Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rufous-naped Wren

In the Old World, there is only one wren - the Wren, or more properly Winter Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes. It is small, and a superb singer. In North America, more wren species are found, but the family achieves its greatest diversity in Mexico and Central America. No fewer than 34 species are found in this region, some with extremely small ranges. A bird with a relatively large range is this Rufous-naped Wren, a large cactus wren, i.e. belonging to the genus Campylorhynchus.

Within its range, mostly on the Pacific Slope from Michoacan in western Mexico all the way down to northwestern Costa Rica, with isolated pockets found on the Atlantic Slope in central Veracruz and the Sula Valley in Honduras, several distinct subspecies are found. For instance, I just spent three months in central Veracruz, where the nominate form is relatively small and the rufous is really restricted to the nape - hence the name, Rufous-naped Wren.

But take a closer look at this bird. I photographed it today in the Botanical Garden of San Salvador, in El Salvador. It is much bigger than the nominate form found in Veracruz, and the rufous coloration extends all the way down the back. The nominate form has spots on the belly, while the belly on this bird is unspotted. This particular subspecies, capistratus, is further characterized by some dark and whitish bars and streaks on the back, and by a distinctly barred tail. These latter two field marks are not shared by nigricaudatus, a subspecies found in Chiapas and western Guatemala that otherwise resembles it.

In the Botanical Garden, these birds were common and easily observed. Adaptable and versatile, a small population around the garden's restaurant appeared to have specialized in feeding on lunch leftovers. Wrens were obviously keeping a close watch on how people were progressing with their lunches, and as soon as a party left, leaving behind a table with nearly empty plates, the wrens moved in and cleaned those plates of whatever was left. Each time, they had only a minute or less of available feeding time, before the restaurant's cook would come out and clean the tables.

Numerous also in the garden were iguanas, like this older, large individual.

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