The song of the Cactus Wren is a quintessential sound of the desert and sounds like a car that just won’t start. Each attempt to start the car lasts for about 4 seconds with a 4–8 second pause before they try again. The raspy, harsh, loud series of harsh "char" notes, increases slightly in volume and pitch, and the sound carries through the heat of the desert, as far as 1,000 feet away. Females also sing, although their weaker and higher-pitched song is rarely heard. Males sing to attract females and to communicate with their mate and young as well as to warn potential intruders.
Adults and fledglings give several types of calls. The tek call is a staccato series of notes that adults give to warn intruding wrens. Adults and fledglings also make a single chuck sound to communicate with each other. Adults often give a buzz when they see predators. Males make a squeal that sounds like a painful whine when the female takes over the roosting nest to start nesting during the breeding season. Males and females give a growl-like call when they encounter each other, sometimes likened to the sound of a metal rake dragged through loose gravel.