Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus Scientific name definitions

Stephanie L. Jones, Joseph Scott Dieni, Nathanial B. Warning, David Leatherman, Lorraine Dargis, and Lauryn Benedict
Version: 2.0 — Published January 6, 2023


Habitat in Breeding Range

The Canyon Wren is appropriately named. It occupies steep, rocky habitats, and is primarily associated with cliffs, canyons, large rocky outcrops, exposed rocky ridgelines, and, more locally, steep boulder-covered slopes and canyon bottoms. These topographic features provide rocky substrates, crevices, and spaces that the species requires for foraging and nesting. In addition, they offer protective shade and cool temperatures during seasons of intense heat and exposure (58). The species typically occupies arid regions, but it may prefer territories that have some water, especially during the breeding period (22). However, water probably does not limit its distribution or abundance as it also occurs in areas that lack permanent surface water (59).

The Canyon Wren occurs from sea level to 3,000 m elevation, but its presence is not correlated with any particular plant community. It occurs wherever appropriate rocky habitats are present in deserts (60, 1), chaparral (61, 2, 62), grasslands (63), and oak (Quercus) woodlands (61), as well as pinyon pine–juniper (Pinus edulisJuniperus) (48), redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests (16), and tropical rainforest in the Atlantic lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico (200 m elevation; 54). It consistently occupies streamside and desert wash areas containing rocky cliffs, talus, or rock outcrops (1, 62, 64). Individuals may roam far out into steep-banked desert washes in Arizona (especially after heavy mountain snows; 60) or into riparian vegetation (65), but typically not far from rocky cliffs or outcrops. In northern Colorado, its occupancy was positively correlated to sites with overhung cliffs (slope > 90°) and presence of Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) (5). In Mexico, the Canyon Wren is reported to occur in towns and small cities with narrow streets and church spires (60, 66), though it occurs infrequently in such areas in the southwestern United States (e.g., Arizona; 67).

Habitat in Nonbreeding Range

Overwintering habitat is apparently similar to breeding habitat, since the species is nonmigratory and sedentary. Some individuals may withdraw in winter from high elevations (e.g., may roam far out along desert washes in Arizona, especially after heavy mountain snows; 60).

Recommended Citation

Jones, S. L., J. S. Dieni, N. B. Warning, D. Leatherman, L. Dargis, and L. Benedict (2023). Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.canwre.02