Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wrentit near Julian

I suppose I could choose two different birds. After all, the 70-mile wide by 70-mile long county has recorded well over 500 species of birds. But to me, the two birds that represent the entirety of San Diego County are these: Verdin and Wrentit. There is almost no overlap in their ranges, but together one or the other is found over the entire county. Verdin is a widespread resident of the Anza-Borrego desert in the northeastern part of the county. Wrentit is resident in the rest of the county, from the mountains to the shore.

Wrentit. William Heise County Park, Julian, California. July 3, 2015. Greg Gillson.
Homebodies, a pair of Wrentits average a territory of just one acre in size (range 0.5-2.7 acres). That means that a pair of Wrentits (who mate for life), on average, spends their entire lives within an area smaller than a football field.

Their preferred habitat is not very glamorous--chaparral, oak understory, and coastal sage scrub--low, brushy, dry, evergreen shrubs. They hop and crawl from bush to bush. They are loathe to fly more than a few inches, and always keep to the dense bushes, never out in the open.

Secretive in actions, but both sexes sing--and very loudly. It is a piping whistle that speeds up into a trill. It is described as a bouncing ball. peet peet peet-peet-peet-peetpeetpeettrrrr....


Insects (beetles, caterpillars, bugs) are their primary food. They also eat seeds and small berries--including the berries of poison oak!

Wrentit in a favored shrub--poison oak!
The Wrentit is different from all other birds. It is neither a Wren nor a Tit (chickadee-like birds). It is often included in the Old World Warbler or the Babbler families. In either case, there are no other New World representatives of either of these bird families. The Wrentit is truly unique.

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