Or their calls which are somewhat similar, can be confusing.
They are of the Wrentit and the Cactus Wren. Both songs of the males are quite similar in this respect; they offer sort of an old car having a tough time starting its engine. They are entirely different species and without relation. More specifically, the Wrentit is not considered a Wren species and it is monotypic of Genus Chamaea. This translates to the Wrentit is the only species of its kind.
The Wrentit is a year round bird that straddles the Western US from the Mexican border up through the south western tip of Washington and it does well in suburban Orange County. Its reach is not extended through all parts of California and Oregon however. My experience has noted both species typically stay close to the ground and tucked away unless roosting, foraging or setting off alarm calls. Further, you’re not likely to find either species high up in a tree as you would with a Finch or Warbler (generalization excludes MacGillivray). They both also make similar rattling sounds (calls). Wrentits, according to Cornell are sedentary and remain in the same habitat for up to 12 years. Their distance has been recorded up to 1200 feet (400 meters). My recording of the male Wrentit singing can be heard just below. After hearing this song, as you walk around locally especially in the early a.m. or late afternoon you’re likely to hear this vocalization but less likely to see this species. In particular, note the slow start up at the song’s intro indicating that of a male. Visually from what I recall, they are fairly indistinguishable between the sexes unless side by side where the male is slightly larger though never a clear assured indicator on distinguishing sexes. Males can sing without the slow startup intro as well. Judging a song without the slow startup can be either a male or female.
Cactus Wrens habitat are the South western US and their reaches extend to eastern Texas. They are not limited to singing in the early a.m. or late p.m. and can be heard throughout out the day. I’ve personally noted as many as 5 in one generalized location and have witnessed one male singing while tripping off another male neighbor nearby so that both calls could be heard in tandem. As their name implies, they are almost always found in large areas of fruit bearing cactus. If you are fortunate enough to see a Cactus Wren, look closely along its bill and along its face for purplish coloration. Its evidence the wren has been enjoying the nearby prickly pears.
In yesterday’s outing, I located the male Cactus Wren singing which had a domino effect and initialized the male Wrentit singing. Both were approximately 25 yards apart. I’ve recorded two videos which are included below the photos.
Below are two videos recorded on the Bell View Trail West in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA on 3-4-17