WatchList Species Account for Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: © Scott Streit
Photo: Scott Streit

The Wrentit is the only New World representative of the otherwise Old World babbler family (Timaliidae). It is found on the West Coast, east of the Sierras, from the Columbia River to northwestern Baja California. In the eastern part of its range, populations appear to be increasing and expanding, perhaps due to deforestation and replacement with dense scrub, and global warming. Called the most sedentary species in North America, it forms tight pair-bonds, usually life-long, and defend a territory year-round, remaining in the same vicinity as long as 12 years.


The bird is common in coastal scrub and chaparral, as well as in habitat with sufficient shrub cover, such as second- and old-growth forests, oak woodland, and even suburban yards and parks, where it is subject to predation by feral cats. It is secretive and hard to see, though highly vocal. Fragmentation of coastal scrub an cause local extirpation of the Wrentit, but low-level fires and managed burns followed by an increase in shrub diversity can benefit the bird. Corridors connecting suitable patches of habitat would be of benefit to this bird, allowing juveniles to disperse into unoccupied breeding areas.