Canyon Wren

Catherpes mexicanus

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 1995
  • Stephanie L. Jones and Joseph Scott Dieni

Free Introduction Article Access

The Introduction Article is just the first of 11 articles in each species account that provide life history information for the species. The remaining articles provide detailed information regarding distribution, migration, habitat, diet, sounds, behavior, breeding, current population status and conservation. Each species account also includes a multimedia section that displays the latest photos, audio selections and videos from Macaulay Library’s extensive galleries. Written and continually updated by acknowledged experts on each species, Birds of North America accounts include a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.

A subscription is needed to access the remaining account articles and multimedia content.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign In
Figure 1. Distribution of the Canyon Wren.

This species occupies suitable rocky habitats within this area.

Adult Canyon Wren; Arizona, November.

Note fresh plumage. Plumage of this desert bird is lighter than that of mountain-dwelling individuals. Tortolita Mountains, AZ; November.; photographer Rick and Nora Bowers

A small wren found in arid, rocky habitats from southern British Columbia throughout the western United States and Mexico, the Canyon Wren is visually inconspicuous but easily detected during the breeding season by its loud, distinctive, and melodious song, often heard echoing throughout canyonlands of western North America.

Few terrestrial birds are as restricted to rocky cliffs or outcrops as this one. It inhabits the same territories year-round, commonly nesting in sheltered rock crevices, using its long, decurved bill and flattened head to probe for spiders and insects in rock crevices. Although not generally associated with human development, the Canyon Wren does inhabit villages in the southwestern United States and Mexico, apparently undeterred by human presence. Only the female incubates, but both adults feed their young.

The taxonomy of the species has been altered and debated for years; currently, three to eight subspecies are recognized.

Owing in large part to the inaccessibility of its preferred habitat, much remains to be learned about the life history of this species; it is arguably one of the least-studied species in North America. The only major studies of the Canyon Wren are a master's thesis conducted in Molino Canyon, outside Tucson, Arizona (Tramontano 1964), and a Ph.D dissertation conducted in southern California (Mirsky 1976a).

We are currently involved in an ongoing study, begun in 1992, that examines the behavior and natural history of this wren, working primarily in the foothill canyons of the Front Range Mountains of Colorado.

Recommended Citation

Jones, S. L. and J. S. Dieni (1995). Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.