Cochise County Birds: The Cactus Wren, Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus


We knew we had cactus wrens in Cochise County, but the size of the Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus Gato cat pointed out to me this morning was…surprising.  It looked to be as big as any robin.  Who knew wrens could grow as large as that?  Seven to nine inches, they say.

On the Montana ranch where I grew up, we had teeny tiny brown house wrens.  Brilliant me, I thought all wrens were somewhere around that size.

So not.

To make things even more ridiculous, it turns out the cactus wren, Campylorhynchus Brunneicapillus, is the Arizona state bird.  I adopt a state, live here for several years, and still don’t know the state bird?

Well, I do now.  The wren Gato was watching happened to be moving around in the upper middle branches of the mesquite tree that stands outside of my bedroom window.  I was impressed, happily amazed, all that.  Didn’t know it was a cactus wren, but it surely did have a lot of cool spots on the underside and a neat stripe upside the head and a curved billl!

As it turned out, my wife had been seeing this same bird for quite some time.  She’s an early riser by habit and often witnesses wildlife I don’t spot till much later.  There’s a roadrunner that will love-dance for her while she talks to it through her bedroom window.

Pammie, the bird whisperer (and coyote whisperer and rabbit whisperer and….).

The cactus wren, state bird of Arizona.

These photos were shot through the window screen, which gives them a sort of oil painting art quality.  They don’t look entirely like photographs.  With the bird hanging in a well-shadowed tree, often partially screened by foliage and backlit like crazy, there was only so much the camera could do.

But the cactus wren is so cool, they’ve got to be published anyway.  I’ll get other pictures to add later…someday.

That’s a breast you won’t forget once you’ve seen it.

Not knowing what I was seeing–and having no clue “giant” wrens even existed–my first thought was that it looked something like a (get this) woodpecker.

It’s remarkable how many different species of wildlife seem to be surfacing to have their pictures taken this year.  The word must be out among the critters:  Ghost got himself a new camera!  Let’s go pose!

The Canon PowerShot will be a year old in November, so it’s not really all that new any more–but it’s definitely effective.  Any handheld digital point-and-shoot unit that can accurately capture images of anything from a fire ant to the moon…priceless.

Definitely well fed. In this section of the Sonoran desert, few go hungry.

The markings on this bird are striking.  The tail, for instance….

Bottoms up!

2 thoughts on “Cochise County Birds: The Cactus Wren, Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus

  1. Mine have appeared now. I have heard them on the porch lately, singing away. Waiting for the bugs to get stuck in the screens, so they will sit on the rail and pick them off. Then I will be able to watch them without them caring.

  2. Cool! I’ll have to keep more of an eye out for any that may show up here. There were some that stayed with Zach all winter, maybe due to the warmth of the season this year, but ours migrated as usual. I’m not sure how many songbirds we have left in the area, though, since the Cooper’s hawks showed up.

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