by Dan Sandri
Perhaps a Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata) has been curious enough to have briefly shown itself to you? Wrentits are often heard and less-commonly seen, although if you wait one out, it may pop up for you. The male’s call is a distinctive sound of the chaparral landscape: an accelerating sequence of toots, sounding like a bouncing ball. Another description is it sounds like 3 – 5 pits, followed by an accelerating trill. The female’s call is a series of pits.
A Wrentit is about the size of a Song Sparrow, with a yellow eye, round head and short wings, such that it appears plump in appearance. It has long legs and a quite a long tail, which is often held up and away from its body. Its bill is short and slightly curved. Males and females are visually indistinguishable from each other.
Wrentits are found primarily in chaparral and brush along the coasts of Oregon, California and Baja California, although it is also in the Sierra foothills. On Mount Diablo, look for wrentits in the chaparral areas and in poison oak, such as along Red Road and Twin and Eagle Peaks.
Wrentits don’t usually migrate - a bird may spend its entire adult life in an area of just a couple of acres. They are primarily insect eaters, but will also eat berries, including those of poison oak! Wrentits mate for life, and males and females take turns incubating eggs during the daytime, but females incubate the eggs at night.
Wrentits belong to Family Paradoxornithidae - the Parrotbills, and all other birds in the family are found in SE Asia. It is the only member of Genus Chamaea. A rare bird indeed!
Bird Guide: https://www.mdia.org/birds-1-1/wrentit