Thursday, May 14, 2009

In the backyard... Bewick's Wren

Bewick's WrenBewick's Wren, Hayward, Washington Co., Oregon on 16 May 2008 by Greg Gillson.


During those rare sunny Northwest mornings in March one can hear the cheerful clear whistled notes and trills of the Bewick's Wren emanating from the roadside blackberry tangles. This can give residents (false) hope that winter may actually end in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Along with the Song Sparrow, Brown Creeper, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, this wren is one of the first birds to start singing their spring breeding song.

While the Eastern populations of this spunky wren are declining, the range of the populations in the Pacific Northwest is expanding. It is quite common west of the Cascades from southwestern British Columbia to northern California. From northern California it is found eastward to Missouri and south well into Mexico. Additional populations occur east into the Appalachians. Though generally absent from the Great Basin, birds follow the Columbia River eastward through the Cascade range into the Columbia River Basin and tributaries in Oregon and Washington (Seattle Audubon BirdWeb), and the Snake River to Idaho (IdahoBirds.Net).

Bewick's Wren is a small bird with a long curved bill. It has a long, floppy, barred tail often held up high at right angles to its reddish-brown back. Most noticeable is the white eyebrow stripe. This bird differs from the buffy-chested Carolina Wren in the East by Bewick's grayish-white chest. The upper parts of Bewick's Wrens tend to be redder in the East, grayer in the Southwest, and darker rufous-brown in the Northwest (as in the photo above).

The habitat of this wren is brushy tangles in woodlots and over-grown backyards, chaparral-oak communities in northern California, brushy stream edges, and clearcuts in lower elevation forests. Bewick's Wrens nest in natural cavities and woodpecker holes, and will readily use nest boxes placed lower than 7 feet from the ground. They eat insects they glean by crawling through brushy tangles. They will come to your bird feeder if it is not too far out in the open... and if you offer suet.