Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Rock Wren

Salpinctes obsoletus

Arid rocky canyons and seemingly barren piles of boulders are home to this active little bird, the palest of our wrens. Birders who explore such places may spot the Rock Wren bouncing up and down on its short legs, as if on springs, while it gives a metallic callnote that echoes among the rocks. The nest of this wren can sometimes be located by its curious "front porch," a paving of small pebbles on the ground in front of the nest entrance.
Conservation status Widespread and common, numbers probably stable. Most of nesting habitat is little affected by human activities.
Family Wrens
Habitat Rocky slopes, canyons. Breeds in a variety of rocky places. Found at elevations from low canyons to high in mountains, wherever surroundings are very open and arid, but scarce in hot desert regions in summer. Winters in rocky places at low elevations; sometimes on rock levees or on stone riprap below dams, especially when it wanders east. In the absence of rocks it may establish winter territory around stacks of hay bales, pieces of farm equipment, or other landmarks.
Arid rocky canyons and seemingly barren piles of boulders are home to this active little bird, the palest of our wrens. Birders who explore such places may spot the Rock Wren bouncing up and down on its short legs, as if on springs, while it gives a metallic callnote that echoes among the rocks. The nest of this wren can sometimes be located by its curious "front porch," a paving of small pebbles on the ground in front of the nest entrance.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • immature (1st winter)
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages on the ground in dry places, and on steep dirt banks and rocky cliffs with many cracks and openings. Uses long bill to probe in crevices among rocks. Sometimes forages among tangles of low vegetation, or low on trunks of trees.


Eggs

5-6, sometimes 4-8. White, lightly dotted with reddish brown. Incubation is probably by female, incubation period not well known. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known.

Diet

Mostly insects and spiders. Diet is not well known. Probably feeds mostly on insects, including beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and many others, also spiders and probably other arthropods.


Nesting

Nesting behavior is not well known. Male sings to defend nesting territory. Nest site is usually in crevice among boulders, in hole in dirt bank, under a rock ledge, in crevice in stone building, or similarly sheltered site; rarely in low tree cavity. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is cup of grass, weeds, bark strips, twigs, rootlets, lined with finer materials such as animal hair, spiderwebs, feathers. Often marked by "paving" of small stones, sometimes with bones and other debris, laid out on ground in front of the entrance to the cranny where the nest is located.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Strongly migratory, departing from northern part of range for the winter. Strays sometimes wander east in fall, and have even reached the Atlantic Coast.

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Migration

Strongly migratory, departing from northern part of range for the winter. Strays sometimes wander east in fall, and have even reached the Atlantic Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A dry trill; a rhythmic series of musical notes; chewee, chewee, chewee, chewee.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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