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Bay Wren

Cantorchilus nigricapillus

The Bay Wren, a small bird with a length ranging from 12.6 to 15.6 cm and weighing between 17.7 to 26.3 grams, is a charming sight to behold. Adults exhibit a striking black face adorned with a narrow white supercilium, a partial eyering, and a white patch at the back of the cheek. Their crown and nape are cloaked in black, while the rest of the upperparts boast a rich chestnut hue. The tail is a deep brown, boldly barred with black. The throat and breast are a pristine white, which gradually transitions to a rufous brown on the lower belly and flanks. Black bars decorate the underparts from the breast to the vent area. Juveniles mirror the adults in pattern but are somewhat paler and with less defined markings.

Identification Tips

To identify the Bay Wren, look for the distinctive black face with white markings, the rich chestnut upperparts, and the barred brown tail. The white to rufous gradient on the underparts is also a key feature. Note the variations among the seven subspecies, which may differ in the intensity of colors and the pattern of barring.


The Bay Wren is often found in close proximity to water, inhabiting dense, low vegetation such as thickets along watercourses, overgrown clearings, roadsides, and secondary forest understories with ample undergrowth. In Nicaragua, it can also be found in drier habitats.


This species is native to southern Central America and northwestern South America, with a range extending from Nicaragua to Ecuador. The seven subspecies are distributed across various regions within this range.


The Bay Wren is known to forage for invertebrates by gleaning from foliage and branches, as well as probing through hanging vegetation and vine tangles.

Song & Calls

The Bay Wren's song is a loud and melodious mix of clear, rich-toned, slurred, ringing whistles, trills, and warbles, sometimes performed antiphonally. The species also has a repertoire of calls.


Breeding season varies by region, occurring between March and October in Costa Rica, March and November in Panama, and January to August in Colombia. Nests are constructed by both sexes and are typically "elbow-shaped" with an entrance tube, though some may be rounder. They are crafted from plant stems, grass, and other vegetation, lined with finer fibers. Clutch sizes generally consist of two or three eggs.

Conservation Status

The IUCN has classified the Bay Wren as Least Concern. It appears to tolerate, and possibly even benefit from, certain forms of habitat modification, as long as the changes do not result in the complete destruction or conversion of its habitat. Further study on the species' demography in various habitats would be beneficial.

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Bay Wrens on Birda


More Wrens

A photo of a Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Cactus Wren

Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
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