Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wrens that Rock: Rock Wren, Canyon Wren and More ...

[SE Arizona. September 2013]

As was noted in an earlier post, there are some regions in the world that are cursed with a paucity of wrens (eg., Western Europe has but one wren species). Thankfully, the US is not one of them; and, fortunately, 4 species were observed on a quick trip to Southeast Arizona:
  • Rock Wren
  • Canyon Wren
  • House Wren
  • Pacific Wren
It would've been possible to add Cactus and Bewick's wrens to the above; however, they have been covered in earlier posts. Additional species seen in the vicinity of the wrens included:
  • Blue Grossbeak
  • Bell's Vireo
  • Verdin
First the wrens -- starting with the Rock Wren:


It is no surprise that this 6 inch Western songbird is plumaged to blend in perfectly with its rocky surroundings. The undersides are pale with faint grey streaking and the sides show light, peach colored flanks.

Rock Wren seen from the back

The uppersides are light grey and cryptically speckled (simulating the grain and texture of their canyon habitat) while the undertail is distinctly barred. The coloration scheme fits perfectly with the wren's environment as these photographs so emphatically attest.

Rock Wren


Rock Wrens are not known to drink water; instead, getting all the hydration they need from the insects and spiders they eat.


This is the only wren species whose plumage is devoid of the browns, chestnuts, and rusts that dominate the other wrens in the US. The male Rock Wren is an accomplished songster and, curiously, lines the walkway to its nest by small stones and pebbles for reasons known only to wrenkind.


This wren was seen at Molino Canyon Vista in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon. Southeast Arizona is a reliable place to observe Rock Wren, and while it is a fairly common resident of the West from British Columbia South to Central America, nevertheless, populations are unfortunately declining throughout its range.


The next wren is similar to the Rock Wren in many respects -- it is also a specialist of rocky habitats and is uniquely adapted to flatten its body to fit into tight crevices. So much so, that its spinal and skull anatomy are purpose-built for finding insect prey in impossibly narrow spaces.


The Canyon Wren, is perhaps wider ranging than the Rock -- it can be found in canyon, rocky, and other steep habitats -- in fact, this species was observed at multiple locations on Mt. Lemmon: Molino Vista, Molino Basin, and Rose Canyon.


Compared to the Rock Wren, the Canyon Wren has darker uppersides, rustier undersides, and a prominent pure white throat.

Canyon Wren seent at Molino Basin


The Canyon Wren is our most colorful and, perhaps, attractive. Its song, a series of haunting, descending musical notes, is similarly unforgettable. Indeed, it is more often heard than seen.


The Rock and Canyon wrens are unique and signature species of their rocky habitats -- they are truly wrens that rock!

Other wrens observed were:
... House Wren -- observed at Madera Canyon in the Santa Ritas; and,

... Pacific Wren seen fleetingly at Rose Canyon; it's stubby tail and strong barring being distinctive identification features.


Blue Grosbeak was also observed at Molino Basin:

Blue Grosbeak


This stunning member of the cardinal family is found coast to coast in the Southern half of the US.


Finally, commoner species included Verdin:

Verdin seen at Molino Basin

.. and Bell's Vireo:

Bell's Vireo


There are 10 species of wren in the US; common species such as House, Carolina and Marsh Wren can be seen across the country. However, there are few places that can match a wealth of such specialized species such as Canyon and Rock Wrens as Southeastern Arizona.

1 comment:

  1. Another visually entertaining and informative article, Hemant. You, again, had me smiling with your writing style. Keep your luggage packed.

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