Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the May 5, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

I hear Spot-breasted Wrens more than I see them. Down at the reservoir's end where the slopes converge, the water grows shallow and finds its source in a piddling little stream meandering through mud, and the willows rise to become regal trees, that's where I hear them. If your computer can eat mp3 audio files (Windows Media Player) you can hear one now at http://web2.uwindsor.ca/courses/biology/dmennill/Mexico/SBWRs2.mp3.

Those of you with a special interest in the Yucatan, note that the above address belongs to the "Bird Songs of the Yucatan Peninsula" site, accessible at http://web2.uwindsor.ca/courses/biology/dmennill/Mexico/Mexico.html.

You can see what a Spot-breasted Wren looks like at http://www.birdsofhonduras.com/photos/eisermann/eisermann_ThrMac.jpg.

The Spot-breasted Wren's song is about as loud, sharp and enthusiastic-sounding as a little bird can manage. Liking second growth and forest edges, he's fairly common but he likes to hide. A typical hangout is a densely leafed shrub overgrown with vines or strewn with debris so that the bush's interior is so dark that even if you manage to focus your binoculars on him, he's nothing but a silhouette. If you're lucky you'll glimpse a rusty cap, or see an eye glaring at you with a white stripe over it, or maybe you'll see black spots on a white breast moving behind leaves, but usually that's about all you see.

However, with you out in the sun and him inside his shadowy redoubt, he may sing and sing a very loud swee hu-a WEE-a-wew, swee hu-a WEE-a-wew, swee hu-a WEE-a- wew... so lusty-sounding, so nearby, and so unseen.

Mexico is home to about 32 wren species divided into eleven genera. Spot-breasted Wrens belong to the genus Thryothorus along with the Carolina Wren, who doesn't make it this far south. If you know how loud and piercing a Carolina Wren's voice is, you'll have an idea of the power of the Spot-breasted's call.

Spot-breasted Wrens are distributed from northeastern Mexico south to Costa Rica, including all of the Yucatan, where I often heard them way out in the scrub, but seldom saw them.