Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Federal Register | Recovery | Critical Habitat | Conservation Plans | Petitions | Life History

Listing Status:   

General Information

Adult Cactus Wrens are very large wrens; upperparts brownish with scattered white streaks; long white eyestripe; wings barred; long, brown tail barred with black. Juveniles have paler and more sparsely spotted underparts, darker crown, and lighter markings on back and wings.

References cited in Species Profile

  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015. Cactus Wren. All About Birds.
  • Hamilton, Robert A., Glenn A. Proudfoot, Dawn A. Sherry and Steve Johnson. 2011. Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:
  • Tomoff, C. S. 1974. Avian species diversity in desert scrub. Ecology 55:296-403.
  • Year 3 Annual Report for the Chula Vista Cactus Wren Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Program (SANDAG Grant Number 5001130; RECON Number 5296)

    Current Listing Status Summary
    Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
    Pacific Region (Region 1) Wherever found

    » Federal Register Documents

    » Recovery

    No recovery information is available for the Cactus Wren.

    » Critical Habitat

    No critical habitat rules have been published for the Cactus Wren.

    » Conservation Plans

    Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) (learn more)
    HCP Plan Summaries
    Western Riverside MSHCP (One permit w/ 22 permittees)

    » Petitions

    » Life History

    Habitat Requirements

    Resident in arid lowland and montane thorn-scrub, suburbs. Nests are domed with tunnel-shaped entrance, made of coarse grass or plant fibers, lined with feathers and placed in a cactus or thorn tree.

    Food Habits

    The Cactus Wren eats insects, spiders, and some fruit. It generally hops along the ground while foraging.

    Movement / Home Range

    The Cactus Wren, a non-migratory resident, has year-round distribution covering the Baja Peninsula, as well as southern portions of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This range stretches down to central Mexico.


    The loss of coastal sage-scrub in southern California has seriously reduced the isolated population of Cactus Wrens living there. Although it is somewhat tolerant of urban development, the large-scale development currently underway throughout the Southwest has caused declines in Cactus Wren populations. BBS surveys suggest Cactus Wren population numbers declined 3.2% per year in the U.S. from 1966 to 1979. From 1980 to 2007, this percentage dropped to 1.7. For more information about this species, refer to the following resource:

  • Year 3 Annual Report for the Chula Vista Cactus Wren Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Program (SANDAG Grant Number 5001130; RECON Number 5296)

    » Other Resources

    NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

    ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

    FWS Digital Media Library -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video.