wrens in nevada

8 Wrens in Nevada to See in the Wild: A Spotters’ Guide

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Wrens are a delightful family of tiny, energetic songbirds found across North America, including right here in Nevada.

With their constant motion and noisy songs, wrens bring excitement to natural areas where they live. They can be tricky to spot due to their small size and camouflaged brown plumage that allows them to blend into vegetated backgrounds.

This is important: you have to be patient if you want to see wrens in Nevada! They aren’t the most populous birds in the state, and they tend to be pretty shy. Our Wild Bird Scoop guide to wrens in Nevada will help you learn to find and identify these sweet little wild birds.

An Overview of Wrens in Nevada

Eight species of wrens inhabit Nevada, including year-round residents, summer breeding visitors, migrants, and rare vagrants. This guide shares identification tips and facts about the wrens found in the state.

Wren Traits and Behaviors

Wrens belong to the Troglodytidae family, which means “cave-dweller.” They don’t live in literal caves, but rather, their name refers to the fact that their nests resemble caves or “troglodyte” dwellings.

Wrens have several defining features:

  • Small and plump with thin pointed bills
  • Typically 4-6 inches long
  • Rounded profile, short wings, and upward-angled tail
  • Noisy, complex vocalizations used for communication
  • Earth-toned brown, buff, or gray plumage that provides camouflage
  • Agile and acrobatic, quickly hopping on the ground and climbing through vegetation
  • Males build domed nests in hidden cavities, sometimes constructing extra non-breeding “dummy nests”
  • Diet consists almost exclusively of insects and spiders caught by probing into crevices and holes

Tips for Spotting Wrens in Nevada

Seeing wrens in Nevada takes patience and knowledge of their habits. Here are some of our favorite tips for learning to spot wrens:

  • Listen closely for loud wren songs and calls to get a sense of their presence before potentially seeing them. Their vocalizations carry far and can reveal if wrens are nearby even if they remain hidden.
  • Thoroughly search around areas like tree cavities, brush piles, rock crevices, thickets, and other spots where wrens may nest, roost, and take cover. Their small size and camouflage let them disappear against backgrounds, so look closely.
  • Watch carefully as wrens stealthily hop on the ground and briefly perch on vegetation as they actively forage for food and skillfully hide. Their constant motion as they probe for insects can reveal their location.
  • Try using “pishing” noises, squeaking toys, or tapping sticks together to draw curious wrens temporarily into more open areas for better viewing. Mimicking sounds piques their interest.
  • Look for signs near potential nesting cavities like gathered twigs, dropped feathers, or wren poop splatter that offer clues a wren might be present in the area.
  • Use binoculars to scan trees and bushes where wrens may be perched inconspicuously. Their small size can make them hard to notice at first. A good pair of binoculars will help you see more detail for identification purposes.
  • Return to the same areas across multiple days and times of day, as increased time spent increases the odds of sightings. Wrens establish and defend territories.
  • Go out during peak activity in the morning and evening when wrens are most vocal and active.
  • Spend time sitting quietly in one spot and letting the sounds and motions of nature come to you. With patience, you will see many more interesting birds – not just wrens!

Spotting wrens is challenging but fulfilling. Avoid giving up too quickly – persisting with the right techniques in a suitable habitat will eventually pay off with a sighting!

Why Nevada’s Wrens Matter

Though tiny, wrens play a valuable ecological role in Nevada. They are important for many reasons, including:

  • Controlling pest insects and spiders through their diet
  • Contributing to seed dispersal and plant pollination
  • Providing nourishing food for other wildlife when old nests decay
  • Serving as indicators of ecosystem health through their presence and population numbers

We can divide wrens into several categories, so that is what we have done for this article! Below, you will find information about wrens who live in Nevada year-round, wrens who are only here in the summer or winter, and vagrant migrants or rare wrens in Nevada.

Let’s get started!

Wrens in Nevada All Year Long

There are four kinds of wrens that you can find throughout the state: the Bewick’s Wren, the Cactus Wren, the Canyon Wren, and the Marsh Wren. Let’s get to know them!

