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Pheugopedius eisenmanni

Inca Wren

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Tom Johnson



Pheugopedius is one of several related genera of medium sized wrens, most species of which are rufous or brown, and have black and white streaks on the side of the face. Inca Wren has a dusky crown and sides of the face, with a white supercilium. The upperparts are bright rufous upperparts. The underparts are white, but the lower underparts are heavily streaked with black; this streaking reaches belly in males, but may be confined to the breast in most females and immatures.

Similar Species

No species similar to Inca Wren occurs within its limited geographic range in south central Peru. It perhaps is most similar to the allopatric Plain-tailed Wren (Pheugopedius euophrys), which occurs in the Andes from Colombia south to northern Peru, but Inca Wren is more heavily streaked below than Plain-tailed Wren.


As is typical of Pheugopedius wrens (and of species in related genera), Inca Wrens sing with well synchronzied, antiphonal duets. The song is a "a rich, varied, warbled series of whistled phrases" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010); when singing, "repeats a theme, e.g. tui weee weet wee eh over and over, then shifts to a new theme, e.g. tui wee eeee weet eh or wheet ee eee, and repeats that" (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). Songs of Inca Wren differ from songs of Plain-tailed Wren (Pheugopedius euophrys) by being higher pitched, with more notes/s, and with more overlap between individual notes (Parker and O'Neill 1985).

Calls of Inca Wren include "a rich tchp or tchp-er, sometimes in chattered series" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010).

Additional audio recordings of Inca Wren can be heard at Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Parker and O'Neill (1985):

Adult male: Crown and nape dull black. Broad supercilium white. Lores black. Upper half of auriculars black; lower half of auriculars white, finely streaked with black. Throat white, bordered with a broad, black lateral throat stripe. Back, scapulars, rump, and uppertail coverts bright russet brown. Remiges and greater wing coverts blackish brown, edged with russet brown; greater, median and lesser secondary coverts russet brown. Rectrices russet brown, slightly duller than back, and obscurely barred with dusky. Throat white. Breast and belly white, boldly streaked with black (these streaks formed by feathers that are white with a black spot on each web and a white tip). Flanks and undertail coverts dull yellowish brown. 

Adult female: Similar to male, but are less extensively streaked below, streaking typically confined to the breast. Crown charcoal gray, not black. Rectrices less barred.

Juvenile: Upperparts duller, with brown crown; underparts light grayish brown, with no streaking (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990, Schulenberg et al. 2010).

Bare Parts

Iris: chestnut or reddish chestnut

Bill: maxilla dark brown, horn, or black; mandible silver blue or blue gray, sometimes with blackish tip

Tarsi and toes: gray, grayish horn, or gray black

Bare parts color data from Parker and O'Neill (1985).


Total length: 14.5-15.5 cm (Schulenberg et al. 2010), 15 cm (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990)

Linear measurements (mm), from Parker and O'Neill (1985):

   measurement   sex   n   mean  range 
  wing length    male   8     63.5   61.7-66.2
   female   6    59.7   57.8-62.4
  tail length    male   8    59.2   55.4-61.8
   female   6   56.6   53.6-59.8
  culmen length    male   8    20.9   20.1-21.4
 (from base)  female   6    19.8   19.0-20.7
   tarsus length    male   8    26.1    24.8-26.9
   female   6   25.4   22.9-27.9

Mass: male, mean 24.6 g (range 22.0-27.0, n = 5; Parker and O'Neill 1985); female, mean 21.7 g (range 19.0-23.0 g, n = 4; Parker and O'Neill 1985)


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Geographic Variation



Currently the song of Inca Wren is described as "one of the characteristic sounds of the Machu Picchu ruins" (Walker 2005), so it is something of a mystery that this species was not encountered during the biological surveys that followed shortly after the discovery of Machu Picchu early in the 20th century (Chapman 1921). Instead, this species was not detected by ornithologists until the 1960s and 1970s, and was not described until 1985 (Parker and O'Neill 1985), as Thryothorus eisenmanni. The type locality is San Luís on [the] Ollantaitambo-Quillabamba road, above Huyro, 9000 ft [ca 2744 m], department of Cuzco, Peru.

Mann et al. (2006, 2009) investigated the phylogenetic relationships of "Thryothorus" wrens, based on phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes. The traditional concept of Thryothorus, which included ca 25 species, is paraphyletic. "Thryothorus" eisenmanni was not included in this survey, although its presumed allospecies, euophrys (Plain-tailed Wren), was part of the Mann et al. (2006, 2009) investigations. Euophrys (and, by inference, eisenmanni) belongs to a suite of species removed from Thryothorus and now included in the genus Pheugopedius. Within Pheugopedius, there are two clades; euophrys is a member of a clade that also includes Pheugopedius fasciatoventris (Black-bellied Wren), Pheugopedius mystacalis (Whiskered Wren), Pheugopedius coraya (Coraya Wren), and Pheugopedius genibarbis (Moustached Wren).

Pheugopedius eisenmanni is named in honor of the late Eugene Eisenmann.

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, Thomas S., and Tom Johnson. 2012. Inca Wren (Pheugopedius eisenmanni), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: