Wrentit (chamaea Fasciata): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: The tiny wrentit is 6.3 inches long (16 cm) and weighs only a half ounce (14 grams). Its coloring varies from brown in northern regions to gray in the south. The bird has a sharp bill and a long tail that is usually tilted upright.
Geographic range: The wrentit is considered to be the only babbler in the New World (North, Central, and South America) and may have arrived by crossing the Bering Strait in prehistoric times. It is found along a narrow strip of the West Coast of the United States from Oregon to Baja California.
Habitat: Wrentits live in dense brush, preferring to nest in bushes, whether in the natural setting or in landscaping. They live and die within the 1 to 2.5 acres (0.4 to 1 hectare) surrounding the nest from which they hatched. They are reluctant to fly over open spaces of even 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 meters), which keeps them from expanding their nesting territory.
Diet: The wrentit eats mainly insects and spiders. Young birds feed exclusively on insects, but adults also eat fruit and berries in the fall and winter when insects are scarce.
Behavior and reproduction: Secretive birds, wrentits live in mated pairs for their entire lives. Both sexes build long, cup-like nests, hidden deep in the inner branches of bushes. The outer structure is made of bark, twigs, hair, and feathers, and then lined with spider webs. Sometimes, the birds cover the outside of their nests with lichen. The female lays three to five pale, greenish blue eggs. Both parents feed the young birds until thirty to thirty-five days after hatching.
The wrentit's continuous song is a series of accelerating high notes, often bouncing back and forth between birds. They will not sing when Bewick's wrens are singing near them and will wait several minutes to begin their own songs after the wrens have left the wrentit's territory.
Wrentits and people: Wrentits are favorites of birdwatchers.
Conservation status: Though the wrentit habitat is being developed by humans, it is not yet threatened with extinction. ∎
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bird, D. M., J. Berry, and Steve Kress. Birds: An Explore Your World Handbook (Discovery Channel). New York: Random House, 1999.
Buff, Shelia. Birding for Beginners. New York: Lyons Press, 1993.
MacKinnon, J. R., K. Phillipps, and P. Andrews. A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
MacKinnon, J. R., K. Phillipps, and Fen-Qi He. A Field Guide to the Birds of China. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Robbins, Michael. Birds (Fandex Family Field Guides). New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1998.
Weidensaul, Scott. Birds (National Audubon Society First Field Guides). New York: Scholastic Trade, 1998.
Cibois, Alice. "Mitochondrial DNA Phylogeny of Babblers (Timaliidae)." The Auk (January 2003): 35–55.
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