Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Canyon Wren

Catherpes mexicanus

One of the best songsters in the west, the Canyon Wren is usually heard before it is seen. Surprisingly elusive and skulking even in open terrain, this dark rusty wren disappears and reappears as it creeps about the jumbled rocks of an eroded cliff or steep canyon wall. If the observer waits, the bird will eventually jump to the top of an exposed boulder to pour out another song, a rippling and musical cascade of notes, well suited to beautiful wild canyons.
Conservation status Common within its range, but some indications of declining numbers recently. Was formerly more numerous around towns; may have declined after invasion of other cavity-nesting birds such as House Sparrows.
Family Wrens
Habitat Cliffs, canyons, rockslides; stone buildings. Generally around areas with steep rock faces and some dense low growth, as in steep-walled canyons or around the bases of cliffs; also in boulder fields and sometimes around stone buildings. May move into denser streamside vegetation away from cliffs in winter.
One of the best songsters in the west, the Canyon Wren is usually heard before it is seen. Surprisingly elusive and skulking even in open terrain, this dark rusty wren disappears and reappears as it creeps about the jumbled rocks of an eroded cliff or steep canyon wall. If the observer waits, the bird will eventually jump to the top of an exposed boulder to pour out another song, a rippling and musical cascade of notes, well suited to beautiful wild canyons.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages by hopping actively about among rock piles, up and down faces of steep rocky cliffs, or through very dense undergrowth in canyons. Does much of its foraging in sheltered spots, such as under rocks or in crevices. Uses its very long bill to probe deeply into crevices among the rocks. Usually forages alone, sometimes in pairs. Has been seen stealing spiders from the nest of a predatory wasp.


Eggs

5, sometimes 4-6, rarely 3-7. White, lightly dotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by female, 12-18 days. Male may feed female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at about 15 days, may remain with parents for several weeks or more.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at about 15 days, may remain with parents for several weeks or more.

Diet

Mostly insects and spiders. Feeds on a variety of insects, including termites, ants, beetles, leafhoppers, and others, also spiders.


Nesting

Male defends nesting territory by singing. Nest site is usually in hole or crevice in rocky cliff, among rock piles, on ledge in cave; sometimes in crevices in stone buildings, in abandoned sheds, in hollow stumps, or similarly protected sites. Nest (built by both sexes) has foundation of twigs, grass, bark chips, and other coarse items, topped with cup of softer materials such as fine grass, moss, leaves, spiderwebs, plant down, animal hair, feathers. May add odd debris to nest.

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

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

Migration

Unlike the Rock Wren, a permanent resident throughout its range, but may move into denser habitats in winter.

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Migration

Unlike the Rock Wren, a permanent resident throughout its range, but may move into denser habitats in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A high, clear series of descending notes; tee-tee-tee-tee-tew-tew-tew-tew.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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