickii but decidedly larger, tail relatively longer (averaging equal to or longer than wing instead of distinctly shorter), and coloration grayer above (broccoli brown to a more decided brown hue), and whiter beneath, with blackish bars on under tail-coverts much narrower.”

The haunts and habits of the Texas wren are not much different from those of its eastern relative. George F. Simmons (1925) includes the following in his list of its habitats around Austin, Tex.: “Usually broken country, almost always near civilization; * * * old pastures dotted with brush heaps and lined with brush fences; cut-over woods; * * * thickets and beds of cactus in mesquite and cactus country; brush heaps and thickets along creeks; dense cedar brakes on the hills; along rather open creek valleys, on slopes and hills, and in semi-open country, but never in dense bottom woods or on extreme open country; about barns, deserted houses, wood piles and brush heaps. * * * The commonest local wren, a pair in nearly every garden.”

We found this wren to be a common resident about the city of Brownsville, in the rural districts surrounding it, in the open country about the ranches, and in the chaparral and pricklypear thickets. Other observers seem to have had the same experience with it there.

Edwin V. Miller (1941) says that “at Chipinque, Nuevo Le6n, at 4,000 feet, the wrens’ habitat consisted of large oaks, pines and other trees, with a thick undergrowth of brush; in the same habitat were Whip-poor-wills and Couch Jays.”

Nesting: The Texas wren builds its nest in just such a variety of situations as its eastern relative and in similar places. The only nest we saw was found beside the road as we were driving out from Brownsville; it was built behind a blind on a deserted house, and contained a brood of young on May 24, 1923. George B. Sennett (1879) says that “a pair of them built their nest between the ridge-pole and thatching of the roof of a corn-crib which we occupied in preparing our specimens, and almost over our heads. They were so tame as to hop about among the cotton, tow, papers, etc., on our benches, within a few feet of us, and take whatever pleased them.” He found another nest “in a brush fence at Lomita Ranch. The nest was quite simple, being but a handful of hair, leaves, feathers, cotton, and fine bark matted together.” Referring to the same general region about Brownsville, Dr. James C. Merrill (1878) says: “Its nests are placed in a variety of situations. I have found them in an old Woodpecker’s nest, placed between three or four joints of the prickly pear, forming a bulky structure, and among the twigs of various thorny bushes.”

Mr. Simmons (1925) says that, in the Austin region, the nest maybe placed anywhere from 3 inches to 25 feet, but usually about 6 feet, above ground. He mentions chosen by Bewick’s wrens elsewhere and adds a few unusual sites, such as broken bottles on shelves in sheds, old cow skulls in pastures, old hats in sheds, and old oriole and mockingbird nests. Others have found this wren nesting in old nests of the cactus wren and verdin; Harry P. Atwater (1887) has seen several such. He relates the following story: “I once told a little boy to put an old tin can in a brush heap and perhaps a bird would make a nest in it for him. About a week after I was surprised when the boy came and told me the bird had done so and laid an egg in it. * * * On finding the nest the evening before, the boy had taken the can with him to the house with the egg and bird in it, and after showing it to his folks had placed it in another brush heap close to the house. Six eggs were laid in this nest, and the can containing bird, eggs and nest taken into the house on several occasions after dark to show to people. Finally on one occasion the eggs were broken in handling and the nest deserted.”

Margaret Morse Nice (1931) watched a pair of Texas wrens building their nest, in Oklahoma; she gives the following account of their activity:

On April 18, 1926, a pair of Texas Wrens were building with great enthusiasm in one of our bird boxes; in 3 3/4 hours they made 239 trips: slightly more than one a minute. Their best record was 20 trips in 6 minutes. Both labored most of the time. The male was so busy that he only sang 17 songs during the period I watched. Two sample minutes will give an idea of their energy. 9:49. Both wrens coming to box, one goes in with a big twig, other says, jee, jee, jee, gives its twig to the bird inside, leaves, is hack with a rag which it pushes part way in, saying jee, jee, leaves. 1:57. Bird goes in with dead leaf, out again; other goes in with grass root, out; first enters with dead grass, out; other in with twig, out.

Mr. Simmons (1925) says that the nest is a “large, compact structure, top level and open above; composed of a mass of rubbish, principally cedar bark strips, small short sticks and twigs, dead leaves, bits of twine, and chicken feathers, with the occasional use of horsehair, cowbair, grass, weed stems, rootlets, oak blossoms, cast-off snake skin, cotton waste, leaf skeletons, spider webs, cobwebs, caterpillar cocoons, paper, and bits of corn husks. Cedar bark and twigs are usually interlocked and moulded into a strong, symmetrical nest with deep, well constructed cup.”

Eggs: The Texas wren sometimes lays as many as nine eggs, but the usual set consists of six or seven. These are practically indistinguishable from those of Bewick’s wren, showing the usual variations; some are more heavily marked with larger and more confluent spots, especially about the larger end. The measurements of 40 eggs in the United States National Museum average 16.2 by 12.7 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 17.8 by 13.2, 16.4 by 13.2, 14.6 by 12.0, and 15.8 by 11.7 millimeters.

The food, behavior, and voice of the Texas wren apparently do not differ materially from those of the species elsewhere. Mr. Simmons (1925) says that it “sings throughout the year, winter as well as summer.” The song reminds him of the song of the western lark sparrow, in its buzzing quality. Dr. Friedmann (1929) reports that Roy W. Quillen, of San Antonio, told him that he had found eggs of the eastern cowbird in a number of nests of this wren, and that, near Brownsville, Dr. A. H. Cordier found a nest “containing three eggs of the Red-Eyed Cowbird and one of the Wren’s. The female Wren was sitting on the eggs. The next day all three eggs hatched and two days later the nest and young were destroyed by a skunk.”




This is the desert wren of the Southwestern States and parts of Mexico, ranging from Colorado, southern Utah, southern Nevada, and southeastern California southward, through Arizona, New Mexico, and extreme western Texas, to Coahuila, Durango, and Zacatecas.

