Cactus Wren: Symbol of Arizona
The cactus wren (Heleodytes brunneicapillus couesi) was officially recognized as the state bird of Arizona in 1931. The largest North American wren (7-9 inches), cactus wrens are native to the arid south-western United States extending to central Mexico.
Often found around yucca, mesquite or saguaro, cactus wrens nest in cactus plants; sometimes in a hole in a saguaro, or a spot where prickly cactus spines provide protection for the nest. Cactus wrens primarily eat insects (including ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and wasps) and occasional seeds and fruits. Almost all water is obtained from its food (a true bird of the desert, the cactus wren rarely drinks free standing water, even when available).
Male and female cactus wrens mate for life and are similar in appearance. They protect their established territory (where they live throughout the year) and aggressively defend their nests from predators. Cactus wrens also destroy the nests of other bird species, pecking or removing their eggs.
Large-scale development throughout the Southwest has caused declines in cactus wren populations. The cactus wren is not currently listed as endangered or threatened. It is however, like all songbirds, protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.