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Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Enigmatic Wrentit and Allen's Hummingbird

[El Morro Canyon, Orange Co. CA. April 2013.]

The Wrentit is a small, skulking bird of coastal chaparral found on the West Coast; it is highly secretive and seldom seen. Despite its name, it is neither wren nor tit.

This enigmatic little bird is not related to any other species in the US. In its troubled taxonomic history it has, at different times, been placed with the Babblers, Old World Warblers, Long-tailed Tits, true Tits and Chickadees, or, when nothing else fit, in its own family Chamaeidae. The AOU currently places it with the Babbler family although morphologically the wrentit's closest relatives appear to be in the Old World Warbler family. This bird is a true classification enigma!


The wrentit has white eyes,a long tail and light grey/brown coloring with faint streaking on the breast. Visually, the wrentit reminds me of the emu wrens of Australia, a long hop over the Pacific!

Allen's Hummingbird is similar to the Rufous Hummingbird (but green instead of rufous rump) and is found only on the West Coast. It breeds almost exclusively in a tiny range comprising a thin sliver of coastal California.
Allen's Hummingbird (male).
Other birds seen at El Morro included the House Finch (above), Say's phoebe (below) and White-crowned Sparrow.
Say's Phoebe
White-crowned Sparrow.

From Orange County, a quick excursion to Palm Springs and Mt. Jacinto yielded some montane birds such as Stellar's Jay and the irresistible pygmy nuthatch.

The spectacular Stellar's Jay

Competing for the title of tiniest nuthatch with the Brown-headed Nuthatch, the Pygmy nuthatch is a highly social and energetic bird.

Its subtle beige, grey and brown colors help it blend perfectly with its surroundings.

Pygmy Nuthatch

Coastal Orange County offers some spectacular venues for the birder; including the El Morro canyon trails of Crystal Cove State Park where the enigmatic wrentit and other specialty birds may be found.

El Morro Canyon (Crystal Cove State Park)
Mt. San Jacinto

======= Postscript ========

While not observed this time, on an earlier visit to Mt. Jacinto (in November 2010), White-Headed Woodpecker were sighted:

This striking woodpecker ranges from Southern British Columbia down to Southern California.

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