Band-backed Wrens return to our garden

The Band-backed Wren (Campilorhynchus zonatus) is the  largest (7″) of Costa Rica’s 22 species of wren. It is a Caribbean species found mostly in the lowlands but also up to around 1700 m above sea level. It is a noisy and unmusical bird and usually quite gregarious as it moves around in small family groups. Typically it has been the third wren species commonly found in our garden. We are at the far eastern end of Costa Rica’s Central Valley and thus at the gateway to the Caribbean. However, today’s visit, by a single bird, is the first in more than 2 years. Its loud chuckling betrayed its presence fairly high in the trees next to the back porch. 

The little House Wren (Trogladytes aedon) measures only 4″ and can be found here every day. It nests frequently inside the car port in one of the light fixtures.

House Wren

The House Wren is familiar to almost all Costa Ricans as it is found countrywide, often in the vicinity of buildings. Though it is not common in the northern Pacific region it tolerates both lowland heat and the cooler temperatures of the highlands. Photo taken at nearby Santa Rosa, courtesy of John Beer.

Almost as common is Cabanis’s Wren (Cantorchilus modestus). The second name of the Latin binomial, modestus, tells us why this bird was formerly called the Plain Wren. Only recently was it split into the Cabanis’s Wren and the Canebrake Wren (Cantorchilus zeledoni). The latter, though considered conspecific for a long time, is a much greyer and duller-plumaged bird found in the Caribbean lowlands. I have never found one in our area.

Cabanis’s Wren, formerly Plain Wren

Our Plain Wren, i.e. Cabanis’s, is a rather pretty brown-and-white bird whose piercing whistles, often given in duet by a male and a female, can be heard most days in the garden. It nests here and is not usually found in forest environments.

Note the white eye-line and the barring on the tail on this individual photographed by Larry Waddell at home in the nearby coffee town of Aquiares. Most wrens hide from sight in thick foliage. When you’ve ticked off these three, there remain only another 19 Costa Rican wrens for you to find. You’ll need good luck but what fun!

7 thoughts on “Band-backed Wrens return to our garden

  1. What an amazing name for this bird…..and not the troglodytes part… What’s with the Greek part there…assuming it is related to Aedon. Are the troglodytes related to nightingales at all?

    Yes I’m up at 3.30 for no apparent reason….other than going to be added 20.30.


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