Pacific Wrens and Winter Wrens in western Canada

In northeastern British Columbia, near the town of Tumbler Ridge, we have found a contact zone between distinct western and eastern forms of winter wrens. These forms differ dramatically in songs and genetics, and the two forms are reproductively isolated. Dave Toews (who did his M.Sc. on this system) and I proposed that the western form be elevated to species status as the "Pacific wren."

In 2010 the American Ornithologists' Union officially recognized two distinct species in North America: the Pacific wren (Troglodytes pacificus) and the winter wren (Troglodytes hiemalis), both now distinct from the Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes).

Here are some photos and songs of Pacific wrens and winter wrens in Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia:

The western form, Pacific wren (Troglodytes pacificus). Click here to listen. (To download, control-click the above)
The eastern form, winter wren (Troglodytes hiemalis). Click here to listen. (To download, control-click the above)
Photos © 2006 D. Irwin

You can help map the ranges of the two species: If you live in northeastern BC or western Alberta and notice a singing winter wren, we would appreciate it if you could identify whether it is singing a western or eastern song and let us know the location of the bird. Please let us know by sending an email to Darren Irwin. Even better, a recording of the bird could be very useful. Your observations could allow us to make a much more comprehensive map of the contact zone between western and eastern forms.

Listen to CBC Radio interviews:

Newspaper, magazine, and internet articles:

Scientific journal articles:

Back to Darren Irwin's main page.

Click here to go to David Toews's page.