Conservation status Least concern
The Wrentit, Chamaea fasciata, is a small bird that lives in chaparral and bushland. It is the only species in the genus Chamaea (Gambel, 1847).
It is the subject of much taxonomic debate, having been placed in many different families by different authors for as long as it has been known to science. Its name reflects the uncertainty, and its resemblance to both tits and wrens.
The Wrentit has been variously placed in its own family, the Chamaeidae, with the bushtits (Aegithalidae), the tits and chickadees (Paridae), the Old World warblers (Sylviidae), and most recently with the Old World babblers (Timaliidae). The AOU places the Wrentit in the latter family, giving it the distinction of being the only babbler known from the New World.
The Wrentit is a small (15-cm) bird with uniform dull olive, brown, or grayish plumage. It has short wings and a long tail often held high (hence the comparison to wrens). It has a short bill and a pale iris. Given its retiring nature and loud voice, the Wrentit is more likely to be detected by its call than by sight.
Behavior and Range
The Wrentit is a sedentary (non-migratory) resident of a narrow strip of coastal habitat in western coast of North America, being found from Washington south to Baja California. It is usually restricted to scrub and certain types of woodland. It nests in 1m high shrubs such as poison oak, coyote bush and Californian blackberry. Logging and other changes in habitat have led to this species expanding its range recently, particularly northwards.
Wrentits mate for life, forming pair bonds only a few months after hatching. Both sexes participate in building the nest, a four-stage process that takes about two weeks. The three or four eggs are incubated for 14 days, again by both sexes. The chicks fledge after 15 days (at which stage they are unable to fly) and are fed by their parents for another 40 days.
The Wrentit feeds by skulking through dense scrub gleaning exposed insects found by sight. It feeds primarily on beetles, caterpillars, bugs, and ants, but also takes small berries and seeds.
- BirdLife International (2004). Chamaea fasciata. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 05 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Geupel, G. R., and G. Ballard. 2002. Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata) in The Birds of North America, vol. 17, no. 654 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.