Cactus Wren In Cholla

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The other day I photographed this Cactus Wren sitting amid the purple branching arms of a Staghorn Cholla.

Cactus Wrens get their name for a reason.  They are true desert dwellers.  One rarely sees them in habitats outside of the desert.  They have an affinity for cactus, especially for the several cholla species that grow locally.  Chollas range from being extremely spiny to being almost unbelievably so.  The Cactus Wrens like to build their nests deep within the chollas’ arms.  Those sites provide them with protection from predators and safe places for raising their offspring.

In real life this cholla is every bit as purple as it looks in the image.  It’s quite common for Staghorn Chollas to be tinted purple.  I attempted to research an explanation for this phenomenon.  Most seem to believe that the purple pigmentation is a reaction to intense direct sunlight, a kind of cactus sunburn.  I have a problem with that explanation because I frequently see purple cacti growing right next to others of the same species that are tinted a “normal” green.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the purple hue sported by members of some cactus species is a genetic mutation having nothing to do with excess direct sunlight.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/2000.

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