Cactus Wren Eggs
fledgling and parental care
Living in desert landscapes, there may be a lack of traditional nesting sites and opportunities to gather the materials needed to build suitable shelters to raise young.
But cactus wrens have mastered the art of adapting to inhospitable environments by building some particularly impressive predator-proof nests. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the nesting habits of cactus wrens.
As the name suggests, the cactus wren’s natural habitat is a landscape dominated by cacti and spiny desert plants. In addition to foraging in desert landscapes, cactus wrens build their intricate and unique nest structures on cacti and other similar vegetation.
A cactus wren’s nest is made from a collection of grasses and twigs that together create a football-shaped nest, with the inner chamber connected to the outside world by narrow passages.
During the breeding season, they shuttle among thorns and cactus thorns, building several nests, which are not only used for breeding, but also double as comfortable and safe habitats.
To learn more about how cactus wrens successfully raise their young in this hostile, arid environment, read on.
Cactus Wren Nest in Jeolla Cactus
Where Do Cactus Wrens Nest?
Cactus wrens breed in the dry scrublands of the American Southwest. Elaborate nest structures built on cacti and other spiny desert vegetation are used not only to raise young, but also to roost overnight outside of the breeding season.
Do cactus wrens nest in cacti?
Cactus wrens nest among cacti plants, especially jumpthorns, prickly pears, and prickly pears, as well as yuccas and other spiny desert natives.
Do cactus wrens nest in the same place every year?
Often multiple nests are built during a breeding season, and nests from previous years are never reused. Some structures serve as dens for adults to live in, but are not as sturdy as dens for raising young. Build a new nest for each new nest.
Are Cactus Wrens Nesting in Backyards?
In arid regions, backyard desert plants such as hopweed and cacti are sure to be attractive to nesting cactus wrens.
Xeriscaped landscapes (land that doesn’t require irrigation) are especially attractive to cactus wrens, and growing drought-resistant backyard plants is a popular trend in parts of the southern United States
Cactus Wren During Nesting – Sonoran Desert, Arizona
Do cactus wrens use nest boxes?
On rare occasions, cactus wrens have been reported to make homes in artificial nest boxes, structures placed in thickets rich in cacti.
Typically, this species builds its own nests from scratch, but breeding pairs may utilize artificial nest boxes when there is a lack of natural sites and nesting materials available.
What tree do cactus wrens nest in?
Jumping cholla is the cactus wren’s first choice for nesting sites, although prickly pear, giant cactus, and soap tree yucca are also popular. Prickly desert trees provide the perfect natural predator deterrent.
How Tall Are Cactus Wrens’ Nests?
On average, cactus wrens nest about 1 meter (3.3 feet) above the ground. Nest structures are usually 3 m (10 ft) below the ground, but nests as high as 9.1 m (30 ft) have been observed.
Cactus Wren Perched On A Rock
What does a cactus wren’s nest look like?
A cactus wren’s nest is a football-shaped structure consisting of a narrow entrance tunnel that leads to a larger inner chamber in which the chicks grow up. The bulky, circular structures are made of twigs and dry grass and lined with downy feathers.
An exterior perch was added, providing a convenient vantage point.
How big is a cactus wren’s nest?
The inner cell of a cactus wren nest is approximately 18 cm (7 in) in diameter, with the entrance passage tube being significantly narrower, approximately 9 cm (3.5 in) wide. The entire structure measures approximately 30 cm (12 inches) from end to end and weighs approximately 180 grams (6 oz).
Close up of a cactus wren nest
What time of year do cactus wrens nest?
Cactus wren breeding season runs from late February to early June. Earlier and later examples can be observed, with later nesting observed at higher altitudes.
How long do cactus wrens nest?
Nest building takes up to 6 days, and once complete, spawns are laid daily until 2 to 7 eggs have been laid. Brooding begins, at least on a partial basis, once the first eggs are laid and continues for about 16-17 days before hatching begins.