Bewick’s Wren

Bewick’s Wren
  • Scientific Name: Thryomanes bewickii
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Length: 5-6 in
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz
  • Wingspan: 7-8 in

Covered in plain brown plumage on its back with a white chin, throat, and striking white “eyebrows,” the Bewick’s Wren has a long tail that angles upward in that classic wren fashion (you’ll notice all of the wrens have this characteristic). Its wings and tail are marked by dark barring.

In western states like Nevada, the Bewick’s Wren is found at lower elevations with plenty of brush and woods. They will also inhabit woods, the edges of streams, desert washes, areas with lots of chaparral, as well as suburban yards and gardens.

For its nest, the Bewick’s Wren chooses cavities such as old woodpecker holes, gaps in trees, and crevices in rocky outcrops or human structures. It constructs a domed nest using twigs, grass, moss, bark, and feathers.

Probing enthusiastically with its long slim bill, the Bewick’s Wren’s diet is dominated by insects like beetles, true bugs, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. It also consumes spiders, snails, small fruits, and seeds.

They are generally non-migratory and can be found along Nevada’s western edge and in the southeastern corner of the state.

Interesting facts about the Bewick’s Wren:

  • It removes old nest materials before building a new nest in a cavity.
  • Bewick’s Wren mates remain monogamous, with the male bringing food while the female incubates eggs.
  • Males and females both feed their young.
  • Populations declined in the early 20th century but have rebounded and expanded their range since the 1970s.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren
  • Scientific Name: Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Length: 7.1-8.7 in (18-22 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1-1.7 oz (32-47 g)
  • Wingspan: 10.5-11.5 in

With rich brown upper parts marked by white spotting on its wings and tail, the Cactus Wren has pale grayish underparts. Its face is lightly streaked with white eyebrows. The tail is long with tips on the outer tail feathers.

The Cactus Wren is actually the largest wren in North America – almost double the size of many other wrens on our list.

Residing in arid desert scrub year-round, the Cactus Wren inhabits areas containing dense thickets of thorny vegetation including cacti, yucca, and brush. It builds bulky nests of grass, twigs, and other plant material hidden in the branches of desert trees or cacti.

They are found outside of Las Vegas and in the southeastern part of Nevada. Unlike most wrens, the female begins building the nest first, and the male contributes to the work.

The Cactus Wren forages on the dusty desert floor for insects and spiders. It also consumes seeds and fruits. Although they are active all day, they tend to stay in shadier areas when the daytime gets really hot.

Interesting facts about the Cactus Wren:

  • It does not migrate and instead remains year-round in the same territory.
  • It prefers to build its nest in an area with plenty of thorns for protection
  • The Cactus Wren often mates for life; males and females share the duties of feeding their young.
  • These wrens are at risk of major population decline due to habitat loss.

Canyon Wren

Canyon Wren
  • Scientific Name: Catherpes mexicanus
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Length: 4.5-6.1 in (11.4-15.4 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.7 oz (9.9-18.3 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)

With brown coloring, subtle white barring on its wings, and a white throat, the Canyon Wren has a long tail that points upward and a very long bill. It displays a white eye ring and faint white barring on its underparts.

The Canyon Wren occupies rocky canyons and cliff faces in Nevada year-round. They take refuge in crevices and ledges on high rocky walls, and they need almost no vegetation or water sources to survive. This wren’s nest is an elaborately constructed dome of grasses, twigs, and feathers tucked into a sheltered canyon alcove.

The Canyon Wren uses its sharp claws to grip rock faces as it climbs acrobatically. It constantly probes into tiny cracks with its slender downcurved bill to catch spiders and insects like flies, beetles, and moth larvae that hide in the cliffs.

Interesting facts about the Canyon Wren:

  • It clings to rocks and moves one foot at a time to traverse cliffs.
  • It does not migrate from its rocky canyon habitat.
  • They appear to mate monogamously.
  • While the male helps to raise the hatchlings, the female incubates a second brood.
  • Their population numbers are currently stable across their range.
  • One threat to their population is the activities of rock climbers in their habitat areas.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren
  • Scientific Name: Cistothorus palustris
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Length: 5-6 in
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in

The Marsh Wren is small and brow with a thin white eyebrow stripe. There is some subtle black barring on the wings. It has a short black bill and usually keeps its medium-length tail cocked upward.

