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Thryophilus sinaloa

Sinaloa Wren

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Troglodytidae
  • Polytypic 3 Subspecies

Authors: Soberanes, C., M. C. Arizmendi, and Thomas S. Schulenberg



Thryophilus 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. Sinaloa Wren has plain brown upperparts, with a long white supercilium, and black and white stripes on the side of the head and neck. The throat and center of the breast are whitish, becoming grayish cinnamon on the flanks. The undertail coverts are white, barred with black (lending this species an alternate English name, Bar-vented Wren). The sexes are similar; juveniles are similar to adults, but the face is less distinctly patterned, the sides are washed with dusky, and the undertail coverts are dusky pale cinnamon.

Similar Species

Sinaloa Wren overlaps in southern Mexico with Banded Wren (Thryophilus pleurostictus), which is similar in size and has a similar song. Banded Wren easily is distinguished, however, by its bold black and white barring on the flanks and the sides of the breast.

Sinaloa Wren also is broadly sympatric with Happy Wren (Pheugopedius felix). Happy Wren is somewhat warmer brown above, and its underparts are very buffy or tawny, much brighter than the underparts of Sinaloa Wren. The song of Happy Wren also is very different from that of Sinaloa Wren (see Vocalizations).


The song of Sinaloa Wren is loud and variable, and generally is composed of rich phrases (Howell and Webb 1995) or clear gurgling whistles often interspersed with a rapid series of short trills (Brewer 2001), and which often involve the rapid repetition of individual notes (Howell and Webb 1995). Representative transcriptions of the song of Sinaloa Wren are whit-whi-whi-whi wheet wheet wheet whurrrrr or hoo hoo wi-chu ho whi-chooa-chooa-chooa or whi whi-whi chu-i weet weet weet weet (Howell and Webb 1995). At one site in Nayarit songs of Sinaloa Wren had an average of 16 syllables per song (mean 16.02 ± 2.86), with an average of 9 syllable types per song (mean 8.77 ± 1.71) (Brown and Lemon 1979). The song of Sinaloa Wren is similar to the song of Banded Wren (Thryophilus pleurostictus), and is very different from the song of Happy Wren (Pheugopedius felix) (Davis 1972, Brown and Lemon 1979, Howell and Webb 1995).

Female Sinaloa Wrens sing, although infrequently and not in duet with the male; the song of the female is similar to that of the male, but is shorter and simpler (Brown and Lemon 1979).

Calls of Sinaloa Wren include a rough, buzzy rasp (dzzzshrr or rrihrr), a rough, scolding note (rahr or rahrr), a rreh rreh ...., and a hard, dry chatter (Howell and Webb 1995).

Additional audio recordings of vocalizations of Sinaloa Wren can be heard at Macaulay Library, at xeno-canto, and at Internet Bird Collection.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Ridgway (1904) and Brewer (2001), and refers to nominate sinaloa; see also Geographic Variation:

Adult: Sexes similar. Upperparts generally dull brown, becoming more rufescent on the rump and uppertail coverts. Rectrices rufous brown, with ca 10 black or dusky bars. Wing coverts dull brown; greater coverts with very indistinct darker brown bars, and some of the median coverts with a small pale central streak or spot, partially margined in dusky. Remiges cinnamon brown, narrowly barred with dusky. Well defined white or buffy white supercilium, bordered below by a brown postocular streak. Lower portion of the auriculars white, narrowly streaked with dusky. Sides of the neck broadly streaked with black and white. Throat and breast dull white, sides of the breast pale brownish gray, becoming pale brown on the flanks. Undertail coverts white, barred with black.

Juvenile: Similar to the adult, but undertail coverts pale cinnamon, with only indistinct barring; flanks paler and more cinnamon; supercilium and postocular streak less distinct; sides of neck streaked with white and brown (rather than black); and feathers of the underparts with indistinct very pale buffy brown tips or terminal margins.

Bare Parts

Iris: hazel brown

Bill: maxilla medium horn; mandible almost white, with darker tip

Tarsi and toes: pale reddish brown

Bare parts color data from Brewer (2001).


Total length: 11.8-13.7 cm (Ridgway 1904), 12.5-14 cm (Howell and Webb 1995)

Linear measurements (from Ridgway 1904, for nominate sinaloa):

male (n = 10)

wing length: mean 61 mm (range 57.5-63 mm)

tail length: mean 48.1 mm (range 43.5-51 mm)

bill length (exposed culmen): mean 16.6 mm (range 15.5-18 mm)

tarsus length: mean 21.9 mm (range 21-23 mm)

female (n = 4)

wing length: mean 55.5 mm (range 54-56 mm)

tail length: mean 43.1 mm (range 40.5-45 mm)

bill length (exposed culmen): mean 15.9 mm (range 15.5-16 mm)

tarsus length: 20.6 mm (range 21-21 mm)

Mass: male, mean 17.7 g (range 16.0-19.8 g, n = 15; Binford 1989, and specimens in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology); female, mean 16.0 g (range 13.6-18.0 g, n = 8; Binford 1989, and specimens in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology)

male, mean 17.45 g ± 0.49 g (n = 11; Grant 1966)

mean 15.1 g (range 10.9-16.6 g, n = 24, sexes combined; Dunning 2008)


Little information. A postbreeding molt in Sinaloa Wren occurs in August-September (Ornelas et al. 1993); presumably this molt is complete (preBasic molt).

Geographic Variation

Geographic variation in Thryophilus sinaloa is minor. Three subspecies currently recognized:

cinereus, described as Thryophilus sinaloa cinereus Brewster 1889; type locality Alamos, Sonora, Mexico

Occurs in northwestern Mexico, in Sonora, Chihuahua, and northern Sinaloa.

Subspecies cinereus is similar to nominate sinaloa, but generally paler and grayer (Ridgway 1904, Phillips 1986).

sinaloa, described as Thryophilus sinaloa Baird 1864; type locality Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico

Occurs from central Sinaloa and western Durango south to Jalisco and Colima, Mexico. See Detailed Description. Phillips (1986) suggested that populations from Michoacán or Colima north, in coastal regions, to central western Nayarit (San Blas) may represent an undescribed subspecies, being "more reddish brown above than sinaloa, but duller than russeus, particularly on [the] flanks".

russeus, described as Thryophilus sinaloa russeus Nelson 1903; type locality Acahuizotla, Guerrero, Mexico

Occurs in Guerrero and western Oaxaca, Mexico.

Subspecies russeus is similar to nominate sinaloa, but plumage darker and richer; the upperparts deep russet brown, and the uppertail coverts cinnamon rufous (Ridgway 1904).


This species originally was described as Thryophilus sinaloa (Baird 1864), but later authors merged Thryophilus (and the genus Pheugopedius) into Thryothorus (Hellmayr 1934, Paynter and Vaurie 1960). 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, and Mann et al. proposed the recognition of four genera: Thryothorus (monotypic, as Thryothorus ludovicianus Carolina Wren); Pheugopedius (with 12 species); Thryophilus (with 5 species, including sinaloa); and a newly described genus, Cantorchilus Mann et al. 2006 (with 10 species).

Hellmayr (1934) amd Paynter and Vaurie (1960) suggested that sinaloa possibly was conspecific with Thryophilus rufalbus (Rufous-and-white Wren), although the genetic evidence suggests that sinaloa is more closely related to Thryophilus pleurostictus (Banded Wren) than to rufalbus.

Recommended Citation

Soberanes, C., M. C. Arizmendi, and Thomas S. Schulenberg. 2015. Sinaloa Wren (Thryophilus sinaloa), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: