Bewick’s Wren

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The Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) is a small songbird native to North America. The small wren is notable for its bold white stripe above each eye and loud, raspy calls.

The Bewick’s Wren was first documented by John James Audubon who collected the first specimen. Audubon named the bird after his friend, British engraver Thomas Bewick.

Difference Between Male and Female Bewick’s Wrens

Male and female Bewick’s Wrens are monomorphic. Monomorphic means that both male and female look the same. There is no differentiation in the size and coloring between the sexes.

While both male and female wrens will call and buzz during foraging, only the male sings. The male will sing to defend territory, guard nests, and to attract a mate.

A small brown bird with light brown chest and white stripes above the eyebrow standing in a white platform.
A male Bewick’s wren. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Geography Facts about the Bewick’s Wren

The Bewick’s wren’s preferred habitat is brushy areas, scrub, thickets, and open woodland. In suburban areas, Bewick’s wrens seek out vegetation piles and shrubbery.

The wrens will forage for insects among the shrubbery.

The Bewick’s wren can be found throughout parts of Canada, United States, and Mexico.

Decline in Population

In the United States, the Bewick’s Wren population has declined by about 39% between 1966 and 2015 according to a review of the North American Breeding Bird Survey results.

Much of the population decline can be attributed to competition with the House wren. The house wren will destroy eggs and nest of the Bewick’s wren.

A blue cholopleth map showing the distribution of the Bewick's Wren during the summer months in the continental United States.
Map showing the Summer Distribution of the Bewick’s Wren, 1994 – 2003. Map: North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), USGS.

Once widespread across the continental United States, the Bewick’s wren is now incredibly rare east of the Mississippi River. The Bewick’s wren is now mostly found in parts of parts of the West Coast and Southwest United States and southwest British Columbia.

A small brown bird holding a small caterpillar.
Bewick’s wrens mainly hunt insects for food. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Subspecies of Bewick’s Wren

There are numerous subspecies of Bewick’s Wren.

These subspecies are:

  • Thryomanes bewickii altus ~ Appalachian Bewick’s wren ~ Aldrich, 1944
  • Thryomanes bewickii atrestus  ~ Oberholser, 1932
  • Thryomanes bewickii atrestus ~ Oberholser, 1932
  • Thryomanes bewickii bewickii ~ Audubon, 1827 – original collected specimen
  • Thryomanes bewickii brevicauda ~ Ridgway, 1876 – extinct
  • Thryomanes bewickii calophonus ~ Oberholser, 1898
  • Thryomanes bewickii catalinae ~ Grinnell, 1910
  • Thryomanes bewickii cerroensis  ~ Anthony, 1897
  • Thryomanes bewickii charienturus ~ Oberholser, 1898
  • Thryomanes bewickii cryptus ~ Oberholser, 1898
  • Thryomanes bewickii drymoecus ~ Oberholser, 1898
  • Thryomanes bewickii eremophilus ~ Oberholser, 1898
  • Thryomanes bewickii leucophrys ~ Anthony, 1895 – San Clemente Bewick’s wren – extinct
  • Thryomanes bewickii magdalenensis ~ Huey, 1942
  • Thryomanes bewickii marinensis ~ Grinnell, 1910
  • Thryomanes bewickii mexicanus ~ Deppe, 1830
  • Thryomanes bewickii murinus  ~ Hartlaub, 1852
  • Thryomanes bewickii nesophilus ~ Oberholser, 1898
  • Thryomanes bewickii pulichi  ~ A. R. Phillips, 1986
  • Thryomanes bewickii sadai  ~ A. R. Phillips, 1986
  • Thryomanes bewickii spilurus  ~ Vigors, 1839

In the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California there are endemic subspecies of Bewick’s wrenThryomanes bewickii nesophilus, is found on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa Islands, while a different subspecies, T. b. catalinae, occurs on Santa Catalina Island.

References

Bewick’s Wren overview. (n.d.). Cornell lab of ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bewicks_Wren/

Miller, E. V. (1941). Behavior of the Bewick wren. The Condor43(2), 81-99. https://doi.org/10.2307/1364411

Sauer, J. R.; Niven, D. K.; Hines, J. E.; Ziolkowski, Jr, D. J.; Pardieck, K. L.; Fallon, J. E.; Link, W. A. 2017. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 – 2015. Version 12.23.2015. Laurel, MD

Schroeder, E. (2017, March 28). The boldness of Bewick’s Wren –. Bay Nature. https://baynature.org/article/boldness-bewicks-wren/

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