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What Is the State Bird of Arizona?

The state bird of Arizona is the Cactus Wren, a resilient and melodious desert dweller. Admired for its adaptability, the Cactus Wren thrives in the arid climate, symbolizing the state's rugged beauty. Discover how this charming bird earned its prestigious title and what it reveals about Arizona's rich natural heritage. What other secrets does the Cactus Wren hold?
Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

The state bird of Arizona is the cactus wren, which is scientifically known as Heleodytes brunneicapillus couesi. The cactus wren was chosen as the state bird by the Arizona State Legislature in 1931, and remained the state's only wildlife symbol until 1986, when four more state wildlife symbols were chosen. The cactus wren is believed to be the biggest wren species in North America, with a maximum length of 7 to 9 inches (18 to 22 centimeters) and a maximum weight of 1.1 to 1.7 ounces (32 to 47 grams). These birds are generally mottled brown and their backs are typically brown with white bars while their breasts are typically white with dark brown bars or spots. They also usually have a telltale white stripe above each eye.

Males and females of the cactus wren species generally mate for life. They typically occupy the same territory all year round, and usually work together to defend it. The state bird of Arizona is known for being particularly aggressive in defense of its nest. When predators venture near the nest, mated pairs of cactus wrens will typically work together, attacking the intruder until it flees. The cactus wren has also been known to peck and smash the eggs of other bird species nesting within its territory.

A map of the US.
A map of the US.

The cactus wren typically prefers to make its home in cacti, such as the yucca, saguaro, or mesquite. The spines of cacti may offer the nests an additional degree of protection from predators. The state bird of Arizona can generally be found throughout the deserts of the American Southwest, and is also common in Mexico.

These birds feed largely on insects, including beetles, grasshoppers, ants, and wasps. They have been known to feed on fruits and seeds, and, rarely amphibians and reptiles. They are believed capable of sustaining themselves without access to drinking water. The cactus wren derives much of its moisture from its food alone, and will often refuse to drink water when it finds it. Their eggs are generally pink in color, with russet-colored speckles.

The cactus wren has been the state bird of Arizona since 1931, but was, until 1986, the only state symbol of Arizona. In 1985, the Arizona Game and Fish Department sponsored an election among the state's students. The children chose four additional wildlife species as state symbols for Arizona, and these state symbols were officially adopted the following year. The state bird of Arizona was therefore joined by a state mammal, the Arizona ringtail; a state reptile, the ridgenose rattlesnake; a state amphibian, the Arizona tree frog; and a state fish, the Arizona trout.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state bird of Arizona?

The state bird of Arizona is the Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). It was officially designated as the state bird in 1931. The Cactus Wren is known for its distinctive spotted brown and white plumage and loud, distinctive call. It is commonly found in desert habitats, often building its nest in the protective spines of cacti, such as the saguaro and cholla.

Why was the Cactus Wren chosen as Arizona's state bird?

The Cactus Wren was chosen as Arizona's state bird due to its prevalence throughout the state and its ability to thrive in the harsh desert environment. Its selection symbolizes the resilience and adaptability of the wildlife native to Arizona's arid landscape. The bird's preference for nesting in cacti also reflects the iconic status of these plants in the state's natural heritage.

What are some distinguishing features of the Cactus Wren?

The Cactus Wren is the largest wren in the United States, measuring about 7 to 9 inches in length. It has a distinctive white eyebrow stripe, spotted brown and white plumage, and a long, curved beak. Its tail is barred with black and white, and it has a robust, loud song that can be heard throughout the desert. These birds are also known for their unique dome-shaped nests, which they build in cacti or shrubs.

Where can one observe the Cactus Wren in Arizona?

The Cactus Wren can be observed throughout Arizona, particularly in desert regions such as the Sonoran Desert. They are commonly seen in state parks, nature preserves, and even in suburban areas where cacti are present. Some popular spots for birdwatching include the Saguaro National Park, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, and the Tucson Mountain Park.

Are Cactus Wrens protected or endangered?

Cactus Wrens are not currently listed as endangered or threatened. However, they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it illegal to harm or disturb these birds or their nests without a permit. Habitat loss due to urbanization and land development is a concern for the Cactus Wren, making conservation efforts important for ensuring their continued presence in Arizona's desert ecosystems.

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      By: HL
      A map of the US.