In summer, the Marsh Wren breeds in wetland habitats including marshes, wet meadows, and ponds with cattails and reeds. Its nest is a bulky ball woven from plant materials and anchored to emergent vegetation above the surface of the water.

Their long legs allow them to forage in muddy wetland vegetation for the insects and spiders that make up their diet.

The question of when you will see Marsh Wrens in Nevada is dependent upon where you are located in the state. In a diagonal stripe across the state from the northwest corner to the southeast corner, Marsh Wrens are year-round residents. However, in the northeast corner of the state, they are breeding-season visitors. Along the western edge of the state, they are only found during the migration.

Interesting facts about the Marsh Wren:

  • Their populations have grown due to wetland conservation efforts.
  • Adults often return to the same breeding site each year.
  • The Marsh Wren’s nest has a side entrance and woven roof above the entrance hole.
  • It is a secretive bird that creeps through dense marsh vegetation, often undetected by humans.

Wrens in Nevada During the Summer

Many kinds of wrens are migratory, even if they are just short-distance migrants. Some of these wrens come to Nevada for the breeding season. These are the House Wren and the Rock Wren.

House Wren

House Wren
  • Scientific Name: Troglodytes aedon
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz
  • Wingspan: 5.5-6.1 in

The House Wren is a small, active brown bird with the wren’s signature upward-pointing tail, very faint barring on its wings and tail, and a white eyebrow stripe. It has a pale gray belly and a long, slender bill.

The House Wren’s breeding range covers much of the US, including the top three-fourths of Nevada (in the Southern part of Nevada, you can still find House Wrens, but only while they migrate between spring and summer ranges).

House Wrens are incredibly adaptable little birds who are able to live in many different habitats, including areas with lots of human activity. They are likely to build their nests in natural tree cavities, old woodpecker holes, and a number of manmade structures.

Their nests are enclosed twig domes. The male actually builds several “dummy nests,” which are loosely constructed and may not even be recognized as a nest by an unfamiliar birder. The female chooses the nest that she feels is the best, and that is the one they finish building together.

They spend the winter in brushy habitats that offer plenty of cover and protection. Mostly, House Wrens eat insects (beetles, moths, flies, etc.) and spiders, but they will sometimes eat plant matter like seeds and berries.

Interesting facts about the House Wren:

  • They are found across most of the continental United States.
  • The male aggressively defends its nesting territory, even puncturing the eggs of other species and destroying their nests.
  • The female finishes lining her chosen nest with soft feathers and hair.
  • Both parents feed nestlings, with the male supplementing the female’s foraging efforts by bringing her food.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren
  • Scientific Name: Salpinctes obsoletus
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Length: 5-6 in
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in

With pale gray upperparts marked by subtle spotting on its wings and tail, the Rock Wren has a streaky white breast and a crispy white belly. This wren has long black legs and a slender downcurved bill. Its gray coloring is ideal for camouflaging along the rocky slopes, rather than the brown wrens that hide in wooded areas.

The Rock Wren resides on rocky cliffs, canyons, and slopes year-round where it nests in sheltered crevices. Its nest is a twig structure lined with soft feathers tucked deep in a canyon alcove or cliff ledge.

Nimbly moving across the rocky terrain, the Rock Wren forages for insects and spiders such as beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and flies found among the rocks and crevices.

Because Rock Wrens tend to live in remote areas without a lot of human activity, we know less about them!

We do know that they are found in Nevada during the summer. They tend to avoid the Ruby Mountain range, but otherwise, you can find them pretty much all summer long in the rest of the state.

Interesting facts about the Rock Wren:

  • Males sing an intricate, melodic song.
  • They are predated by snakes, who raid their nests for their eggs.
  • Pairs appear to mate for life.
  • They do not appear to need to drink any water, getting all of their moisture for food. Rock Wrens have never been documented drinking any water.
  • They build a small “sidewalk” of pebbles outside of their nest – which no one really understands the purpose of!
  • Males feed nesting females and later feed newly hatched nestlings.

