Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Bewick’s Wren Thryomanes bewickii


Although present year-round in much of western and south-central US, the Bewick’s Wren (pronounced like Buick’s) is found, in Western Canada, only in Southwestern BC (e.g., southern Vancouver Island, Vancouver region, Howe Sound, Fraser Valley to Hope). It is also present (but rare) in the extreme south of Ontario (eg., Point Pelee). It is a permanent resident and does not migrate.

It is a secretive brown bird of brushy habitats and thickets in urban areas, farmland and open woods, quite often first recognized by its far-carrying song or buzzy scold notes.


General: Characteristics are typical of a wren such as the small size, cocked tail barred on upper parts, narrow head and long slender bill. More slender than other wrens, with longer neck, and longer tail, that is constantly flicked up or sideways.

Adult: Male and Female similar. Relatively clean, unmarked plumage and long white supercilium (eyebrow) distinctive. Underparts grey with sides and flanks tinged with brown; underwing grey; throat pale; sides of neck grey. Crown, nape and back brown. Auriculars faintly barred grey and brown. Bill grey, relatively long and slightly downcurved. Tail barred with speckled white corners. Undertail coverts grey with dark barring.

Juvenile (Apr – Aug): Generally similar to adult, except breast faintly barred, and barring on undertail coverts absent.

Similar species: In the Pacific region only likely to be confused with Winter Wren or possibly Marsh Wren, but the latter is found in different habitat (marsh and reeds). Winter Wren is smaller, more uniformly brown above and below, has a shorter, more buffy supercilium, thin dark bill, and keeps the much smaller tail cocked with no flicking up, down or sideways.

Behaviour: Forages low or on the ground in thickets and undergrowth for insects and fruit. Flight when flushed is short and erratic on rounded wings.

Habitat: Open woods, farmland and urban areas in brushy areas and thickets.

Information: This is the only species of its genus Thryomanes. Interestingly, it is named for Thomas Bewick (1753 – 1828) a north of England ornithologist, bird illustrator and wood engraver, though the bird is not found in Britain or Europe. He is also commemorated in Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii), the Eurasian version of our Tundra Swan.

The Bewick’s Wren is present year round in the Vancouver area and is a fairly common resident, though easily overlooked because of its skulking nature. It nests in cavities or in dense brush piles, and will utilize old woodpecker holes, knotholes in fallen trees, and birdboxes. The nest is of leaves, straw and other debris and lined with feathers or other soft material. Normally, 4 – 7 spotted eggs are laid. The song is variable with opening notes high, followed by lower burry notes and ending on a thin trill, frequently like swee, swee, cheeeeee, somewhat reminiscent of a Song Sparrow.

There is considerable regional variation in its song and in its plumage, with the upperparts of eastern birds being overall richer brown and those of the southwestern US much more grey.

Conservation Status:

Although the conservation status of Bewick’s Wren is listed as LC (Least Concern) there has been severe declines of the species in the eastern United States. It is suspected that the House Wren, which frequently removes eggs from nests in cavities, has been directly responsible for the decline. The increased availability of nest boxes may have helped the spread of the House Wren, and consequently the decline of the Bewick's Wren.
Capture Rates

As a resident species with two broods a possibility, capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) of Bewick's Wren span spring through fall when the birds are most active and peak in July/August then again in October reflecting juvenile dispersal.


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