Sunday, March 10, 2013

Giant Wren

Giant Wren is an endemic from the Pacific lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico. I have been to Mexico many times, and I've been to Chiapas several times, but I had never seen this bird. It's not a secretive, silent skulker, nor is it particularly rare, it's just that its range is very, very small.

Why that would be, who knows. It's not like it's found in rare, fragile habitat, in fact it seems to thrive in disturbed habitats. Around the hotel where I stayed (Loma Real in Tapachula), this is one of the more common birds. The first morning after I got there, I got up early for some birding with really only one target bird.

And sure enough, one of the first birds I saw was Giant Wren. They're easy to find: all you need to do is listen for large tree branches falling. Because of their sheer bulk, almost any branch they land on immediately breaks off, and they leave a trail of destruction in the forest. Their deafening vocalizations are a terror to the locals, many of whom have indeed gone deaf.

Now, wait a minute… 

No, it's not like that. While big for a wren, they're certainly not enormous. They're like a slightly bigger Rufous-naped Wren without barred upperparts, a common species throughout southern Mexico and Central America. (That species, incidentally, varies considerably geographically, both in plumage and size.) Or, if South America is your frame of reference, they are a lot like Bicolored Wren of northern South America: same size, very similar plumage. 

Here's a little video I shot of a threesome engaged in a singing bout. In the background, Melodious Blackbird can be heard, and, when the wrens stop, another pair or trio of Giant Wrens singing nearby.

For me, just the name 'Giant Wren' had invested the bird with a mythical aura that I knew was going to be very hard for the bird to live up to. While I enjoyed seeing them, I couldn't help but think they were a little oversold with a name like that. Cool birds, though.

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