Cactus Wren: The Interior adult has black-and-white streaked reddish-brown back, dark crown with distinctive white stripe over eye, white chin, and heavily spotted white underparts with buff wash on sides and belly. Wings and tail are dark with white bars on sides. Bill is long and slightly decurved. Sexes are similar. Juvenile has fewer and paler breast spots and shorter tail. The Coastal adult is similar to the Interior adult with a darker wash on sides and belly.
Range and Habitat
Cactus Wren: Resident of arid and semi-arid regions in the southwestern United States, including southern California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas, extending south to central Mexico. Preferred habitats include deserts dominated by cholla cacti and other succulent cacti, spiny trees, and shrubs, with high temperatures, low humidity, and scarce water.
The wrens are just one of the one hundred eighteen families of birds in the order PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez); a large taxonomic order that includes other bird families with pleasant songs such as the thrushes, the vireos, and the mockingbirds.
There are seventy-nine species of wrens in sixteen genera in the Troglodytidae (pronounced trog-luh-DIE-tuh-dee), a family mostly restricted to the New World.
Forty-six species of wrens in fourteen genera are found in North America. These include the familiar House Wren, the desert dwelling Cactus Wren, and the aptly named Rock Wren.
The House Wren is known for its confiding, friendly behavior. This familiar bird species is well-named as it often occurs around human habitations, often building its nest under the eaves of roofs or in backyard nest boxes.
The wrens are small birds for the most part although the Cactus Wren is a medium-sized bird. The members of this family are rather plump birds with short wings, longish, strong legs and feet, and rather large heads with long, thin, slightly downcurved bills. Tail size varies from the very short as is the case in the wood-wrens, to longish as in the Cactus Wren.
Bright colors are not found in the plumages of wrens. Various shades of brown predominate, many species with black spots, barring or streaks. Some species also have white on the underparts, white eye-brows, or white spotting.
The Troglodytidae occur in most North American habitats except for the tundra. Most occur near the ground in the undergrowth of forests, scrub, desert vegetation, and second growth, while a few species are entirely terrestrial and frequent rocky areas.
Wrens are non-migratory except for the Winter Wren, a short distance migrant from boreal forests to the southern United States.
Most wren species are solitary birds that typically forage in pairs and do not join mixed flocks. They forage by using their bills to investigate dead leaf clusters, crevices, and various other hiding places used by the small creatures they prey upon.
No wren species are threatened in North America.
The Winter Wren is the only wren species found outside of North America. In its large Eurasian range, it occurs in a wide variety of habitats and is a common garden bird that somewhat fills the niche of the House Wren. It also has one of the loudest songs for a bird of its size.