Feeding ecology and diet

Surprisingly little is known about the feeding ecology of many—in fact the majority—of wren species. The 10 North American species are well-studied, but for many tropical species the only information available comes from collectors' notes on the labels of museum specimens, which are often more cryptic than enlightening. Generally speaking, almost all species eat largely or wholly an arthropod diet. The large wrens of the genus Campylorhynchus are something of an exception, since they do take substantial quantities of vegetable matter, such as cactus seeds. In some instances small frogs or, in the case of the Zapata wren, substantial lizards may be taken. Egg-destruction occurs in a variety of species, but eggs so attacked are not always eaten. Feeding techniques of wrens vary among different genera.

Food items are generally taken from a perched position, not caught in mid-air. Microcerculus feed almost exclusively among forest-floor litter; the wing-banded wren specializes in foraging in rotted logs. Most other wren species feed in the lower levels of tangled vegetation, but some species range higher up; the aberrant genus Odontorchilus is unusual for feeding mostly in the forest canopy. Some species of tropical wren will briefly join mixed flocks following ant-swarms, but no species is truly a habitual ant-follower. In Arizona, cactus wrens have learned to exploit a novel food source, the squashed and conveniently dehydrated insects on the radiators of parked cars.

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