Home > Capitol Museum > Museum Exhibits > Current > State Symbols > Bird
Arizona State Bird: Cactus Wren
The cactus wren was chosen as Arizona's state bird by the Arizona Legislature in 1931. It remained Arizona's only official wildlife representative until 1985. During March of 1985 (Wildlife Month), school children around the state cast over 120,000 votes to elect other Arizona official wildlife representatives in an Arizona Game and Fish Department sponsored election. As part of its 1986 legislative package, the Department submitted the four winning species to the Arizona State Legislature for formal adoption. Today the cactus wren is joined by the ringtail, Arizona trout, ridgenose rattlesnake, and Arizona tree frog to represent Arizona as our official state wildlife.
The cactus wren is the largest wren in Arizona (and the United States). It is about the size of a starling and may be identified by its song, a repeated chug-chug-chug, much like the sound of a car engine trying to turn over. Cactus wrens are light brown in color, with a paler breast spotted with dark brown, and a distinctive white eye stripe.
The range of the cactus wren includes central and southern Arizona, southern New Mexico and west Texas. Cactus wrens are year long Arizona residents, found in much of the Sonoran desert habitat type. The nest of a cactus wren is large and football shaped. It is usually made of vegetation and is often found in cholla or other cactus plants. The cactus wren uses its nest to raise young and as a year-round residence. Cactus wrens are insect eaters and usually lay 4-5 spotted eggs early in the spring of the year.
Law protects all songbirds' in Arizona including the cactus wren, and it is illegal to kill them or possess live specimens. The cactus wren is a very common desert resident and it often found in urban desert areas. Because of its adaptable behavior, the future looks good for this species.
Photo and information provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Education Branch
top of page