Tuesday, January 27, 2009

5 Reasons to Love Cactus Wrens

At first glance cactus wrens might look like ordinary birds. The scientific name, Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus, means "curved beak" and "brown cap" which probably doesn't stir up much excitement. But, the cactus wren is the state bird of Arizona, so chances are they have some remarkable or endearing qualities. I offer these five attributes of cactus wrens:


While not overly showy, cactus wrens are aesthetically pleasing in appearance. The most distinctive features are the white eye stripe and spotted breast.


With their perky personalities, cactus wrens are among the easiest birds to see and hear in southwest deserts. Larger and less shy than other wrens, they're simple to find and photograph.

Memorable song

The cactus wren's vocalization is a harsh non-melodic chug-chug-chug that sounds more like a car engine trying to turn over than a bird singing. This is a sound often associated with southwest deserts that some people find charming. Here's a sound clip from Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology of the cactus wren.

Domed nests

Cactus wrens are prolific nest builders and make many spherical football-sized structures year-round. The nests are primarily made of grasses and are often built among the spiny branches of chain fruit cholla cacti. Most of the nests are dummies used for roosting. The nests chosen for breeding are lined with soft feathers.


Cactus wrens are fun to watch. With curious natures, they investigate everything. They noisily forage on the ground for insects, looking under leaves and turning things over.

The above picture is of a young cactus wren on my patio in the summertime. All of the other pictures were taken recently at Sabino Canyon. Click on any picture to enlarge.

Also, check out a rare Chestnut-sided warbler that Kathiesbirds of Sycamore Canyon recently found at Sabino Canyon.

This post is included at I and the Bird #93 at Vickie Henderson Art, thank you Vickie!


Teri C said...

What a wonderful post! Your photos and information are great. I love these guys too.

Gaelyn said...

I so enjoyed the cactus wren when I hiked the Grand Canyon and found it's song a delight. Guess I didn't notice a lot of other birds.
Thank you for this tribute to the cactus wren, a wonderful desert bird.

lizzie said...

These birds sound as though they are quite something to see and hear!

Martha said...

Great pictures. They look like fun birds to watch. I enjoy the quail that visit my garden. It's great to live in a place where you can watch the wild things.

BC Doan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BC Doan said...

Great pictures and information! I would love to have a chance to watch these birds!

Vickie said...

Great wren info and photos. The scenery is stunning!

Max said...

I agree that cactus wrens are a great emblem for your state! Whenever I visit Arizona I like to (carefully) look for their nests in the jumping chollas. You are lucky that you do not have to share your state bird with others as we do in Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely great photographs. I love how they build their nests.

Susie of Arabia said...

Great post, Diane. They are really cute.

Nick said...

My favorite genus of wren :)

I'll have to write about the Campylorhynchus in Venezuela.

Larry Jordan said...

Diane these are excellent captures of the Cactus Wren and great information about a beautiful bird. Welcome to IATB carnival! I hope you post many more entries to this fun event.

flowergirl said...

Since we dont get these birds here in India, I really enjoyed looking - and listening! Are they common all-year round?

Amber Coakley said...

What a neat wren! I just checked the range map, and it looks like I wouldn't have to go far to see a Cactus Wren. I'm glad I learned about them here on your blog. Thanks!