Unusual or Rare Wrens in Nevada

There are many reasons why a rare bird might appear in an unfamiliar area outside of its typical range. Sometimes, a migrating bird will be blown far off course by strong headwinds or a storm. It takes less energy to fly with the wind than to fly against it! Additionally, birds may become rare in an area if they have experienced significant habitat loss or if their migratory patterns have changed over decades, and they no longer visit or reside where they used to. Finally, rare birds may be rare because of serious population decline.

The uncommon wrens you might be lucky enough to spot in Nevada are the Pacific Wren and the Winter Wren. Let’s learn about these two birds and whether or not you might have a chance to spot one.

Pacific Wren

Pacific Wren
  • Scientific Name: Troglodytes pacificus
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Length: 4-5 in
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz
  • Wingspan: 5.5-6.5 in

Plump with mostly brown plumage and a pale buff throat and eyebrows, the Pacific Wren has a very short tail that points upward. Its bill is slim, sharp, and black. The Pacific Wren is quite plain-looking, which can help you distinguish it from flashier birds in Nevada.

Pacific Wrens inhabit mature damp coniferous forests year-round. They nest in tree cavities, stumps, fallen logs, and rock crevices. Their nest is an enclosed spherical structure made of twigs, mosses, and needles.

The male builds the nest, often near a stream, and the female helps to line the inside of the nest. She does not contribute to the construction of the nest.

Rooting through leaf litter on the forest floor, the Pacific Wren constantly turns over debris to snatch up insects and spiders including beetles, ants, flies, and moth larvae, which comprise the bulk of its diet.

They are on our rare wrens in Nevada list because they only have one tiny area where they can consistently be found: right around Reno. Otherwise, you have little chance of seeing one. Sometimes, a rare visitor may also travel outside of its typical California range and end up somewhere in Nevada.

Interesting facts about the Pacific Wren:

  • It has an exceptionally long breeding season, as it migrates early but departs late.
  • They live solitarily, not even flocking with their own species. They really only spend time with their own mate and any hatchlings.
  • Because of how solitary they are, they need the warmth of their mate to survive cold winters.
  • The Pacific Wren faces potential decline due to climate change and habitat loss. Logging and deforestation are a primary concern.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren
  • Scientific Name: Troglodytes hiemalis
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Length: 3.5-4.3 in
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz
  • Wingspan: 4.7-5.9 in

The Winter Wren is a tiny rotund brown wren with faint barring on its wings and tail. It looks a bit like a ping-pong or golf ball, bouncing about on the ground. The Winter Wren has subtle white eyebrows above its very short bill. Its short tail habitually tilts upward.

In winter, the Winter Wren occupies dense coniferous or mixed forests rich in shrubs, downed logs, and damp thickets that provide food and cover. It creates a tree cavity nest that expands to fill the space. If the cavity is large, so is the nest!

Winter Wrens forage by probing into crevices, decaying logs, and leaf litter to catch small invertebrates including beetles, true bugs, flies, spiders, and millipedes that dominate their diet.

Although they are generally only found in the eastern half of the US, eBird reports some sightings in the Las Vegas area.

Interesting facts about the Winter Wren:

  • Their nests are large, sometimes as big as a football.
  • It has one of the strongest bird songs relative to its size.
  • A secretive bird, the Winter Wren’s location is often only detected by the fact that its song reveals its presence
  • The Winter Wren male feeds the female while she incubates eggs.
  • Parents feed nestlings for 2-3 weeks until they are fledged.
  • Their population is steady, but any destruction of old-growth forests could impact their numbers

Looking For More Birds in Nevada? Wild Bird Scoop Has You Covered!

These 8 wrens in Nevada are just a few of the many fascinating birds you can find in our state.

At Wild Bird Scoop, we have put together a collection of bird guides about each state. Here are some of our favorite guides to Nevada’s incredible birdlife:

Whether you are looking for songbirds, corvids, birds of prey, hummingbirds, waterfowl, or any other bird, we hope you have a great time birding and birdwatching in Nevada!

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