Ridgway (1904) describes this race as “similar to T. b. cryptus, but decidedly grayer above (hair brown, approaching broccoli brown in some winter specimens); upper tail-coverts and middle rectrices clearer gray; under parts still whiter, the sides more faintly tinged with brownish gray, the under tail-coverts more purely white and narrowly barred with black; wing and tail slightly longer, bill decidedly longer, midle toe shorter.”

Referring to Moffat County in northwestern Colorado, Russell W. Hendee (1929) writes: “While frequently reported from the juniper and pinyon region of southern Colorado, the Baird Wren has seldom been recorded from the northern part of the State. However, we found this species among the commonest of the breeding birds of the junipers near the Sand-wash [a dry valley]. A few were seen among the trees on the ridges near the river, but the birds were much more numerous in the more arid region to the westward.”

In Arizona we found Baird’s wren in the Huachuca and Catalina Mountains, in the lower portions of the canyons up to 6,000 feet, chiefly in the live-oak associations near the mouths of the canyons and on the low foothills. It was common, also, in the mesquite forest, in the valley of the Santa Cruz River, where there were many large trees and plenty of underbrush. In New Mexico and Texas its distribution seems to be about the same, mainly between 4,000 and 6,000 feet in the mountains, rarely up to 7,000 feet.

Nesting: We did not succeed in finding a nest of this wren in Arizona, but my companion, Frank C. Willard, told me that he once found a nest in the fold of a piece of burlap that was being used as an awning on a house in the Huachuca Mountains. Mr. Swarth (1904b) says that the nest is quite difficult to find and that he saw only three or four in this region, “all built in cavities in the trees, from six to fifteen feet from the ground.”

Dr. Coues (1882) found a nest in northern Arizona that was “in the hollow end of a blasted horizontal bough” of a cedar, “about eight feet from the ground.” The nest “rested upon the horizontal floor of the cavity, upon a bed of wood-mould and cedar-berries, about a foot from the ragged entrance of the hollow. It was a neat structure, about 4 inches across outside, by half as much in internal diameter, cupped to a depth of an inch and a half. Outside was a wall of small cedar twigs interlaced, and next came a layer of finely frayed inner bark strips from the same tree; but the bulk of the nest consisted of matted rabbit-fur stuck full of feathers, among which those of the Carolina Dove were conspicuous.”

Mr. Hendee (1929) found two nests in northwestern Colorado, of which he says: “A fresh nest, empty, was found on May 19. The first egg was laid about a week later and the set of six was completed on May 31. The nest was composed mostly of wool and feathers and a few small pieces of paper, loosely piled in a natural cavity in a juniper tree, about 2 feet from the ground. The opening was very small. A second nest was found on June 3. It was placed in a dead juniper branch about 5 inches in diameter, the opening, caused by the breaking off of a small branch, being about an inch in diameter at the widest point. The five eggs in this nest were hatching when it was visited on the following day.”

Eggs: The eggs of Baird’s wren are typical of the species, with the usual variations. The measurements of 40 eggs average 16.5 by 12.8 millimeters; and eggs showing the four extremes measure 17.8 by 13.0, 17.0 by 14.3, and 14.1 by 11.9 millimeters.

Plumages: Dr. Oberholser (1898) says: “Young birds of eremophilus range in color above from a light rufescent gray, hardly distinguishable from the shade of young cryptus, to a very dark, dull brownish gray; averaging, however, very much darker than the Texan form. Many of the specimens are fully as deeply colored as the young af charienturus, though averaging rather less rufescent.”

Van Tyne and Sutton (1937) found in their series of 29 adults, collected in Brewster County, Tex., between February 28 and May 26, two “well marked color phases, a gray and a brown one. * * * We cannot distinguish brown-phase Brewster County specimens from comparable Arizona and New Mexico specimens.”

Enemies: Probably these wrens are preyed upon by the usual predatory birds and mammals, but two reported cases are worth mentioning. Van Tyne and Sutton (1937) state that a “Baird’s Wren was found in the stomach of a Roadrunner.” And Mrs. Bailey (1928) says that Major Goldman found a dead wren “in the mouth of a rattlesnake that had just killed it.”

Winter: Dr. Grinnell (1914) found the desert Bewick wren to be common as a winter visitant in the lower Colorado Valley, in southeastern California; he says that it was “observed chiefly in the sparse brush margining the washes leading down from the desert interior. The catclaw and larger creosote bushes appeared to afford both productive foraging grounds and safe retreats. It was rarely that this wren was seen near the river, and then only as far as the salt-bush belt. The range of the western house wren in the willow association appeared to be not at all impinged upon by that of the desert Bewick wren. This again shows the local dissociation of birds of the same or nearly the same habits, even in their winter habitats. It is to be inferred that there are inherent preferences of the two species for cover of the two different sorts.”




For a comparatively short distance along the humid northwest coast, from southern British Columbia to Oregon, we find this somewhat larger and darker subspecies. It does not seem to be much darker or browner than its nearest neighbor on the coast, marinensis, but its size is greater.

Before Dr. Oberholser (1898) wrote his paper on this group, spilurus was supposed to range north to, at least, Mann County, the type locality of marinensis. He naturally wrote at that time, regarding calophonus: “It differs from spilurus, its nearest ally, in conspicuously larger bill, besides averaging greater in all its other measurements. The upper surface seems to be usually rather deeper and richer brown; the flanks somewhat more rufescent. From bewickii, calophonus is easily distinguished by deeper, more sooty brown above, much darker sides and flanks, wider superciliary stripe, longer bill, tarsus and middle toe.”

When I was in Seattle, in 1911, these wrens were common on the partially wooded campus of the University of Washington, especially in the ravines and on the brushy slopes. We saw them almost daily in the partially cleared woodlands around Kirkland, and on the wooded islands in the lake. S. F. Rathbun says, in his notes, that the Seattle wren is “partial to a somewhat rough country, to open second growth, and about the edges of the cleared spaces among the debris on the ground, particularly if there exists a confusion of fallen limbs. A section of cleared forest in the transitory stage toward being utilized, but as yet in a quite rough condition, will be found a favorite spot for this wren, especially if open enough to admit considerable light and sunshine.”

