Bewick’s wren is a slender and boisterous little bird with brown back, gray belly and a white eye-line over the eye to the neck. This white eye-line is a “field mark” which helps identify these from house wrens and others of the family. Their long tail is barred with a little bit of white at the outer tips and is typically held straight up.
Named for Thomas Bewick (pronounced by “Buick” not “bee-wick”) who was an English wood engraver and natural history author. His greatest achievement was the publication of “A History of British Birds” published in two volumes in 1797 and 1804. This is considered the forerunner of all modern bird guides.
These are perky and busy little birds. They actively forage on branches and trunks of bushes and trees. You will also frequently see them on or near the ground, turning over leaves and looking for food. They quickly flit from one spot to another. During the breeding season, a pair may forage together, but during winter they are likely solitary.
Bewick’s wrens eat insects, lots of insects. They dine on the eggs, larvae, pupae and adults of many insects. Bugs, beetles, bees and wasps, caterpillars, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, flies, crickets and spiders are also on the menu. In winter, they may visit your bird feeder for seeds and eat fruits available during that season. To help with digestion, they may eat small pebbles or mud.
Bewick’s wrens may hang upside down to eat spiders and other insects from tree trunks and branches. When they catch prey in their bill, they will shake it, crush it or bang it against a branch. Now that the insect is “subdued”, it is swallowed whole. After dinner, it is time to clean up by wiping its bill on a branch, maybe as many as 100 times!
The male starts the nest and sometimes several of them to attract a mate. These nests are in natural cavities, crevices, old woodpecker holes, nest boxes or other man-made structures. He will sing to attract his mate and she will choose one of the nests. She then adds the finishing touches making a soft cup of mosses, leaves, hair, feathers and even snakeskin. Incubation lasts 14 to 16 days for the 5 to 6 eggs. He takes good care of her during incubation bringing food so she can stay on the nest. When the young hatch, they both feed the nestlings.
After about two weeks, the fledglings leave the nest but stay together and close by while the parents feed them for a couple more weeks.
Though common in the West, they have mostly disappeared east of the Mississippi. One possible cause is the expansion of house wrens who out compete them for nest sites, though the true cause is not fully understood. Their population has declined about 39% between 1966 and 2015. Wrens also face competition from European Starlings, House Sparrows, Carolina Wren and Song Sparrows. They are commonly found here in thickets, undergrowth of oak and pine woods, streamside groves, and suburban areas.
If you would like to attract these spunky birds to your yard, include some native plants in your landscaping such as willow, mesquite, elderberry and chaparral plants.
Tri County Wildlife Care, a local nonprofit started in 1994, is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of our native wildlife and helping our community live in balance with wildlife. They envision a world where wildlife and people thrive together. For more information call (209) 283-3245, or visit pawspartners.org.