Wrentit: Bird that’s Half Tail

by Dave Hanks

Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a fancy tail – one that you could carry pointed skyward? Tails are used several different ways: a rudder to maneuver through trees and bushes, or as a convenient signal flag to warn competition away, or to be used as body language to exhibit various moods. And who has a more distinctive tail than the little Wrentit?

The Wrentit is a small brown bird that holds its tail erect, much like a wren. It is reddish-brown underneath, has creamy white around its eyes, and a short gray bill and head. This bird lives in western coastal chaparral and scrub. It stays hidden most of the time, but is very noisy.

So when you’re about from Oregon to the Baja

Listen for a tit—tit-tit-tit-t-t-t-tit

A sound that resonates like a bouncing ball

Getting shorter, and then faster, is the way of it

Not seen too often, because

Dense shrubbery is where they nest

The concealment and protection of the foliage

Makes it the place they think is best

Each pair has a huge range of around 160 square miles. And, they mate for life. Perhaps this could explain why they are always bickering.

Wrentit Feeling secure amid the thorns

Feeling secure amid the thorns

Lawrence’s Goldfinch

by Dave Hanks

This goldfinch is colored differently from what you would expect from a member of the goldfinch group. Nevertheless it is attractive, and a species that we feel is important to have in our files. It is also a species that one would have to visit Southern California to see – and then it would require some luck to find.

Just north of Bakersfield is a valley – a valley at a much higher elevation than Bakersfield. It is the Lake Isabella/Kern River Valley. Many species of birds are there during the April/May spring migration. If you keep going up the Kern River road, which is on the west side of the valley, you will get into the mountains and forest campgrounds. Further up is the Sequoia National Park. On the east side of the valley is a bird research station. The station feeds birds and has nesting houses which House Wrens and Western bluebirds utilize. Many other species come to their feeding stations. A major reason that we went to this valley was to see Red-Breasted Sapsuckers and LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH. We thought the goldfinch would be at the bird seed – but no, they did not do what we expected them to do. They were there, but not at the feed. My wife saw them close up (without a camera), but they seemed to avoid me. Discouraged, we moved to a campground on the west side. There they were sitting calmly in a tree – just asking for their pictures to be taken.

Look for a small 4 to 5 inch gray bird with a black face, yellow breast, yellow lower back and rump, black wings with yellow bars, and a short forked tail.

This bird breeds in the woodlands of California and the Baja. Its nests are usually single but sometimes in colonies over 10 or more. While the female builds the nest, the male just follows her and sings. It’s amusing that many women would say: “That’s just like a man”. While the female is on the nest, the males will form small flocks and leave the rest up to her. This uncommon, small finch is highly erratic in its movements from year to year – which makes it difficult to study.

 Lawrence's Goldfinch perched on a limb

There he is – finally!