Nesting: The only nest that I saw was found near Kirkland, Wash., on May 10, 1911; it was placed in a natural cavity in the upturned roots of a fallen tree; as it contained five young birds, almost ready to fly, it was not examined closely. Mr. Rathbun tells me that this is one of the favorite spots among a variety of sites chosen; one nest that he describes in his notes was in such a situation; it was built into the cavity left where a stone had been lifted with the roots and then fallen out; it was made outwardly of small twigs, pieces of moss, rootlets, sheep wool, fibrous strips of dead stalks of various plants, and some bits of dead leaves, some of this material being somewhat interlaced; it was lined with fine plant fibers and soft feathers, including some of the mountain quail, a few pieces of snakeskin, and a few horsehairs. The nest measured 3 inches high and 5 inches in diameter externally; the inner cavity was 2 inches in diameter and 1½ inches deep.

J. H. Bowles (Dawson and Bowles, 1909) writes:

The building sites chosen by this wren for its nests are so variable that hardly anything can be considered typical. It may be in the wildest swampy wood far removed from civilization, but it is quite as likely to be found In a house in the heart of a city. A few of the nesting sites I have recorded are in upturned roots of fallen trees, deserted woodpecker holes, in bird boxes in the city, in a fishing creel hanging on a porch, under a slab of bark that has scaled away a few inches from the body of a tree, or an open nest on a beam under a bridge.

A very complete study of this wren has convinced me that it never builds any nests except those used in raising the young. In other words, it is the only wren in the Northwest that is positively guiltless of using “decoys.”

Eggs: Mr. Bowles (Dawson and Bowles, 1909), who has had considerable experience with the Seattle wren, says: “A set contains from four to six eggs, most commonly five. These are pure white in ground color, marked with fine dots of reddish brown. The markings are variable in distribution, some specimens being marked very sparingly over all, while in others the markings are largely concentrated around the larger end in the form of a more or less confluent ring. The eggs are rather short ovate oval in shape, and average in measurements 0.68 X 0.54 inch.

“Two broods are reared in a season; or perhaps it would be more correct to say that fresh eggs may be found at any time between the middle of April and the middle of June.”

The measurements of 27 eggs average 17.2 by 13.3 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.3 by 13.2, 16.3 by 14.0, 15.7 by 13,5, and 17.7 by 12.8 millimeters.

Behavior: Theed Pearse has sent me the following notes on the territorial behavior of this wren: “A question of territory arose between a pair of Seattle wrens that were nesting and an incoming house wren that had nested nearby for some years. The house wren on arrival investigated the garden and met the Seattle wren, both birds alighting on a dividing fence; the Seattle wren cackled, but nothing further happened; the house wrens absolutely recognized that beyond this line was the territory of the others; and, until the Seattle wrens had finished nesting operations, they never passed that line and always flew on the other side of the house.” He noted once that some violet-green swallows ousted some Seattle wrens from a partially built nest.

Voice: Mr. Rathbun tells me that this wren begins to sing as soon as winter breaks early in March, continuing well into July, intermittently in August, and at odd times in autumn; sometimes it sings on the pleasant days in winter, if the weather is mild. Early in spring it begins shortly after daybreak and will sing more or less continuously, sometimes for an hour or so. “At this time the renditions follow each other closely, spaced by a few seconds only. After this morning burst of singing wanes, the wren sings at odd times throughout the day. The song so often sung at this period is the one which has four notes, given in a chanted manner as it were.”

W. L. Dawson (Dawson and Bowles, 1909) writes: “To those who are acquainted only with the typical Bewick Wren of the East, the added vocal accomplishments of our western representative come in the nature of a surprise. For the characteristic ditty of bewickii proper, calophonus has introduced so many trills and flourishes that the original motif is almost lost to sight. Calophonus means having a beautiful voice, or sweetly sounding, and right well does the bird deserve the name, in a region .which is all too conspicuous for its lack of notable songsters.”

I cannot quite agree with that last phrase, as there are many fine singers west of the Rockies.

Theed Pearse writes to me that he has heard the Seattle wren mimicking the spring note of the chickadee so correctly that he did not recognize it as mimicry until the wren broke into its regular song.

Winter: Mr. Pearse tells me that, even as far north as Vancouver Island, this wren appears to be “very sedentary” all through the year; but the cold winters of 1937 – 38 and 1938 – 39 practically exterminated it, and not until 1941 could it be said to have recovered average numbers.



Dr. Oberholser (1932) describes this wren as “similar to Thryomanes bewickii drymoecus from the San Joaquin Valley, California, but much less rufescent (more grayish) above; somewhat darker; and averaging larger. * * * Resident in central southern Oregon, from the Warner Valley west to Medford and Ashland, and north to Gold Hill.”

“This new race,” says Oberholser, “is most typical in the Warner Valley. Birds from localities west to Gold Hill, Ashland, Keno, and Klamath Falls are somewhat rufescent above, thus inclining a little toward the race occupying the coast of Oregon. Compared with Thryomanes bewickii calophonus the present form is so much smaller and more grayish that it needs no special comparison. Altogether a series of 20 examples has been available.”




On the humid coast belt of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California, we have a wren that Dr. Grinnell (1910) describes as “similar to T. b. spilurus (Vigors), of the Santa Cruz faunal area south and east of San Francisco Bay, in size, but dorsal coloration brighter brown, of a vandyke tone, and flanks and light intervals on crissum strongly washed with vandyke brown. Similar to T. b. calophonus Oberholser, of western Washington and Oregon, but dorsal coloration brighter brown, of a less sooty tone, and size decidedly less.” He gives the range as Mann and Sonoma Counties, Calif., and remarks that he had not seen any specimens from the more northern coast region of California. The range of this form is now considered to extend into Oregon. Here we have a race, intermediate in range, like its southern neighbor in size and somewhat like its northern neighbor in coloration, yet not strictly intermediate in both characters.

As it lives in a somewhat similar environment and is evidently very closely related to these two adjacent races, we could hardly expect to find much difference in its habits. Practically nothing has been published on its habits that is in any way peculiar to it.

Robert R. Talmadge writes to me: “This form of the Bewick wren is a rare breeder in Humboldt County. I have found it breeding only on the lower bars of the Eel and the Van Duzen Rivers. In both of these localities the bars have a heavy growth of alder, cottonwood, willow, blackberries, and grasses. Among this growth are many drift logs and stumps, brought down by the high water. It is among the tangled roots and natural cavities of these stumps that this wren nests.”

