Cactus Wren

ID Info
  • Cactus Wren
  • Cactus Wren
  • Cactus Wren
Silhouette WrensWrens

Cactus Wren

Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Troglodytidae
Basic Description

No bird exemplifies Southwestern deserts better than the noisy Cactus Wren. At all hours of the day they utter a raw scratchy noise that sounds like they are trying to start a car. Cactus Wrens are always up to something, whether hopping around on the ground, fanning their tails, scolding their neighbors, or singing from the tops of cacti. They build nests the size and shape of footballs which they use during the breeding and nonbreeding season. Cactus Wrens are true desert dwellers; they can survive without needing to drink freestanding water.

More ID Info
image of range map for Cactus WrenRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

The key to finding a Cactus Wren is to look for cholla or prickly-pear cacti whether in the desert or in an urban or suburban park. You know you've found the right place when you see football-shaped clumps of vegetation stuck in a cactus—these are Cactus Wren nests and a sure sign the birds are around. Listen for their call—a rusty old car that just won’t start—and look for them on the tops of cholla cactus, prickly-pear cactus, yuccas, or mesquite shrubs. Cactus Wrens are not shy, so with enough time in their habitat you will no doubt come across one or two chasing each other around.

Other Names
  • Matraca del Desierto (Spanish)
  • Troglodyte des cactus (French)

Backyard Tips

Cactus Wrens sometimes visit sunflower or suet feeders. Head over to Project FeederWatch to learn more about what types of feeders to use as well as what types of food are best.

Cactus Wrens are fairly adaptable birds and will visit or maybe even nest in your yard if you have a few cactus or other desert plants. Xeriscaping is great way to provide habitat for desert birds as well as making your yard look beautiful. Habitat Network has great information to help you create bird friendly habitat.

Bird-friendly Winter Gardens, Birdsleuth, 2016.

  • Cool Facts