Scientific Name: Thryomanes bewickii
Pictures: (click for larger images)
A Bewick's Wren near the desert section of the UCLA Botanical Garden. It was flitting around in the bushes before jumping up to pose very briefly on some less concealed branches. Photo by Jason Finley (taken with brand new Canon Digital Rebel XT!) 9/3/05 Here's a picture just to give you an idea of how small the Bewick's Wren is. UCLA Botanical garden. Photo by Jason Finley 9/3/05. Bewick's Wren head illustration.
-Photos by Jason Finley
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.
Description: Small. 5" in length (beak to tail), about the same size as a sparrow if not a little smaller. Wrens are small birds with thin, long beaks and pointy tails that they often point upward. The Bewick's Wren is grayish brown on its back/top and light gray underneath. It has fine stripes on its wings and tail, with some black-andwhite looking stripes on the tail. Its most distinct feature is a bold white streak above its eye. This might be the easiest way to tell it form the House Wren, which we also have.
Sound: Wrens make very distinctive sounds. Not chirps or peeps, but rather harsh, raspy "scolding" sounds! In addition to its scolding call, the Bewick's Wren has a song that is a "series of whistled phrases and trills" (Cornell). Listen to a Bewick's Wren singing and calling! Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.
Commonality/Seasonality: Uncommon, probably year-round but more likely in Spring/Summer.
Location: The UCLA Botanical Garden, where it prefers the native plant areas near the desert section, and the Native Fragment. Probably near the VA Center too. It may show up on other parts of the campus, but you probably wouldn't notice it unless it was making noise. In Spring of 2006, a pair of Bewick's Wrens had a nest in a tree in the Botanical Garden, next to the main large pathway alongside the stream, further south into the garden from the desert section.
Notes: Both the House and Bewick's Wrens are lively little birds, but they seem to enjoy remaining hidden in the bushes and undergrowth, and flitting around rapidly. But keep an ear out: when a wren starts making noise, you'll know it! You might hear it scolding from the bushes or a tree, or even hear it singing. It will often make noise long enough for you to get close to its location, at which point you should look for anything moving to try and spot it.
Update: well, twice now I've seen a small group (maybe 6?) of Bewick's Wren going totally gonzo in the Botanical Garden. Once in May '06 in the desert section, and once in June '06 next to the herb garden/backyard section. From my 5/20/05 observation: "They were squeaking and hopping around and fluffing up and preening and messing around with each other. It didn't look like any of them were babies (and I think it'd be too soon for that anyway), so my guess is that there was a bunch of courting and/or mating going on? And I don't know if any of this is at all related to the pair of Bewick's Wrens I know have a nest right now in a different area of the garden. I've never seen so many of these birds together at once."
Historical: Dr. Loye Miller wrote about the "San Diego Wren" as it was known back then:
As early as January its characteristic song may be heard in the sage along the Arroyo. These birds are more numerous, however, in the hills north of Sunset Blvd.
-Miller, Loye. "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300. Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.