The eggs of the Nicasio wren are apparently no different from those of the other races of this species. The measurements of 26 eggs average 16.7 by 12.9 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.5 by 13.5, 16.1 by 13.9, 14.6 by 12.5, and 16.3 by 11.9 millimeters.




This was the first of the western races of Bewick’s wrens to be described and named. The other races have all been separated since about 1880; in our first Check-list, published in 1886, this and Baird’s wren were the only western races included. The above name then covered all the wrens of this species inhabiting the Pacific slope of the United States, Baird’s wren occupying the southwestern desert regions. This old name is now restricted to the wrens of a narrow range in west-central California, from San Francisco Bay to northern Monterey County.

The distinguishing characters are thus described by Dr. Oberholser (1898) “Thryomanes bewickii spilurus may be distinguished from 6ewiclcii by its duller brown upper surface, darker sides and flanks, broader superciliary stripe, shorter wing and tail, rather longer middle toe and tarsus. It may be separated from chiarienturus by darker, decidedly more rufescent flanks and upper parts and by shorter tail; from drymoecus by the much darker color of sides, flanks and upper surface.”

Mr. Swarth (1916) says of the characters of spilurus: “Most nearly like T. b. marinensis, whose range adjoins that of spilurus at the north, but of lighter brown coloration dorsally, and of slightly greater size. Compared with drymoccus it is brighter reddish above. From charienturus it differs in deeper red coloration, and in different proportions. In spilurus the tail is slightly shorter than the wing; in clarienturus the tail is longer than the wing.” He admits that it is intermediate in range and in characters between marinensis and charienturus, both of which occupy much more extensive ranges.

Edwin V. Miller (1941) has published an interesting paper on the habitats of several western races of this species and a long account of the behavior of Vigors’s wren, from which much of what follows has been taken, though space will not permit as full quotations as the material warrants. lie says in a general way: “There are but few features of habitat common to all the races of Bewick wrens. Thick plant growth of a kind that will furnish the proper insect food seems to be the chief requisite. The kinds of plants in one part of the range of the species may be totally different from those in another part. The wrens may be found in trees more than 100 feet high or in brush not more than 3 feet high. In the Upper Sonoran Life-zone they are most abundant where the plant growth is thickest. They are particularly noted for their preference for mixed brush.”

It appears from his accounts, and the statements of others, that the western races are less domestic than the eastern race, and are more abundant in brushy areas away from human habitations. Chaparral-covered hills abound throughout the range of Vigors’s wren, and it is there that the wrens are found in greatest numbers, where they find an abundant food supply and suitable nesting sites. But they are also found to some extent in other situations. “On the north-facing slope” of Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley, “the wrens are common, being found in chaparral, mixed brush and oak, and in pure stands of Monterey cypress and Douglas fir, without underbrush. In the chaparral association, baccharis is the dominant plant, forming dense stands of 4 to 0 feet in height. In the mixed brush and oak region the height of the plant cover is anywhere from 1 to 30 or 40 feet.”

Mr. Miller (1941) determined to his own satisfaction that the males establish and maintain definite territories during the breeding season, and perhaps to a less extent at other seasons; he says:

Bewick Wrens are found throughout the year either singly or in pairs. Most commonly the males appear on territories in the early spring and are mated shortly afterward. Males of T. b. spilurus show territorial reactions toward other males at any time of the year, although much more frequently in the spring. Females show no such reactions toward males, at least, and probably have no part in tile defense of territory. Males and mated pairs have territories in the spring and may possibly have them in the winter. The territories of several wrens were mapped; they proved to he about 50 yards wide by 100 yards long. * * * The limits of these territories did not vary more than a few feet from day to day. The males of these areas exhibited strong reactions toward other males adjacent to them. When two males happened to meet on a boundary, they would stop foraging, sing, and give harsh vocal utterances, and follow each other along the edge of their territories. Males would often stop foraging and hurry to their boundaries when they heard another male nearby.

Nesting: The same observer states that “Bewick Wrens’ nests are placed in secluded cavities in or near the ground. Each nest has a well defined cup of soft materials and usually has a base of small twigs. Most nests are open above; rarely they are arched over the top. The male may develop slight nest-building instincts before he is mated, but in most instances nests are not built until the female is present. Both mates may build the nest, although the male works sporadically, and the female often builds alone. Usually only one nest is built, although some authors state that several are sometimes begun. * * * The nest may be built in 10 days and the eggs may be laid in 6 days.”

Mrs. Amelia S. Allen writes to me: “The Vigors wren is perhaps, next to the California quail and the spotted towhee, the most abundant resident species in Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley. It comes back again and again to the same nest hole, which it often visits as early as the first week in February. On March 15, 1928, I found one taking the fur from a rabbit skin that had been thrown into a tree and carrying it into a hole at the very bottom of a live oak. In 1919 a pair brought up a brood in a big flicker box that stood on a wall near our front door waiting to be placed in its permanent position. In 1936 a pair nested in the same box in a position near a second-story window.”

Dawson (1923) says of the nesting site: “A cranny of suitable size is the sine qua non, and this may be in a rock-pile, in a canyon wall, in an old woodpecker hole, in the mouth of an old tunnel of a Rough-winged Swallow, under a root, behind a sprung bark-scale, in an old shoe or a tin can, or the pocket of a disused coat.” Nests have been found also in empty boxes or small baskets left lying around, in wood piles, behind the lattice on a porch, under a tile on the roof of a house, in trash piles, in cavities on cliffs, and behind bunches of sprouts or leaves on the trunk of a tree.

Dawson (1923) says the nests are made “basally of sticks, twigs, weedstems, grasses, bark, or moss; lining of fine grasses, hair, fur, or feathers.” Various other materials enter into the composition of the nests, such as fine rootlets, dry leaves, wool, cotton, spider nests, horsehair, and sometimes bits of snakeskin; probably any soft pliable material will do.

