|Conservation status||In the west, widespread and common, expanding range northward in some areas. East of the Great Plains it is uncommon, localized, and declining. Formerly a common nesting bird east to the Appalachians, it has completely disappeared from most areas east of the Mississippi River during the last few decades. The reasons for this vanishing act are poorly understood.|
|Habitat||Thickets, underbrush, gardens. In the west, found in many brushy or wooded habitats at lower elevations, including undergrowth in woods of oak and pine, streamside groves, chaparral, desert washes, suburban areas. In the east (where now scarce), mostly in brushy areas around the edges of woods.|
Forages very actively by climbing and hopping about on trunks, branches, and twigs of trees, probing into bark crevices or gleaning insects from the surface. Also feeds on the ground, flipping over leaves and probing among leaf litter.
5-7, sometimes 4-11. White, with brown and gray blotches often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is probably by female only, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching.
Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching.
Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including beetles, ants, wasps, true bugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and many others. Also eats many spiders, and occasionally some berries or seeds.
Male defends nesting territory by singing; songs of eastern birds quite different from those of the west. Adults sometimes puncture eggs of other birds nesting nearby. Nest site is in any kind of cavity, including natural hollows in trees, old woodpecker holes; also in manmade sites, including nest boxes, holes in buildings, mailboxes, tin cans, and many others. Site is usually less than 20' above the ground. Male may build incomplete "dummy" nests; female probably chooses site and completes one nest for raising young. Nest has a foundation of twigs, leaves, bark strips, and trash, topped with a softer cup of moss, leaves, animal hair, feathers. Sometimes adds bits of snakeskin to nest.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Some are present all year in most parts of breeding range, but many depart from northern areas and higher elevations in winter; may be more migratory in east than in west.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsLoud, melodious song with the usual bubbly wren-like warble, also reminiscent of a Song Sparrow.
Learn more about this sound collection.