Friday, March 17, 2006

Cactus wren

Thursday afternoon when I walked over to the cholla group behind our house, I noticed a Cactus Wren, Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus. The Cactus Wren is the state bird of Arizona. Measuring 7-9 inches (17.8-22.9 cm) in length, it is the largest wren in the United States.

The wren was carrying feathers in its beak. It flew up to one of the jumping chollas and disappeared inside. Cactus Wrens nest high in thorny trees and shrubs; they prefer cholla cacti. Both the male and female build the nest, which is spherical, made of dry grasses, and often lined with feathers. I could see three or four nest-like structures in the cholla, but I couldn't figure out exactly where the wren was building. Feathers were sticking out of this one:

The wren flew to the ground and I could hear it foraging behind some teddy bear chollas, but I couldn't see it clearly. The Cactus Wren primarily eats insects, and occasionally it will eat seeds and fruits. Almost all the Cactus Wren's water is obtained from food. It rarely uses free standing water.

The wren flew up onto a neighbour's chain-link fence.

I had a clear shot for some photographs

before it turned tail

and flew off.


Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Wow. How wonderful. I have not seen a cactus wren before. Beautiful.

Endment said...

Super series of photos!
Doesn't it have beautiful markings. I love watching them --- this is a great reminder

chiefbiscuit said...

What a beauty! Thanks for sharing your photos.

Pam in Tucson said...

cynthia - I just looked at the habitat map and it runs along the southern regions of CA, AZ, NM and TX. I didn't realize they aren't in Nevada.

endment - I was very happy to get these photos. A cactus wren comes quite regularly and sits on the windowsill just above my desk and stares in at me, but every time I grab a camera, it takes off.

chiefbiscuit - They are beautiful birds and I've always enjoyed them. I didn't know how strikingly beautiful they were, though, until I enlarged the photos.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Pam-- I tried to comment here yesterday (Friday), but Blogger wouldn't let me. It kept sending me into some page about Blogger maintenance.

I love the tail shot. What a fantastic perspective. I wouldn't have expected a wren to be so spotted. That's a fairly large wren too. The wrens we have here are rather small. Lovely photographs of your state bird.

Pam in Tucson said...

RD - Thanks for persisting with Blogger. When I first saw the Cactus Wren, I couldn't believe it was a wren. I just remembered tiny little wrens with upturned tails from my childhood in England.

Anil P said...

The picture showing the Wren facing the barbed wire is a lovely. It's like the Wren is keeping watch over something we can't see. Nice one.