Eggs: Mr. Miller (1941) says: “Three females were observed to lay their eggs early in the morning; each female laid at about the same time each day. Two sets of eggs usually are laid, with from three to eight eggs per set; six is the most common number.” The eggs are practically indistinguishable from those of the other races of the species, ‘being white, with scattered fine dots of reddish brown or cinnamon, and sometimes a few shell markings of pale drab; some are nearly immaculate. The measurements of 40 eggs average 16.6 by 12.8 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.0 by 12.5, 17.0 by 14.0, 15.2 by 12.7, and 15.2 by 12.2 millimeters.

Young: Observations made by Mr. Miller (1941) “seem to warrant the conclusion that the female does all the incubation, at least in the early stages. She leaves the nest for short periods to forage and to be fed by the male. The male may also feed her at the nest. * * * The periods of incubation and nestling life are about 14 days each. The parents probably care for the young for about 2 weeks after the latter leave the nest. * * * The total nesting cycle is about 58 days in length.”

Food: Professor Beal (1907) examined the stomachs of 146 specimens of the California races of Bewick’s wrens, taken in every month of the year. A little more than 97 percent of the food consisted of insects and less than 3 percent of vegetable matter. Six stomachs contained seeds, and one held what was supposed to be fruit pulp. Of the animal food, various bugs (Hemiptera) were the largest item, 31 percent; these included the black olive scale, a very injurious species, leaf bugs, stink bugs, shield bugs, Ieafhoppers, treehoppers, and jumping plant lice. Beetles (Coleoptera) amounted to over 21 percent of the food; ladybirds were the only useful beetles eaten, but they amounted to only 3 percent, against 10 percent of harmful weevils; the stomachs of two wrens contained 85 and 80 percent of engraver beetles, which live under the bark of trees and do much damage to the timber; other beetles, mostly leaf beetles, were eaten to the extent of 8 percent. Ants formed about 7 percent and wasps 10 percent of the food. Caterpillars and a few moths and some cocoons constituted a little less than 12 percent and grasshoppers 4 percent of the wren’s diet. Very few flies were eaten, and spiders made up more than 5 percent of the total food.

Regarding the feeding habits of Vigors’s wrens, Mr. Miller (1941) writes: “Foraging takes place on the ground and on the limbs and foliage of bushes and trees. In foraging, the birds use their bill for picking insects off leaves and branches, for flicking over leaves on the ground and, less commonly, for digging insects from cracks in bark. They do not scratch for food. They forage rapidly, and this activity takes up the larger part of their time. The method of foraging varies in accordance-with the size and distribution of the plants in their habitat. In early spring the male of a mated pair forages high up in brush and trees, and his mate forages low down in brush and weeds.”

Behavior: Mr. Miller says: “The relations of Bewick Wrens to other vertebrate animals of their habitat are mostly neutral. They probably are preyed upon to a slight extent, by bird-hawks and owls. Where the wrens nest about buildings in suburban areas, they sometimes have conflicts over nesting sites with House Wrens, titmice, and other small birds. Under these circumstances the Bewick Wrens usually retreat. Some individuals have been found roosting in cavities. Bathing in both dust and water occurs.”

Laidlaw Williams (1941) has published an interesting paper on the roosting habits of chestnut-backed chickadees and Bewick’s wrens. The wrens used two types of roosts, on the sides of buildings and beneath a canopy of fallen dead needles on a Monterey pine bough. On the side of one building the wren roosted in a vertical crack between two rustic slabs of bark, resting on a horizontal slab over a window; on four rainy nights a wren roosted on a wire under the eaves of a house and leaned against the wall. In all cases the feathers of the rump were greatly ruffed out, showing the subterminal white spots.

Voice: The various call notes of Vigors’s wren are apparently about the same as those of the eastern Bewick’s wren; the song is similar, certainly not inferior, and is said to show more versatility. Mr. Miller (1941) says that “the songs of the wrens in Arizona, Texas, and northeastern Mexico differ noticeably from those of wrens along the coast of California. The songs of 8pilurus and marinen8is are considerably more complex and varied” than those of the others. He says further:

Only the males slag. Males, at least of the race spiturus, do not sing throughout the year; they cease for a month or two in late autumn. * * * Wrens in Strawberry Canyon generally perch on the outer small twigs near the top of a tree or bush. * * * I once saw a wren singing from four different perches in two minutes. Most of the wrens I have observed sing in about the following position: feet spread wide apart, tail horizontal, bill tilted slightly upward, wing tips a little beyond the body and a little below the level of the base of the tan. * * * Most authors speak of the tall hanging down in the manner of a thrasher, but I have not seen them sing In this posture more than with the tail horizontal, and I have even seen the tall erect during singing.

Mrs. Amelia S. Allen says in her notes: “During the last week of July and throughout August, when most birds are silent, the Vigors wrens sing a very subdued song. After watching them for many years, I have come to the conclusion that the birds of the year begin to sing at that time. By the middle of September the full song is heard.”

Winter: At this season, Vigors’s wrens, and probably others of the California races, are more widely distributed. Ralph Hoffmann (1927) says that “in the fall many Bewick Wrens move down from the chaparral slopes and inhabit shrubbery near habitations, though some stay in the canyons all Winter. * * * The Bewick Wren in winter frequents the same places in the lowland which the House Wren occupies in summer; occasionally both are present at the same time.”

These fall and winter wanderings, not strictly migrations, carry the wrens quite down to the coast in suitable places, such as the Point Lobos Reserve on the coast of Monterey County, where the bird is almost unknown in summer. Here, according to Grinnell and Linsdale (1936), they were seen in “considerable numbers” all through winter, becoming common in September. They were seen foraging in the lower branches of cypresses and pines, in the brush and grass, and on the ground among lupine and sage bushes. Other types of winter habitat were a “blackberry tangle along a fence; dead and living ceanothus on south-facing, chaparral-covered slope; thicket of live oak in low mat around base of pine; brush of buckwheat, monkey flower, sage, baccharis, and poison oak; and low horehound mats.”




This subspecies occupies an extensive range in inland California, which Swarth (1910) outlines as follows: “The central portion of California; the Sacramento Valley, and northward at least to the Oregon boundary; northeast to the Warner Mountains, on the Nevada boundary; the west slope of the central Sierra Nevada, everywhere below Transition; southward over about the northern half of the San Joaquin Valley.”

