Living Bird Magazine
Bewick's WrenThryomanes bewickii
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Troglodytidae
If you come across a noisy, hyperactive little bird with bold white eyebrows, flicking its long tail as it hops from branch to branch, you may have spotted a Bewick’s Wren. These master vocalists belt out a string of short whistles, warbles, burrs, and trills to attract mates and defend their territory, or scold visitors with raspy calls. Bewick’s Wrens are still fairly common in much of western North America, but they have virtually disappeared from the East.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Listen and watch for Bewick’s Wrens in dry, brushy or scrubby environments in western North America. These birds don't spend a lot of time in the open, so listen for the male's loud song during summer, or for raspy calls coming from tangles of shrubs.
- Cucarachero Colinegro (Spanish)
- Troglodyte de Bewick (French)
If you live within the Bewick’s Wren’s range, you might attract this bird to your yard by landscaping with native shrubs such as willow, mesquite, elderberry, and chaparral plants, or by keeping a brush pile in your yard.
This species may visit backyards if food is available. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on All About Birdhouses, where you'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size for Bewick's Wren.
Bird-friendly Winter Gardens, Birdsleuth, 2016.
- Cool Facts
- The severe declines of Bewick's Wren in the eastern United States coincided with range expansion in the House Wren. It is suspected that the House Wren, which frequently removes eggs from nests in cavities, was directly responsible for the decline. The increased availability of nest boxes may have helped the spread of the House Wren, and therefore the decline of the Bewick's Wren.
- This species is named after British engraver Thomas Bewick—a friend of pioneering bird artist John James Audubon, who collected the first recognized specimen. After collecting a bird in 1821 in Louisiana, Audubon saw another and wrote, "I refrained from killing it, in order to observe its habits.… It moved along the bars of the fences, with its tail generally erect, looking from the bar on which it stood towards the one next above, and caught spiders and other insects, as it ran along from one panel of the fence to another in quick succession."
- Courting Bewick’s Wrens normally form monogamous pairs. While they’re setting up house and even after the female has begun incubating eggs, the male and female often forage together. This may help the male prevent his partner from mating with another bird.
- A young male Bewick’s Wren learns to sing from neighboring adult males while he is coming of age in his parents’ territory. The songs he develops differ from his father’s, with a note changed here, a syllable there. The melodious signature he acquires between the ages of about 30 and 60 days will be his for life.
- A Bewick’s Wren’s life starts off perilously. House Wrens may eject eggs from its nest; both eggs and nestlings can become lunch for rat snakes and milk snakes, and domestic cats go after nestlings. Adulthood isn’t safe either: mature birds can fall prey to roadrunners, rattlesnakes, or hawks.
- At the sound of approaching humans, a female Bewick’s Wren incubating eggs usually flushes quietly from her nest cavity, but remains nearby and scolds. Some females, however, sit tightly on their eggs even when disturbed.
- In his 1889 Ornithology of Illinois, Robert Ridgway attested that “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 cowshed 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.”
- The oldest recorded Bewick's Wren was at least 8 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California in 1986. It had been banded in the same state in 1978.