Arizona State Bird - Cactus Wren


Cactus Wren

(Campylorpynchus brunncicapillum)
 Adopted in 1931.

The Cactus Wren is the largest wren in Arizona, measuring 7 to 8 inches in length. Its song is a rather raucous and unmusical cha-cha-cha which sounds like a car engine trying to turn over. The Cactus Wren's back is brown with white spots and its underparts, including the throat, are lighter colored with black spots. The bill is as long as its head and curves down slightly. Its wing feathers have white bars and its tail has black bars. A distinctive white line appears over each eye. The Cactus Wren resides at lower elevations in the southern and western part of the state below the Mogollon Rim. It can also be found in parts of Utah, Texas, New Mexico, California, and Mexico.

Cactus Wrens can be seen in their Sonoran desert habitat and in open woodlands and grasslands where cholla cactus are found. They are omnivorous, foraging for insects on the ground and in trees and shrubs and also feeding on seeds and fruits. They are active during daylight hours at any time of the year. Cactus Wren eggs and the young wrens are vulnerable to smaller predators such as Blue Jays and snakes; the adult birds are rarely preyed upon. Their nests are football-shaped, made of grass, and lined with feathers. In urban areas, the nests may contain lint, string, paper, rope, rags, and other items. The nests are perhaps the most conspicuous nests in the desert. Cactus Wrens usually build their nests in cholla cactus or thorny trees to protect themselves and their young from predators. Their nests serve as a home for year-round protection from the cold, the rain, and nighttime enemies.

The female Cactus Wren lays 3-4 eggs which are then incubated for about 16 days. Only the females are involved with the incubation. The young weigh approximately 3-4 grams at hatching. About 65-70% of all nesting attempts are successful. The young leave the nest after approximately three weeks. Most pairs raise 2-3 families between late March and July.

The Cactus Wren lives 2-4 years and is protected by federal law, as are all songbirds in Arizona. It is illegal to hunt or possess live specimens. The Cactus Wren was officially designated the Arizona State Bird by legislative action on March 16, 1931.

Taxonomic Hierarchy 

Kingdom Animalia -- animals
   Phylum Chordata -- chordates
      Subphylum Vertebrata -- vertebrates
         Class Aves -- birds
            Order Passeriformes -- perching birds
               Family Certhiidae -- creepers
                  Genus Campylorhynchus Spix, 1824 -- cactus wrens
                     Species Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus (Lafresnaye, 1835) -- cactus wren, Cactus Wren