Pacific Wren’s a Done Deal

Pacific Wren’s a Done Deal

The grapevine tells me that the AOU checklist committee has voted to split Pacific Wren from Winter Wren.  This is fourth-hand information, but it originates with a member of the checklist committee and I believe it’s reliable.

This means the split is a done deal, but it’s not official until the committee publishes its 51st supplement to the checklist, which will happen in July 2010.  Between now and then, it would behoove birders, especially those in the Mountain West, to pay very careful attention to any Winter/Pacific wrens they may encounter.  Here in Colorado, we still have a lot of work to do to try to figure out the occurrence patterns of the two species, and I bet the same is true in many other states as well.  Although there are certainly visual differences, sounds remain a key distinction between these species; see my earlier posts on differentiating them by call and by song.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for more information on why these two species are being split, check out Nick Sly’s post on the subject from 2008.  It’s marvelous.

11 thoughts on “Pacific Wren’s a Done Deal

  1. Have you noticed a behavioural difference between the two? From my casual observations on wrens in BC and in northern Ontario, it seems to me the pacific versions are bolder. When calling/scolding they move in much closer or stay in plain sight for much longer while I walk along a trail. I have no difficulty watching them. By contrast, I usually have to look hard to see an eastern version while walking along trails. They seem much more secretive and are more often heard than seen.

  2. Personally, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in the skulkiness of the two species, but maybe others have. I know I’ve stared fruitlessly into plenty of thickets in the Pacific Northwest, trying to locate the calling or singing Pacific Wren!

  3. I also have noted that Winter Wrens in the northern Appalachians (at least Connecticut north to the Gaspe Penninsula in Quebec) are extremely difficult to see and flush while Pacific Wrens in the Coast Range of Oregon and the Central Cascades of Washington are difficult to find (dense foliage and all), but easier to flush. Further, Winter Wrens in the UK (at least in the Oxford area along the Thames) are notably tame and very often out in the open. I remember eating breakfast on a friends porch when one popped up on a fence less than 10 ft from me to sing; it never cared that there were people around!

    All of that being said, I don’t know that this could ever be used for ID purposes. The differences in the song of all three regional Winter Wrens I’ve seen was distinct enough to also be notable.

  4. Perhaps it isn’t a behavioural difference in the two species then? Maybe just a difference in how accustomed to people the wrens are. In the Urban Forest (Surrey/Whiterock, BC) they are very bold, but the forest is surrounded by development and has numerous trails throughout it while in Northern Ontario I’m usually in places where there are far fewer people and much less development.

  5. Thanks for the link! It’s good to hear that the AOU is voting for the split. Since the NACC started posting their votes on the website before the actual publication of the supplement, we won’t have to wait quite as long to know for sure… I hope. The one I’m really waiting for is the reaction of the committee to Loxia sinesciuris. I’ve been meaning to do a write-up on that new species but it’s a tough case to wrap my head around. Have you written much about crossbills here?

  6. Nick,

    Yes, actually, crossbills are part of this blog’s raison d’etre. Click here for my posts on the subject. Let me know if you end up posting on sinesciuris! I look forward to it.

  7. Does anyone know what the “new” Range maps will look like? I’m assuming the Wren I saw in Oregon will be the Pacific, but what I don’t know i how far East the bird travels…

    Any thoughts?

    Do we know what else passed?

  8. I have seen the Winter Wren in Northern Indiana on migration in early spring and late fall. It is mostly quiet then, but very tame. It is usually close to ground (about 4-5′) and curious. I have seen the western version (Pacific Wren) in Oregon in the wooded ravines near the Portland Audubon Sanctuary and in nearby forest areas. It seems to be more vocal, but more elusive, often staying near tops of the trees and scurrying for cover when spotted. Granted, these are two extremes, but the color seems quite different as well. I have never seen any in any of the more “in-between” locations.

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