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Cactus Wren


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A conspicuous sight and sound of the Southwestern deserts, the Cactus Wren is the largest wren in North America. Although it can be found in urban backyards, it is a true bird of the desert and can survive without freestanding water.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
7.1–8.7 in
18–22 cm
1.1–1.7 oz
32–47 g
Other Names
  • Troglodyte des cactus (French)
  • Matraca del desierto (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Cactus Wren is an active mobber of nest predators. A pair was observed attacking a Yuma antelope squirrel so vigorously that the squirrel became impaled on the thorns of a cactus called the cholla. The wrens continued to peck the squirrel until it was knocked to the ground where it escaped.
  • The Cactus Wren destroys the nests of other bird species, pecking or removing their eggs, and can lower the breeding density of Verdins (another desert bird).
  • Cold desert nights may have more of an impact on the success of Cactus Wren breeding than extremely hot daytime temperature.
  • The oldest recorded Cactus Wren was at least 6 years, 4 months old when it was found in Arizona in 1974. It had been banded in the same state in 1968.



Resident in arid lowland and montane thorn-scrub, suburbs.



Insects and spiders, rarely reptiles and amphibians, some fruit.


Nesting Facts
Egg Description
Pinkish, covered in small reddish brown spots which may be concentrated around the larger end.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless, with some down.
Nest Description

Domed with tunnel-shaped entrance, made of coarse grass or plant fibers. Lined with feathers. Nest placed in cactus or thorn tree, usually surrounded by thorns.

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Forages primarily on ground or in shrubs.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

The loss of coastal sage-scrub in southern California has seriously reduced the isolated population of Cactus Wrens living there. The species declined by 1.6% per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 55%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 7 million, with 43% living in the U.S., and 57% in Mexico. The species rates a 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and is a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species. Cactus Wren is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List. Although these wrens are somewhat tolerant of urban development, the large-scale development currently underway throughout the Southwest continues to cause declines in Cactus Wren populations.


Range Map Help

Cactus Wren Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Backyard Tips

This species often comes to bird feeders. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.



Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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