The state bird of Arizona is getting all the attention today at Light Future Art! Here are some feathery facts about the cactus wren!
1. Cactus wrens can be found in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts. They, true to their name, live in areas with a lot of cacti, specifically cholla, prickly pear, and saguaro.
2. The cactus wren is the largest wren found in the United States. They measure seven inches long and weigh between one and one and a half ounces. Their beak is as long as their head.
3. Cactus wrens are not especially strong fliers. They have a flight pattern of a few rapid wing beats followed by a glide. Cactus wrens are ground feeders and don’t need to fly as much as other birds.
4. Cactus wrens mostly make their diet of insects and bugs, like beetles, wasps, grasshoppers, and ants, but they also eat some seeds and fruit. Once in a while, they also eat small reptiles.
5. Most cactus wrens you hear are males, but females can also sing. Their main vocalization is a char-char sound that rises in volume as their song goes on. Some other calls that cactus wrens make are a warning buzz, a growl, peeps from chicks, scri sounds when building nests, and a “rack” sound which is used to identify one another.
6. Cactus wrens may mate for life but many don’t. Their nests are built around 10 feet high in cacti, usually cholla, or in low trees. Both of the pair help to build nests. Their nests are shaped roughly like a football, with the entrance at one narrow end and a passage leading back to the nest chamber.
7. While most birds use their nests just for incubating eggs and sheltering chicks, cactus wrens use their nests all year round for protection and to sleep in. And who can blame them? Their nests sound incredibly cozy, with the outside being made of twigs and leaves and the insides lined with fur, feathers, or other soft materials they can find.
8. Cactus wren chicks don’t all hatch at the same time. They hatch all within the span of a few days but not together. Chicks are dependent on their parents to bring them insects for the first three weeks of life. They are blind for a little more than a week and begin to grow feathers about when they gain eyesight.
9. Chicks leave the nest usually after a month or two. Any chicks who have not left the nest by the time a new clutch hatches help their parents to raise their younger siblings.
10. In the latter half of the 20th century, cactus wren populations were declining year after year. They are now protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and their populations are not as unstable as they once were.
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