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Desert Diary

Birds/Cactus Wren


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When you think of home, you usually think of someplace safe, cozy, and comfortable. The last place many of us would like to live in would be someplace that is surrounded by thousands of sharp spines. But this is just the kind of place that one particular bird seeks out to build its nest in. This is the Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus), a small, speckled brown bird that is common throughout the desert Southwest.

When the Cactus Wren decides to build its nest, it will usually look for a spot deep inside the protective spines of a cholla cactus. The long spines of the cholla provide plenty of protection from most hungry predators looking for an easy meal of eggs or young nestlings. Except for snakes, who seem perfectly at home among deadly barbs, the cactus provides a safe home for the wren and its nest—but whether or not the nest is actually comfortable is something only the wren knows. pen and ink


Contributor: Contributor: Angela Chávez, Museum Studies student.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Cactus Wren in a cholla cactus

Cactus Wren standing on top of a cholla cactus. Its nest is partly visible below. Photograph by Angela Chávez at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Other plants visible include Ocotillo at upper left, Saguaro in background left, and Barrel Cactus in background right.