Canyon Wren

Catherpes mexicanus
Range Map

Anyone who has heard the Canyon Wren’s song is not likely to forget it. It is like no other song in the bird world. A descending cascade of notes will fill the air, and if the bird is near enough, you might hear the little scolding notes that punctuate the finale. Look and listen for these non-migratory birds where you find rocky canyons in western North America.

Today, taxonomists call out three subspecies of Canyon Wren:

  • C. m. conspersus lives in southwestern USA from Nevada and Colorado south to Mexico central Baja California (Mexico).
  • C. m. albifrons lives in southwestern Texas and northern Mexico.
  • C. m. mexicanus lives on the Mexican Plateau south to Oaxaca and Chiapas.

As with its cousin the Rock Wren, steep canyon walls are its favorite haunts. Though fields of large boulders can accommodate their needs as well. I have met Canyon Wrens in locations where boulders did not dominate the landscape, but to be sure, there were large rocky outcrops not far away.

Canyon Wrens have evolved a neck attachment and flattened head that allows them to reach into difficult places to forage for spiders and tiny insects in narrow rocky crevices that other birds cannot reach.

Canyon Wrens often nest in the same areas as White-Throated Swifts, and the swifts have been witnessed attacking the wrens and driving them away. This would suggest the swifts perceived a threat from the wrens. Given the well-documented nest destruction observed in House Wrens, one might conclude that the Canyon Wren is capable of the same mischief.

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