After hatching, young cactus wrens hatch and feed in their nests for about 21 days before they grow their feathers.
All in all, the total nesting period for a cactus wren is usually about 40 to 45 days.
What month do cactus wrens lay eggs?
March is the prime spawning month for cactus wrens. One egg is added to the clutch each day, and partial hatching is considered to have begun from the time the first egg is laid. Spawning is possible as early as January and as late as August, although early spawning is less likely to be successful.
Where do cactus wrens nest in winter?
Cactus wrens remain within their territories year-round, and outside of the breeding season they continue to use the dens they use to raise their young as safe habitat.
Breeding a pair of cactus wrens perched on top of a cactus
How Do Cactus Wrens Build Nests?
Nesting material is carried to the nesting site chosen by the female cactus wren, usually on the upper arms of the cactus or hidden in the branches of a prickly desert tree.
A domed football-shaped structure of twigs, twigs, grass, feathers and weeds is woven into the shape, with a long tubular entrance leading to the inner nest chamber.
Male and female cactus wrens work together for up to three hours a day until the nest is complete. The process takes an average of 2.7 days or 1 to 6 days to complete.
Finish the bottom first, then add the sides, then the dome. Construction of the entryway is the final step.
What do cactus wrens use to build their nests?
Small branches, larger branches, dense grasses and weeds weave together to form the outer structure of a cactus wren nest. The interior is lined with soft feathers and plant parts.
Are male or female cactus wrens nesting?
While female cactus wrens are usually the first to start nesting, once a site has been chosen and nesting has begun, male and female wrens work together to build the nest over a period of one to six days.
Nesting Cactus Wren, Joshua Tree National Park, Black Rock Campground, Yucca Valley, California
Cactus Wren Eggs
What do cactus wren eggs look like?
Cactus wren eggs are glossy off-white with salmon pink tinges. They are elongated and oval in shape, measure approximately 25 mm x 16 mm (1 in x 0.6 in), and weigh approximately 3.57 g (0.13 oz).
How many eggs do cactus wrens lay?
Cactus wrens typically lay three to four eggs, but 2 to 7 eggs are considered normal.
Do male cactus wrens sit on eggs?
Hatches are hatched by female cactus wrens alone. The male continues to bring food to the female, but does not sit on the eggs nor form hatching spots.
Cactus Wren Gathering Nesting Material
fledgling and parental care
When do baby cactus wrens leave their nests?
Cactus wrens are ready to leave the nest at around 21 days on average. Some may fledge at 17 days, and the newest chicks will be ready to leave by 23 days.
They remain dependent on their parents for support for a few weeks after leaving the nest, but are kicked out of the territory before the next breeding season begins.
How many litters do cactus wrens have?
One or two litters are common, although up to six litters can be attempted in a season, all of which require a new nest. Once the pups in one nest have feathered, the female may immediately get busy laying eggs in a second nest.
Young cactus wren perched on a cactus
Do cactus wrens abandon their nests?
Not all cactus wren nests are strong and stable enough to support a brood of chicks, so it is common for nests to be abandoned during construction. Abandoned nests can be used for overnight roosting.
Nests can also be easily abandoned at a later stage if the site is threatened by predators.
Do cactus wrens nest on the ground?
Cactus wrens choose nesting sites usually at least 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) above the ground, hidden between cactus spines to provide maximum protection from opportunistic predators.
Where Do Cactus Wrens Nest At Night?
Cactus wrens use non-breeding nests for overnight roosting because they provide a safe space off the ground for shelter. Several nests can be built in one breeding season, and those not being used to raise young can be changed to nightly nesting.
How to Attract Nesting Cactus Wrens
Unlike many birds, cactus wrens don’t need a nearby source of fresh drinking water, preferring landscapes with rich desert vegetation that don’t require irrigation. Jumping cholla is the preferred cactus species chosen for nesting sites.
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I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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