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Very Early Rock Wren Family at Coachwhip Canyon

My wife and I were finishing a hike into Coachwhip Canyon yesterday morning and were approaching our car when we heard a great deal of troglodytic commotion nearby.  We'd been seeing and hearing individual Rock Wrens frequently during our two day stay in the area, but we counted six in this wrangle of wrens.  I'd been photographing flowers to this point, but had the presence of mind to grab the long lens from the car and check the situation out.  We saw two adults and two juveniles (capable of at least short flights) for sure.  We're not sure of the ages of the other two.  Examination of photographs shows the juveniles to be very recently fledged, sporting very stubby tails and bills for the species.  I observed both begging and feeding behavior.

I wouldn't mention this here but for the time of year.  As I understand it, this is exceptionally early for Rock Wrens to be feeding young.  The earliest reported eggs being February 5th (Bent 1948).   Given that incubation is about two weeks, and the young had fledged, the eggs must have been laid in early February.  Such early broods are known to occur when food sources are good, so here's an indicator that this will be a good year for desert birds.  Perhaps paradoxically, it may not be as good for birders, as the birds can be more dispersed when food isn't concentrated in a few locations.

Regardless, it was fun to watch, and I may never again see so many Rock Wrens in one place.

Incidental checklist with some pictures here: Rock Wren Family Photo Album

Tuck Russell
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports