Rock wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) is an appropriate common name for this inhabitant of rocky and pebbly habitats in Western North America and Central America. Found in open, arid areas from low elevations to alpine regions, rock wrens are permanent in the south. Those summering further north move to lower elevations or latitudes in the winter. If their winter territory does not have exposed rocks, these wrens will shelter in the crevices of haystacks or amid farm equipment.
The upper side of a rock wren is grey brown with small black and white spots. The underparts are pale grey and the rump is light brown or cinnamon. There is a very faint light grey line over the eye. The tail is long and barred while the rock wren’s bill is long, thin and decurved.
Insects and spiders form the bulk of a rock wren’s diet. It characteristically hops about gleaning food from rock surfaces and crevices, the ground and from under other objects. This little bird is thought to not drink water, instead obtaining needed moisture from its food.
Rock wren males are accomplished singers with a large repertoire of songs. Much of the year the male makes nondescript trills and saves the more varied songs for the nesting season.
The nest of a rock wren, usually in a rock crevice, can often be located by a walkway or line of stones or pebbles leading to the nesting site. The function of this construction is unknown.
This rock wren was photographed late last month along the Thomas Wright Battlefield Trail at Lava Beds National Monument, Siskiyou County CA.
Next spring Leonard and I plan to return to the lava rock outcrop where we saw this rock wren. We hope to see a rock wren’s stone “walkway” and hear songs more melodious than the few, weak cheeps this rock wren made on a cold, windy fall day.