Much discussion has occurred in the past about
the taxonomic position of Chamaea (in other words whether Chamea, should
form an entire family of birds, or if it should be an individual genus
within a larger already-existing family). The chamaeae was originally
a genus instituted by Gambel (Proc. Ac. N. S. Philad. 1847, p. 154)
for a curious little bird from the coast-district of California, which
he had previously described
(op. cit. 1845, p. 265) as Parus
fasciatus but later was considered to require separation.
In the difficulty of assigning a position to this
and a later discovered congeneric form which was known as Chamaea henshawi,
from the interior of the same country, 19th Century systematists resorted
to considering the genus as the type and sole member of a distinct Family
which would have made it the the only Family of Land-birds
that is peculiar to the Nearctic area.
Thus it became a factor of some impotance in determining
the question whether that area should rank as a Zoogeographical or at least
as an Ornithogeographical Region. It is impossible here to give details
of a matter which agitated the best ornithologists of North America, and
reference can only be made to Dr. Shufeldt's paper "On the position of
Chamaea in the System," published in 1889 at Boston in Massachusetts
(Journ. Morphol. iii. pp. 475-502), wherein the evidence was very
carefully weighed, and the conclusion reached was to the effect that it
is more nearly related to the Colombian
than to any
other, but the author abstained from declaring the value of Chamaeidae
a Family, though of the two, to one or other of which it had generally
been referred - namely the Paridae family (TITMOUSE) and Troglodytidae
(WREN) - he saw most resemblance to the former.
So far as one can judge from the habits of the
birds as described by observers, they are more those of a Wren than of
a Titmouse; while the blueish eggs which lays removes it really from the
category of either. In the absence then of any very strong reason for disputing
what has been asserted by no mean authorities, it was thought in the late
19th Century to let the Family
Even in modern early 21st Century ornithology,
the exact classification of Chamaea is uncertain. Some classification
structures place Chamaea as a genus within the Sylviidae family
(Sylviidae being Old world Warblers). Others including the American
Ornithologists Union place it within the Timaliidae family (Babblers).
Whichever classification is used, the only species
now within the Chamaea genus is Chamaea fasciata, known also as the Wrentit.
It has also been referred to as "Ground Wren" and "Bush-Tit" (although
Bushtits are a wholly different species, being the Psaltriparus minimus
species in the Psaltriparus genus within the Aegithalidae family).
Description of the Wrentit or
The Wrentit is a tiny bird, around 15 centimeteres
in length, who inhabits and nests in areas of dense shrubs, bushes and
woods. It feeds on insects, particularly ants and bugs, and caterpillars
which it finds by moving stealthily through the bushes and similar environments.
It is also particular to small berries and some seeds.
It has a short bill but its tail is noticeably
long, and is often held upwards. The bird's plumage is a plain grey,
brownish or olive colour.
Although it is quite a shy bird, it has quite a
loud song which sounds like a bright but gentle football whistle being
blown at sharp intervals, around three tuwrrr sounds in the first one or
two seconds, then 5 more in quicker succession, about two or 3 times as
fast as the initial three.
The Wren tit is a non-migratory bird, but destruction
of its natural habitat has resulted in it having entended its range to
the North. Currently it resides in a thin band of land near to the
Western coast of Northern America, from Baja California to the state of
Pairs of Wrentits begin to bond just a few months
after they have hatched. They are monogamous birds. Both the
male and female help to build their nest, which is normally constructed
in bushy plants at a height of about a meter. The construction takes
around 2 weeks to complete. The female wrentit lays three to five
plain greeny blue eggs which both the mother and father bird take part
in incubating over a 14 day period. After this time the chicks hatch,
and about 15 days after hatching the young birds leave the nest although
they are still not able to fly at this time. Their parents feed the
young birds for a further 40 days after they have left the nest.