Cactus WrenCampylorhynchus brunneicapillus

adult
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
adult
Brian E. Small/VIREO
juvenile
William J. Hubick/VIREO
Cactus Wren

Family

Description

7-8 1/4" (18-21 cm). A starling-sized wren with spotted underparts, white eyebrows, rusty crown, and white spots on outer tail feathers.

Voice

Rapid, mechanical chug-chug-chug-chug-chug.

Listen

call
song #1
song #3
song #2

Habitat

Desert thickets and cacti.

Range

Resident from southern California, southern Nevada, Utah, and western Texas southward.

Discussion

Cactus Wrens forage for food very methodically, searching under leaves and other ground litter. It is easy to spot an area inhabited by Cactus Wrens because, like other members of the family, they build many "dummy" nests, which are never used for breeding but serve as roosting places. These nests are usually so well guarded by sharp spines that it is difficult to understand how the birds can use them without being impaled. They are late sleepers and an early bird-watcher may surprise them still dozing in the snug nest. Although their grating song is hardly musical, it is a most evocative sound for those who love the desert.

Nesting

4 or 5 buff eggs, heavily speckled with brown. The nest, a mass of fine grass and straw with a side entrance, is lined with feathers and hair and placed in the top of a thorny desert shrub or spiny cactus.

Similar Species

adult

Canyon Wren

5 1/2 -6" (14-15 cm). Sparrow-sized. Dark rusty above and below, with conspicuous white throat and upper breast.

adult

Rock Wren

5-6 1/2" (13-17 cm). A sparrow-sized wren, pale grayish brown with a finely streaked breast. Outer tail feathers have whitish or pale buff tips.

adult

Bewick's Wren

5 1/2" (14 cm). Gray-brown above, white below, with white eyebrow and long fan-shaped tail tipped with white.

adult

Carolina Wren

5 1/2" (14 cm). Rich brown above, buff below, with conspicuous white eyebrow.

adult

Sage Thrasher

8 1/2" (22 cm). Brown-gray above, buff below with conspicuous black streaks; bill strongly curved; tail relatively short with white patches in corners; 2 white wing bars (often worn away by spring).

Vireo

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