Wrentit

Chamaea fasciata

SUBFAMILY Timaliinae

TAXONOMY

Parus fasciatus Gambel, 1845, Monterey, California. Six subspecies. While Delacour long ago considered this species a babbler, many authorities have persisted in assigning it its own family or subfamily. However, the DNA hybridization research of Sibley and Ahlquist suggests the wrentit is the only New World babbler, whose ancestors crossed the Bering land bridge in the mid-Miocene (15-20 million years ago). Sibley and Ahlquist do place it in its own tribe, Chamaeini.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Cama brune; German: Chaparraltimalie.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

6.3 in (16 cm); 0.5 oz (14 g). Gray (southern) or brown (northern) compact bird with long tail (usually held up), pale eyes, and small, sharp bill. Song is a very distinctive accelerating series of high notes.

DISTRIBUTION

Pacific Coast of North America, from northern Oregon to northern Baja California.

HABITAT

Chaparral and coniferous scrub.

BEHAVIOR

Generally live in pairs, communicating continuously with unique calls. Frequents heavy low vegetation.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Forages for insects and berries in undergrowth.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous, paired for life. Sexes share in all aspects of nesting and chick rearing. Nest is located deep in bushes, a tightly woven cup of twigs, bark, and feathers, lined with spider webs. Three to five greenish blue, unpatterned eggs compose clutch.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened, though significant portions of range have been developed.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Popular with birdwatchers. ♦

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