Species names in all available languages
|English (United States)||Canyon Wren|
|French||Troglodyte des canyons|
|French (French Guiana)||Troglodyte des canyons|
|Spanish (Mexico)||Saltapared Barranqueño|
|Spanish (Spain)||Cucarachero barranquero|
Lauryn Benedict, Lorrain Dargis, Stephanie L. Jones, David Leatherman, and Nathanial B. Warning revised the account. Peter Pyle contributed to the Plumages, Molts, and Structure page. Guy M. Kirwan contributed to the Systematics page. Andrew J. Spencer contributed to the Sounds and Vocal Behaviors page. Arnau Bonan Barfull curated the media. Huy C. Truong updated the distribution map. JoAnn Hackos, Miriam Kowarski, Robin K. Murie, and Daphne R. Walmer copyedited the account.
Catherpes mexicanus (Swainson, 1829)
- mexicanum / mexicanus
The Key to Scientific Names
Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus Scientific name definitions
Version: 2.0 — Published January 6, 2023
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Diet and Foraging
Forages mostly on the ground in rocky habitats, frequenting the bases of shrubs, rock crevices, and caves. Gleans prey from crevices and rocky surfaces, including vertical rock walls. Diet includes spiders, insects, and other arthropods.
Microhabitat for Foraging
In Arizona, 70% of foraging time was spent in secluded or covered situations on exposed cliffs and walls (1); birds in southern California foraged 67.5% under rocks and 18.3% in rock crevices (2). In northern Colorado, 48% of foraging was in cliff crevices and cavities, 39% in talus and boulders, and 13% on vegetation or open ground (69). No seasonal shifts in foraging microsites were observed (2, SLJ, JSD). Within territories, foraging was generally restricted to areas having vertical cliffs and large piles of boulders (57, 22, 1, 2, SLJ, JSD), but was occasionally observed foraging on the ground, in vegetation (1, 70), on tree trunks, and in Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) nests (5).
Food Capture and Consumption
Gleans spiders, insects, and other arthropods from rocky surfaces and crevices, often in concealed situations (Figure 2) (57, 22). Occasionally attempts flycatching (1, SLJ). Observed removing cached spiders from trypoxylid wasp nests (71).
Adaptations for Foraging
The Canyon Wren has several morphological adaptations for foraging in rock crevices and interstitial spaces: its bill is long and slender and its cranium is dorsoventrally flattened, enabling this species to probe deeply into narrow crevices (Figure 2). Short tarsi facilitate foraging under rocks by lowering the bird's height at the shoulders without affecting locomotion (2).
In addition, the attachment of vertebral column to the braincase is modified (2). The occipital region and foramen magnum are attached higher on the braincase, thus lowering the height of the braincase when the bird's head is extended horizontally. This alters the foraging thrust, making it directly forward rather than down and forward, possibly allowing the bird to reach more deeply into crevices (2). Sexual size dimorphism in bill structure suggests different foraging microhabitats between the sexes (2).
Major Food Items
The Canyon Wren is primarily insectivorous (22, 58). Opportunistic, it eats locally abundant terrestrial invertebrates, including spiders, ants, beetles, centipedes, crickets, flies, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, moths, and termites (1, 72). See Table 2 for a list of prey items documented.
The composition of its diet, from a study in Molino Canyon, Arizona (percent occurrence, n = 7), included Arachnida (Lycosidae, Phalangodidae) 10%; Lepidoptera (Noctuidae) 4%; Coleoptera (Apionidae, Gyrinidae, Scarabaeidae, Tenebrionidae) 9%; Dermaptera 1%; Hemiptera (Pentatomidae, Reduviidae) 1%; Membracoidea (Cicadellidae, Cicadidae) 12%; Hymenoptera (Formicidae) 17%; Blattodea (Kalotermitidae) 26%; Neuroptera (Myrmeleontidae) 8%; Orthoptera (Acrididae) 2%; Mantodea (Mantidae) 1%; and unknown 9% (1). Prey size ranged from 2–12 mm (1).
A northern Colorado study of prey delivery to nestlings (percent occurrence, n = 4 nests) included these orders: Lepidoptera (moths, 21%); Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets, 16%); Arachnida (spiders, 11%); Diptera (flies, 10%); Scutigeromorpha (house centipedes; 8%); Coleoptera (beetles, 5%); Hemiptera (true bugs, 2%); Isopoda (isopods, 1%); Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps, 1%); Lithobiomorpha (stone centipedes, 1%); and unidentified (25%) (72). Observations of foraging by Canyon Wrens that nested in former Cliff Swallow nests, suggest that swallow bugs (Oeciacus vicarious) may be part of the diet (5).
The Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) has a similar diet, consisting mainly of grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, beetles, and other insects (22, 1, 73), but usually forages in different microhabitats (69).
Food Selection and Storage
Nutrition and Energetics
Metabolism and Temperature Regulation
Drinking, Pellet-Casting, and Defecation
Likely relies largely on metabolic water production and water from insect prey. Many individuals are closely associated with water in canyons, while others live in arid deserts without access to water. Has been seen foraging on sides of desert springs, rivers, and reservoirs without evidence of drinking (74, 5); the image below is suggestive of drinking free water, but details are lacking.
Pellet-casting not documented.