He gives as its distinguishing characters:

Compared with charienturus [now called correctus], drymoecus has the upper surface darker and more rufescent. The tail is somewhat shorter, and in different proportion to the wing. In charienturus the tail Is slightly longer than the wing, in dryrnoecus slightly shorter. Compared with spilurus, the upper surface of dryrnoecus is a duller and less rich brown. In the juvenal plumage the character of intensity of rufescence of the upper surface is also apparent, young of dryrnoecus being less deeply colored than young of spilurus and marinensis on the one hand, and somewhat darker (though slightly so) than the young of charienturus on the other. It Is noteworthy in this regard that whereas In typical dryrnoecus (Sacramento Valley birds) the adults approach spilurus more nearly than they do charienturus, the juvenal plumage Is but slightly different from the same stage in charienturus.

Being centrally placed, this race naturally intergrades with each of the surrounding subspecies at their points of contact, making it difficult to draw hard and fast lines as to the limits of its distribution.

Not much can be said about the haunts and habits of the San Joaquin wren beyond what has been written about the adjacent races, as the California races are all much alike in these matters. Referring to the Yosemite region, Grinnell and Storer (1924) say that this wren “is common in the Upper Sonoran foothills, and some are to be found still farther to the west, in the San Joaquin Valley, in the bottom lands of the Merced and Tuolumne rivers. There are four species of wrens in the foothill country, yet no two meet each other in serious competition. The Cañon Wren is found on rocky canon walls, the Rock Wren about earth bluffs and rocky outcrops, the house Wren in oak trees, whereas the San Joaquin Wren inhabits the mixed growths comprising small trees and brush.”

John G. Tyler (1913) writes: “The nature of the country about Fresno is not such as to attract wrens of any kind in numbers. Wood sprites they are, and must have a well timbered country; so it is not surprising that the present species occurs, within the range of this paper, principally along the San Joaquin and Kings rivers and at the mouth of one or two of the creeks that lead down out of the hills. From these places they make somewhat extended visits to other parts of the valley during the winter months, and are sometimes encountered in brush piles along the canals and ditches. Here they climb over logs, dodge into brush heaps, or pry into the holes in partly dead willows, picking up from such places whatever offers in the way of food.”

Four eggs of this wren in the United States National Museum measure 17.8 by 13.2, 16.5 by 12.7, 16.5 by 12.8, and 16.6 by 12.5 millimeters.




The above name is the result of an unfortunate shift of names, which Dr. Grinnell (1928) found necessary. This is the race of the San Diegan region that Dr. Oberholser (1898) and Mr. Swarth (1916) called charienturus. Dr. Grinnell discovered that wrens from the type locality of charienturus, in northern Baja California, were “almost indistinguishable from the San Pedro Mártir race.” This made it necessary to transfer the name charienturus to the wrens of the San Pedro Mártir region and adjacent portions of northwestern Baja California and to invent a new name for the wrens of the San Diegan district; he promptly “corrected” the error by naming it correctus! He gives the characters of correctus, “as compared with T. b. drymoecus, dorsal tone of coloration decidedly lighter, ‘warmer’ brown, light bars on tail paler, and tail longer.”

The 1931 Check-list gives the range of the San Diego wren as, “coastal belt of California from the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, in San Benito and Monterey counties, southeast through the San Diegan district to near the Mexican boundary.”

In a general way, the haunts and habits of the San Diego wren are similar to those of the surrounding subspecies, but Harry H. Dunn (1902) gives a somewhat different impression of conditions in Orange County; he says: “Wherever there are rocky canyons, particularly those which contain scattering pools of water, there, will he found one or more pairs. * * * It is never found far from rocks, and, in so far as I am able to learn, never nests anywhere except in crevices of rocky ledges, interstices between boulders, or in small caves. * * * In many cases, especially where wood rats are abundant, the Wrens will select a crevice between two rocks, into which even a rat cannot go. * * * Where holes in the solid rock, as in the faces of numerous southern California cliffs, are available, however, the little pair will select a good sized cave and in its sandy floor scratch out a hole large enough to hold a loosely woven nest.” Such nesting sites seem more characteristic of rock wrens or canyon wrens, but it seems hardly likely that he could have been mistaken.

Eggs: The eggs of the San Diego wren are apparently indistinguishable from those of other races of the species. The measurements of 40 eggs average 16.7 by 12.8 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.9 by 14.3,14.6 by 12.8, and 15.8 by 11.7 millimeters.




In naming this as a new subspecies from Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands, Dr. Oberholser (1898) says: “This new subspecies may be distinguished from charienturus [now called correctus] by the darker, more rufescent coloration of the upper surface, sides and flanks; the tail also averages appreciably shorter. It is noticeably lighter and rather more grayish than spilurus, besides having a somewhat longer culmen. From drymoecus it is without difficulty separable by the noticeably darker and rather more sooty color of the flanks and upper surface. The tail also averages slightly shorter. * * * The young in first plumage are apparently not to be discriminated from those of charienturus, though they perhaps average more rufescent. They are usually darker than the young of drymoecus.”

In a later review of this group, Mr. Swarth (1916) says:

The Santa Cruz Wren is apparently one of the most lily defined of any of the described forms of Thryomanes bewicki. The available series affords satisfactory material for comparison. * Judging from these specimens this island form has become but slightly differentiated from the mainland race. * * It is perhaps noteworthy that the slight differences serving to distinguish nesophilus from charienturus [now called correctus] are steps in the direction of spilurus, the slightly more reddish dorsal coloration, darker flanks, and shorter tail, being just the characteristics encountered in .birds occupying the intermediate coastal region between the ranges of charienturus and spilurus. The mainland nearest to Santa Cruz Island forms part of this Intermediate region.

The only information I have on the nesting of this subspecies is from the data on a set of six eggs in the Doe collection in Gainesville, Fla. This was taken by M. C. Badger on Santa Cruz Island, March 31, 1935. It was from a nest of small twigs, grass, and plant down, well concealed and sunken into the ground beneath a fallen willow tree.

