Some Cactus Wrens

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Arizona’s state bird is the Cactus Wren and it is certainly worthy of the title.  These big wrens (the largest species in the wren family) are thoroughly entertaining.  They are bold, raucous, and appear to be extremely intelligent.  They’re also quite photogenic.  I photographed the wrens in today’s post over a period of about two weeks while walking around the desert part of Sabino Canyon.


Most wren species are shy and retiring little birds, spending their lives hiding in underbrush.  Not so with Cactus Wrens.  These birds act at times as if they own the desert.  One frequently sees a Cactus Wren perching on an exposed piece of vegetation, surveilling its territory, and uttering a loud, abrasive call.

These birds are omnivores and they often forage on the ground.  They will eat almost anything and they can be quite aggressive when food is available.


A Cactus Wren is about the size of a robin.  It is unmistakable in its appearance and one cannot confuse it with any other species.

Breeding season is beginning for these birds and so, they are starting to pair up.  Mated pairs will build football-shaped nests out of grass and dead vegetation and, often, they build them among the spines of Jumping Cholla.  It’s not unusual for a pair of wrens to build multiple nests.  They may do that in order to deceive potential predators or out of sheer exuberance.


I wouldn’t bet against exuberance because “exuberant” aptly describes these birds.  On a typical walk in the desert I will see several of them, often perched on the arms of Saguaro Cacti, lecturing me as I pass by.


Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting.  All images shot at ISO 400, f8.  The first image, 1/2000, the second, 1/1000, the third, 1/1250, the fourth, 1/800.

One response to “Some Cactus Wrens”

  1. tkiiatmindspringcom says :

    Extremely attractive little bird!

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