Bird GuideWrensCanyon Wren

At a Glance

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.
Perching Birds, Wrens
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flitter

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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


5 1/2 -6" (14-15 cm). Mostly dark chestnut with clear white throat and chest. Long, thin bill. Black bars on short reddish tail. Beautiful song is heard more often than the bird is seen.
About the size of a Sparrow
Brown, Gray, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A high, clear series of descending notes; tee-tee-tee-tee-tew-tew-tew-tew.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Whistle


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.



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.


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

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.


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


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.

Climate Vulnerability

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.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Canyon Wren. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Canyon Wren

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.