The eggs in this set measure 17.5 by 13.0, 17.5 by 12.7, 17.3 by 13.0, 17.3 by 12.7, 16.8 by 13.0, and 16.8 by 12.7 millimeters.




The Bewick’s wrens of Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of southern California, were named by Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1910) and described as “closely similar in color and general size to T. b. charienturus Oberholser [now called correctus], of the adjacent mainland, but averaging darker dorsally (more sepia and not so umber brown), and with heavier bill and conspicuously and constantly larger feet (longer toes and heavier tarsus); differs from T. b. leucophrys (Anthony), of San Clemente Island, in decidedly darker, less ashy coloration, and in much more heavily barred under tail-coverts; differs from T. b. nesophilus Oberholser, of Santa Cruz Island, in duller, less rufescent, coloration, grayer flanks, longer bill and generally larger size.”

He says that it is common on Santa Catalina Island and permanently resident. It does not seem to differ in any of its habits from the mainland forms of the species.

There is a set of six eggs of this race in the collection of Charles E. Doe, of Gainesville, Fla. It was taken by J. S. Rowley on Santa Catalina Island, May 8, 1920. The nest was in a crevice of the “bark of a scrubby: like bush in the bottom of a gulch.”

The eggs in this set and five more in the Philipp collection. 11 in all, average in measurements 17.6 by 13.2; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.3 by 13.5, 17.6 by 13.6, 16.8 by 13.0, and 17.8 by 12.7 millimeters.




A. W. Anthony (1895a), with Dr. Edgar A. Mearns, collected a series of Bewick’s wrens on San Clemente Island, off the extreme southern coast of California, from which this wren was described and named as a new species. Mr. Anthony describes it as “differing from T. spilurus in decided gray wash on the upper parts, in the less heavily barred under tail-coverts, and in having a somewhat longer bill.” He says further:

Although the present species is obviously closely related to the mainland bird, * * * I see no reason at present for regarding it as a subspecies of that form. San Clemente Island lies 75 miles from the mainland, and it is quite evident that the species does not intergrade through the other islands of the Santa Barbara group, as the Thryothorus from those islands proves to be no nearer related than does the mainland form.

The differences are at once noticeable even at a glance; the longer bill, the more purely white an(l much more conspicuous superciliary stripe, together with the more gray upper parts are quite striking to one acquainted with the mainland bird. The species is quite common in the thick cactus and low brush on the south end of the island, but owing to its habits is quite difficult to secure.

A. Brazier Howell (1917) writes:

These wrens are evenly distributed over San Clemente, frequenting the densest thorn bushes and cactus patches, from the tops of which their loud clear song, differing but little from that of the mainland bird, is given. Before one is within good range of them they will casually hop down into the lower cactus, and it is very hard indeed to make them show themselves again. If it is in a low bush that they disappear, no amount of trampling will bring a bird forth, but as soon as one steps off the bush, out he pops and away to another one. I shot a juvenal with fully grown tail, April 2, 1915, and from then on the youngsters were not rare. The eggs have evidently never been discovered, but I believe that the nest is invariably built in the center of a dense patch of cactus. While I was trying to remove a dead bird from such a place, on March 29, and smashing the cactus as I went, I uncovered an unfinished nest, probably pertaining to this species. It was wedged under and between cactus leaves some 8 inches above the ground, a 3-inch ball formed of soft fiber, and with the entrance on one side. Two days later when I returned, some little lining had been added, but the situation had been so disturbed that it was deserted before eggs were laid.




This is the wren that Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1927b) described as the race inhabiting “the San Quintin subfaunal district of northwestern Lower Califoirnia.” It ranges south to about latitude 390ï Dr. Grinnell niimed it Thryomanes bewickii carbonarius, sooty Bewick wren, and described it as “similar to Thryomanes bewickii charienturus Oberholser (from western San Diego County, Calif.), but bill slightly smaller, and coloration grayer, more slaty (rather than brown), in many respects, as follows: bill, tarsus, toes and claws blackish, with no tinge of light brown; sides of neck, sides of body, and flanks clearer gray; top of head and whole dorsum darker, less warmly, brown; dark portions of webs of all flight feathers darker, more slaty.”

But this first name for the race did not stand long, for Dr. Grinnell (1928) discovered that a shift of names was necessary. He found that the type of charienturus came from “Nachoguero Valley, in extreme northern Lower California a few miles southwest from Jacumba, San Diego County, Upper California. Fresh fall examples now at hand from exactly that locality show themselves to be, not as I had heretofore assumed they would be, of the San Diegan district race, but almost indistinguishable from the San Pedro Mátirs race. Hence it becomes necessary to use the name charienturus for the ‘Sooty Bewick Wren’ of the San Pedro Mátirs and to invent a new name for the race of the San Diegan district.”

This shift may be a bit confusing and therefore unfortunate, but it was perfectly logical and proper. I cannot find that anything distinctive has been published on the habits of this subspecies.

There is a set of six eggs of this wren in the Doe collection, taken by N. K. Carpenter, in the Nachoguero Valley, on April 27, 1937. The nest was in a bird box, 10 feet up in a live-oak tree, made of grass and twigs, and lined with snakeskin and feathers.

The measurements of 18 eggs in the Doe, Hanna, and Philipp collections average 17.3 by 12.7 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.7 by 13.1, 16.4 by 12.6, and 16.5 by 12.2 millimeters.




The Cedros Island wren has a rather restricted range on the island by that name and on the neighboring mainland of Baja California, in the middle of the peninsula, between latitudes 250 and 300.

A. W. Anthony (1897), who named and described it as a new species, writes:

The present species needs comparison with none of our western species of the genus unless it be T. leucophrys, from which it is very easily separated by its much shorter bill, as well as Other discrepancies in size, as will he seen from the accompanying table of measurements. From specimens before me taken at Rosalia Bay, 55 miles east of Cerros Island, the new species is easily separated by much more extensively gray lower parts, less heavily barred. The lower tail-coverts, and its tall feathers have a terminal hand of gray of not less than 4 millimeters, whereas the main land bird has a semiobsolete bar of about 1 millimeter. The middle rectrices are also less plainly barred in the mainland specimen, the bars becoming somewhat obsolete near the shaft.

