Although they are monotypic (males and females look alike), Bewick’s wrens show lots of variation in plumage. There are 10 subspecies in the United States and 5 more subspecies in Mexico. These small wrens are generally brown grey to rufous brown above and grey white below with a distinctive white stripe over the eye (supercilium). They all have long tails barred with black and tipped with white. The tail is held upright and flicked from side to side. The bill is long, slender and slightly downcurved.
Bewick’s wrens (Thryomanes bewickii) are found along the West Coast and the Central States as far north as Wyoming and Nebraska and south throughout much of Mexico. The Bewick’s wrens range previously extended further east, however, in recent years this range has declined. It is thought, although not proven, that one reason for the decline is due to the expansion of house wrens. Both species nest in cavities. House wrens co-opt Bewick’s wren nests and remove the eggs from their nests, stunting the Bewick’s wrens’ reproduction rates.
Western populations of Bewick’s wrens are largely sedentary while birds further east move south and west in the winter.
Their habitat is shrubby vegetation in open areas, including suburban and urban gardens and parks.
Bewick’s wrens feed mostly on insects and occasionally take seeds, fruit or other plant matter. These acrobatic wrens can be seen hanging upside down when foraging in tree branches. They occasionally take insects on the wing. Bewick’s wrens crush their prey by shaking or bashing it against a branch. Once the insect is dead, the wren swallows it whole. After eating the Bewick will wipe its bill clean by rubbing it against a branch on which it is perched.
The Bewick’s wren is named for the English engraver Thomas Bewick who was a friend of John James Audubon.
I always pronounced Bewicks incorrectly. The proper pronunciation is Buick’s (like the car) not Be-wicks.
This Bewick’s wren was photographed at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge south of Tucson AZ.