• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Wrentit

Chamaea fasciata ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: SYLVIIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Wrentit’s characteristic bouncing-ball song is a classic sound of coastal scrub and chaparral along the West Coast. Seeing a Wrentit is a challenge as they sneak around inside shrubs, rarely making an appearance. Males and females sing at all hours of the day, all year long, most often hidden from view. With patience, a brownish-gray bird with a piercing white eye might pop out of the shrubs, cock its long tail off to the side, and sing. Wrentits rarely travel far from their territories, so you can enjoy their presence year-round.

Keys to identification Help

Chickadeelike
Chickadeelike
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Wrentits are small birds with fairly large, round heads and short rounded wings giving them an overall plump appearance. They have long legs and long tails, which they often hold up and away from their body at different angles. Their bills are short and slightly curved.

  • Color Pattern

    Wrentits are plain brownish-gray with paler, slightly streaked, pale pinkish bellies. They have a distinctive pale eye.

  • Behavior

    Males and females sing from deep inside shrubs, where they are difficult to find. Occasionally males perch on top of a low shrub to sing with their tails cocked up. Wrentits move slowly, often pausing to look around before hopping to the next spot. When they fly between shrubs they fly slowly and pump their tails slightly to maintain elevation.

  • Habitat

    The Wrentit lives in coastal scrub and chaparral along the West Coast, including suburban yards and parks with shrubs. Away from the coast they live in thickets along creeks, oak woodlands, mixed-evergreen forests, and dense shrublands with coyotebush, manzanita, California lilac, or blackberry.

Range Map Help

Wrentit Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Wrentit

    Adult
    • Fairly large, round head
    • Short rounded wings giving them an overall plump appearance
    • Long legs and tail
    • Bill is short and slightly curved
    • Plain brownish-gray
    • Distinctive pale eye
    • © hawk person, December 2013
  • Adult

    Wrentit

    Adult
    • Fairly large, round head
    • Bill is short and slightly curved
    • Slightly streaked, pale pinkish belly
    • Distinctive pale eye
    • © Christopher Adler, Lake Murray, San Diego, California, September 2013
  • Adult

    Wrentit

    Adult
    • Long tail, often held up and away from their body at different angles
    • Long legs
    • Bill is short and slightly curved
    • Plain brownish-gray
    • Distinctive pale eye
    • © Ganesh Jayaraman, Otay Mountain Road, California, March 2013
  • Adult

    Wrentit

    Adult
    • Fairly large, round head
    • Slightly streaked, pale pinkish belly
    • Distinctive pale eye
    • Short rounded wings giving them an overall plump appearance
    • Plain brownish-gray
    • Bill is short and slightly curved
    • © Ganesh Jayaraman, Los Altos, California, April 2010
  • Adult

    Wrentit

    Adult
    • Fairly large, round head
    • Short rounded wings giving them an overall plump appearance
    • Long legs and tail
    • Bill is short and slightly curved
    • Plain brownish-gray
    • Slightly streaked, pale pinkish belly
    • Distinctive pale eye
    • © Bob Gunderson, San Bruno Mountain, Daly City, California, July 2011

Similar Species

Similar Species

Bushtits are much smaller than Wrentits—about the size of a kinglet, whereas Wrentits are sparrow sized. Bushtits have smaller features all around: smaller bills, shorter legs, and smaller heads. Bushtits are also more active and easier to see as they flit to and from bushes often in flocks. Wrentits don't travel in flocks and generally occur singly or in pairs. Bushtits often hang upside down when foraging, something Wrentits rarely do. Oak Titmice have short crests which Wrentits lack, with shorter tails and are overall pale gray rather than brownish-gray. Titmice also forage actively in trees and shrubs whereas Wrentits tend to stay hidden in shrubs.

Regional Differences

Wrentits are darker reddish-brown with pinker bellies on the coast. They are paler and more gray in the interior parts of their range.

Backyard Tips

If you live within the Wrentit’s range, you might attract Wrentits to your yard by landscaping with native chaparral plants such as coyotebush, California lilac, manzanita, or California sage. Learn more about creating backyard habitat by visiting the Habitat Network.

Find This Bird

Hearing a Wrentit is easy. Seeing one is challenging, but not impossible. Wrentits are often in areas with thick vegetation, but in these areas they are harder to see. Try finding a chaparral or scrubby area within their range that is not too thick with vegetation to make finding one a bit easier. Listen for their characteristic bouncing-ball song, zero in on their location, and patiently watch for movement in the shrub to catch a glimpse. Try positioning yourself in an area with good views of multiple shrubs to increase the chance of seeing one fly between shrubs. Although Wrentits sing all year long, the best time to catch one perched on top of a shrub is early in the breeding season in April and May.

Get Involved

Find out how to landscape with native plants to create habitat for Wrentits and other birds at Habitat Network.

You Might Also Like

Read more about Wrentit's home in Birding California’s Central Coast, Living Bird, Summer 2008.

Learn more about Old World warblers in Counterpoint: 7 Ways European Warblers Outperform American Warblers, All About Birds, August 1, 2012.

×

Search

Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
×
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.

×

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.