Cerros Island Wrens were not common at any point on the island, though more were seen about the pine timber on the higher ridges.

Dr. Oberholser (1898) remarks: “The wide terminal band of gray on the tail-feathers and lower tail-coverts, which Mr. Anthony regards as a character separating the Cerros Island bird from charienturu8, is a purely individual variation, and consequently of no diagnostic value. The same may be said of the indistinctness of the barring on the central rectrices, which is observable to a greater or less extent in all the forms of the genus.” He says further, however: “The characters which separate this form from leucophrys are the darker upper parts, rather more deeply gray flanks, much shorter bill, appreciably shorter wing and tarsus.”

Comparing it with its nearest neighbor on the mainland, Ridgway (1904) says: “Similar to T. b. charienturus, but slightly smaller (the bill decidedly so) and coloration slightly paler and grayer.”

I can find nothing to add about the habits of this subspecies.

Four eggs in the P. B. Philipp collection measure 17.7 by 12.6, 17.1 by 12.7, 16.8 by 12.6, and 17.7 by 12.5 millimeters.




This well-marked form lived and died on Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Baja California, where it is now evidently extinct. As this account is in the nature of an obituary notice, it seems worth while to quote rather freely from a historical sketch of the island and the bird, as published by A. W. Anthony (1901); he writes:

What may have been the zoological condition of Guadalupe Island at the time of its discovery will probably never be known, but that it was to the botanist and zoologist a spot of surpassing interest and strikingly different from the island of today cannot be disputed. It was In 1875, when visited for the first time by a naturalist, found to be wonderfully rich in both plant and animal life. Not only were the species largely peculiar to the Island and quite different from their mainland representatives but botanical genera were found that have since become extinct.* * *

I have at the present writing no means of ascertaining when the domestic goat was introduced on the island but as it was placed on many of the coast Islands by the early whalers It is not unlikely that this pest held sway on Guadalupe a half century or mole before the richness of the flora and fauna was made known to the world by Dr. Edward Palmer In 1875. It Is directly due to the despised Billy-goat that many Interesting species of plants formerly abundant are new extinct, and also that one or more of the birds peculiar to the Island has disappeared, and others are rapidly following.

Dr. Palmer collected only two specimens of this wren on Guadalupe, on which Mr. Ridgway (1876) named and described the species in detail, saying among other things that “this insular form is much grayer than the T. bewicki spilurus of California and Western Mexico.” Later on (1904) he describes it as “practically identical in coloration with T. bewicki charienturis [now called correctus] except tail (the middle rectrices of which are more narrowly and much less distinctly barred), but much smaller, tail relatively shorter, and bill much longer.”

Walter E. Bryant (1887) made two visits to Guadalupe in 1885, in January and December, remaining 3 months on the latter visit. He gives full description of the island which is situated 220 miles southwestward from San Diego and lies between latitudes 28°45’ and 29°10’ N.; it is about. 15 miles long and 5 miles wide at its widest part and is said to reach an altitude of 4,523 feet at the highest point. He collected seven specimens of this wren on February 16, 1886, four males and three females, and says: “This rare local species has become much restricted in distribution and perhaps in numbers since Dr. Palmer obtained the only two known specimens in 1875. I am informed that no collecting was done at that time among the pines on the northern portion of the island, in which place alone was I able to discover any trace of this species; and as no collecting was done by Dr. Palmer among the palms (an unlikely place for the birds to be found), I infer that the two original specimens must have been found toward the central portion of the island.”

According to Mr. Anthony (1901), the restricted area in which Mr. Bryant collected his specimens consisted of a growth of straggling pines along the sharp ridge of North Head, affording a habitat of about 60 by 300 feet. He says:

Fearing the extermination of the species the balance of the colony was unmolested, but as the sheltering undergrowth was more and more constricted by the goats the birds were either blown from the island by violent gales that frequently sweep over it, or killed by cats which infest the entire island since their introduction about the time of Dr. Palmer’s visit in 1875. The last week in May,1892, Mr. Clark P. Streator, and myself paid a visit one day to the North Head.

Near the beach and directly below the pines Mr. Streator took a pair of wrens which are now in the collection of the Biological Survey. On the ridge near the spot where Bryant found them, I discovered a bird which was secured, and saw what may have been a second but was of doubtful identity. Since that date I have made several calls at Guadalupe, and though the entire top of the island was carefully searched by myself and several assistants for days at a time we never found nay signs of the species which must now be classed among those that were.

The constant destruction of all low-growing vegetation by the goats still continues, not only consuming the nesting sites and shelters of Junco, Pipilo and all ground-nesting species but giving to the ever watchful cat more favorable opportunities for destroying the few birds that are left. Pipilo consobrinus is now nearly or quite extinct and the juncos are surely but steadily becoming scarce. Since the goats kill all of the young trees as soon as they appear above ground, and the larger trees are dying, the outlook for the future flora and fauna is not bright.

So, the Guadalupe wren probably disappeared entirely soon after 1892, and another was added to our growing list of extinct species. This sad story should serve as a lesson to conservationists, a warning against over-grazing and the release of introduced animals and of feral cats, the latter becoming a serious menace anywhere.

Nesting: It seems that the nest of this wren has never been found; this and the eggs will remain forever unknown. Mr. Bryant and his Mexican companion made a careful and protracted search for nests during the greater part of two days, but with no success.

Plumages: The single young bird, now in the collection of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is practically indistinguishable from the young of the San Diego wren, according to Oberholser (1898).

Food: The stomach of one of the birds collected by Dr. Palmer “contained remnants of some small black insects which feed upon the blossoms of the White Sage” (Ridgway, 1876). And Mr. Bryant (1887) found “insects and two pine seeds” in the stomach of one of his birds.

Behavior: Mr. Bryant (1887) says: “The birds were timid rather than shy, being alarmed by the crushing of dry branches as I worked my way amidst the dense windfalls of pines, where they were found, they fled into the thickest parts. When all was quiet they would cautiously approach until within a few feet of me, seemingly prompted by curiosity. * * * A frightened female uttered a few ‘twit’ ‘twits’ of alarm, but with this exception they were utterly silent.”

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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