The Wrentit

In Birds, Grasslands and Scrub, Maritime Chaparral, Slough Life, Staff Blog by Dave Feliz

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the scrub lands. Coastal Sage scrub, chaparral, something about the elfin sized forest appeals to me. This probably harks back to my initial exposure to the natural world in the hills of Orange County with its disappearing California Sagebrush and rugged chamise covered slopes. I’m still fascinated by the diversity and abundance of wildlife in these habitats.

There is no more quintessential soundtrack to these scrub lands than the unusual noises and cascading song of the Wrentit. Initially described to me as the sound of a ping pong ball dropped on a hard surface, it is a sound I’ve enjoyed throughout its limited world wide range from the Oregon Coast to the northern part of Baja California.

There is a nice selection of Wrentit sounds available on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website here.

Taxonomists have always had a hard time categorizing this bird. It is not closely related to any other North American species. When I was first learning birds, Wrentits were in their own family. They resemble wrens but they also resemble tits. Currently, they are placed in their own genus Chamaea.

These birds don’t move around too much. If you get a bead on one, stick around and you should soon get another look. They don’t migrate up and down the coast, they pretty much settle into their little piece of coastal scrub for life with a permanent partner. Research has shown they don’t wander more than 400 meters from where they were born.

Don’t take this little guy for granted. They are a unique inhabitant of our coastal scrub habitats, found no where else in the world. They refuse to be categorized easily and without fanfare they enlighten our morning walks throughout the year.

About the Author

Dave Feliz

Dave Feliz is the Reserve Manager at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve