U.S. State Bird of Arizona -
Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

The Cactus Wren is found throught the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave deserts of the Southwest, where it's harsh call notes are one of the most familiar sounds.

The call of the cactus wren is often heard in old Westerns and movies about the Southwest.

  • Official Arizona State Bird Name: Cactus Wren
  • American Ornithologists' Union Common Name: Cactus Wren
  • Family: Troglodytidae, Wrens
  • Scientific name: Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus (wow, that's a mouthful!) and it basically means a brown bird with a curved beak
  • Length: 8.5" (22 cm), largest wren of North America.
  • Diet: Insects, small vertebrates, fruit, seeds; 15-20% fruit, berries, seeds (more than other wrens) and nectar
  • Voice: Song low, grating, chugging, unmusical krrr krrr krrr krrr krrr krrr krrr slightly lower at beginning but quickly up to speed, with little variation in pitch or tempo. Common call a low, hollow knocking kot or kut repeated in long series. Also a low, coarse, dry trrk trrk... or dry, clicking krrrr; deep cheg notes; series of higher, fairly harsh notes deeu deeu deeu... or raap raap raap... like a quacking duck.
  • Habitat: Cactus, yucca, mesquite; arid brush hillsides & valleys and deserts.
  • Displays: Pair perform display-growl greeting: males extends wings and tail and "growls"; female does same in response, then crouches and refolds wings.
  • Number of broods: 2, occasionally 3
  • Nest: Bulky nest tucked into protective spiny plants, especially in cholla cactus, tree yucca, also in desert shrub or tree; usually at least 2-6' off ground, up to 30'.
  • Eggs: Usually 3-4 pinkish, usually marked with reddish-brown, occasionally wreathed; 0.9" (24 mm).
  • Incubation period: 16 days
  • Fledge: 19-23 days after hatching
  • Longevity Record: 6 Years and 4 months (according to USGS Bird Banding Lab).

Cactus Wren Calls in the Sonoran Desert

Watch for the wren to catch a honey bee at the end of the video.

The Cactus Wren was chosen as the Arizona state bird by the Arizona Legislature in 1931. It remained Arizona's only official wildlife representative until 1985. During March of 1985 (Wildlife Month), school children around the state cast over 120,000 votes to elect other Arizona official wildlife representatives in an Arizona Game and Fish Department sponsored election. As part of its 1986 legislative package, the Department of Fish and Game submitted the four winning species to the Arizona State Legislature for formal adoption.

Today the Cactus Wren is joined as the Arizona state bird by the ringtail, Arizona trout, ridgenose rattlesnake, and Arizona tree frog to represent Arizona as the official state wildlife.

Some other unique Arizona birds include the greater roadrunner, gila woodpecker, acorn woodpecker, crissal thrasher, curve-billed thrasher, pyrrhuloxia, vermillion flycatchers and blue peach-faced lovebird.

Other Desert Birds

50 State Birds Main Page

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