The Four Inch Whistleblower - A Shy Wimberley Area Bird with a Brilliant Song: Meet the Canyon Wren!
Canyon Wren, Catherpes mexicanus.
Photo © 2007, all rights reserved
The Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus) may be difficult to spot, but he's easy to hear if you're within listening distance. His song is so beautiful that it blew the lid off a television network deception.

One of the most beautiful bird songs in the world comes from a small, brown bird who lives among the rocks, a resident of the Central Texas Hill Country and westward. This is the Canyon Wren, whose numbers are thought to be declining.

Nature provides the perfect acoustic environment for his concert when the musical downward glide of the song of the Canyon Wren reverberates off rocky walls. Always descending, and often ending with a "tew, tew, tew," the song from this small bird may be heard up to half a mile away.

In fact, the Canyon Wren can be considered a "whistleblower." His song, heard during a broadcast of the Buick Open, an event played in Michigan, "...alerted birders to the fact that CBS was sweetening its broadcast soundtracks with sounds of birds that were not indigenous to the area." (On the Media)  Residences of Central Texas and westward are fortunate, since our concerts can occur simply when wandering around outside, without the aid of overdubbing.

Young Canyon Wrens from spring brood defying gravity.
Photo © 2008, all rights reserved
Although beautifully audible, the Canyon Wren is quite secretive and one of the Hill Country birds who still presents a few mysteries to bird watchers and scientists. We may hear his song, and catch a glimpse of him perched on a steep rocky wall or on the ubiquitous outcroppings of limestone in the area, but not much is known about the breeding habits of these little songsters.

We do know about nesting habits. Choosing a crevice in the rocks or settling for an abandoned building if necessary, the Canyon Wren will tuck a nest into a well-chosen opening. The cup-like nest may be constructed from grasses, moss, even spider webs for softness, where the female usually lays three to seven small speckled eggs.

If all goes well with these eggs, the babies grow to adulthood at 4 to 6 inches, with a 7 inch wingspan. They also sport a highly-effective tool...a long, thin, straight bill that can probe small rock openings for insects. The Canyon Wren creeps around on cliffs, canyons and rocky outcrops and boulder piles feeding on spiders and other insects others cannot reach.
Cool Facts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

   " * The vertebral column of the Canyon Wren is attached higher on the skull than it is on most birds. This modification, along with a slightly flattened skull, allows a foraging Canyon Wren to thrust its bill forward into tight crevices without bumping its head.

    * The Canyon Wren can climb up, down, and across rocks. A low center of gravity, large feet, and sharp claws aid in such locomotion.

    * The Canyon Wren is not known to drink water. It probably gets all the water it needs from its insect prey. It has been seen foraging along the sides of desert springs, but not drinking."

Another in a list of natural gifts, let's hope the Wimberley area will be blessed with the presence of the Canyon Wren for years to come. Happy listening!