[birding] 1. Wrentit 2. Feeder disease question

Cynthia Craven cynthiacraven at verizon.net
Tue Feb 5 09:57:22 PST 2008

Hi Joel and Jamie,

Thank you so much for your very thorough response Joel!  And Jamie, thank
you for the alternative ID of the bird as a bushtit, rather than wrentit. 

I cannot be positive about the ID of the bird - our four cats, much more
advanced birders that we rely on to ID the more difficult birds - stubbornly
withheld information on the true identity of the bird in retaliation against
us for refusing to open the sliding glass door to the patio....*long sigh.*

That said, the bird was very large (compared to bushtit anyway), and had a
beautiful medium brown rounded tail that was rather long.  With my limited
experience, at first glance I actually thought it looked like a "weird fox
sparrow" or "overgrown wren."  But then noticed the bill was shaped
differently and that it had a much lighter breast and less "striping" on the
breast than the fox sparrows I have seen on our feeder.  I started looking
it up online and in bird books to figure it out.

The feeder in question is actually a tray feeder.  I must say, I did not
really see the bird feeding from it, although it may have.  I glanced up
from my desk and saw it just sitting there investigating what was on the
tray feeder. Kind of "digging" around on it.  (Was it looking for insects?)
Then it flew about 5 meters to a concrete wall adjacent to an area where we
spread bird seed, located at the edge of white oak forest in our "back
yard."  It was not here more than 5-10 minutes.  It did not return to my

The tiny bushtits we have seen here usually arrive in large flocks and
absolutely MOB all our feeders and plants at once.  I love them - they are
so gregarious and cute!  We call them little "billiard balls" for obvious
reasons!  They "shoot" everywhere at once.  I am positive it was not a
bushtit, but it could have been something else.  Let me know if you think of

Thanks for your help, master birders!

Cynthia Craven
Steven Highland

-----Original Message-----
From: Joel Geier [mailto:clearwater at peak.org] 
Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2008 7:51 AM
To: Jamie S.
Cc: Cynthia Craven
Subject: Re: [birding] 1. Wrentit 2. Feeder disease question

Hi Jamie & Cynthia,

Thanks Jamie, for bringing up a good question.

Our local Wrentits don't look much like Bushtits since they're much
darker, with sort of rusty-brown coloring. However, the southern variety
of Wrentit (found in southern California) is much paler and grayish, and
could well be confused with Bushtit.

Since commonly used bird guides (including Sibley's /Field Guide to
Birds of Western North America/) include depictions of the southern
race, it does seem possible that a lone Bushtit might be misidentified
as a "pale" Wrentit, if the observer looks at a depiction of one of the
grayish Wrentits.


On Sat, 2008-02-02 at 18:51 -0800, Jamie S. wrote:
> Cynthia,
> Is it possible your wrentit was a lone bushtit?  They typically are
> found in groups in winter, but a solitary bushtit is more likely than
> a wrentit at a feeder.
> Jamie
> Corvallis
> Joel Geier <clearwater at peak.org> wrote:
>         Hi Cynthia,
>         I enjoyed the very thorough report from your four cats, but
>         glad to see
>         you're posting some of your "own" observations too!
>         If there are multiple birds that seem to be "lame," perhaps it
>         is a
>         disease affecting their legs. Cornell University runs a good
>         website on
>         common feeder-bird diseases such as avian pox and
>         salmonellosis; sorry I
>         don't have the link handy but you might be able to find it
>         with Google,
>         or else maybe someone else has it handy.
>         I've never seen a report of a Wrentit visiting a feeder. So
>         that seems
>         pretty remarkable. Was that a suet feeder? I wonder if it
>         means that the
>         recent cold & snowy weather has reduced the amount of natural
>         food for
>         them. If your Wrentit returns to your feeder, it would be very
>         interesting if you could document its feeding pattern.
>         According to the species account by Matt Hunter in the
>         book /Birds of
>         Oregon: A General Reference/, "little information is available
>         on the
>         diet of the Wrentit .... The Wrentit likely consumes a variety
>         of
>         berries and invertebrates." I've seen them nibbling on tiny
>         wild-rose
>         hips in winter time.
>         As for the distribution of Wrentits ... this is one of the
>         more fun
>         things to watch in our area, since it seems to be expanding
>         slowly but
>         steadily from year to year. They're around and fairly common
>         along the
>         edges of the foothills, but not often seen because they tend
>         to skulk in
>         dense brush.
>         One population seems to be spreading up the west edge of the
>         Willamette
>         Valley, as far as the Grande Ronde area in southern Yamhill
>         County.
>         There is some question as to whether the Grande Ronde wrentits
>         came
>         through the Van Duzer corridor from the Coast as a result of
>         clearcutting in the Coast Range (this is one species that
>         seems to
>         benefit from that type of forestry), or whether they got there
>         by
>         spreading north along the edge of the Coast Range, but either
>         way,
>         they're now present regularly from Corvallis to Dallas and
>         beyond.
>         What's interesting is that, during an earlier wave of logging
>         in the
>         1920s & 1930s, Wrentits apparently became established in the
>         Van Duzer
>         corridor area (specimens were gathered by a Linfield College
>         group of
>         researchers, as described by Jean-Claire Dirks-Edmonds in her
>         book, "Not
>         Just Trees"). But after the forests grew back, there weren't
>         many
>         wrentit reports from that area until the late 1990s, following
>         another
>         wave of Coast Range logging.
>         A few Wrentits have also been spreading out into brush
>         habitats on the
>         valley floor, including in Corvallis where they occur
>         practically down
>         to the Willamette River in Willamette Park, and around the E.
>         E. Wilson
>         Wildlife Area which they colonized during 2000-2005 and have
>         since
>         spread a bit further east.
>         On the east side of the Willamette Valley, some have made it
>         as far as
>         the LaComb area in Linn County, also apparently by spreading
>         north along
>         the edge of the valley.
>         Happy birding,
>         Joel
>         --
>         Joel Geier
>         Camp Adair area north of Corvallis
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