2012 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2014 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL14 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLETnature archive
Nature Archive Photo
© Bruce D. Taubert

>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.
Don't Mess With Me
In the animal kingdom, there are plenty of creatures more menacing than the cactus wren. That said, Arizona’s state bird isn’t about to be pushed around.

By Kendall Wright

Quiz anybody who grew up with Looney Tunes about the state bird of Arizona, and they'll likely guess the roadrunner. What state wouldn't want the speedy, crafty nemesis of Wile E. Coyote as its official representative? Well, Arizona, for one.

Instead of the Saturday morning stalwart, Arizona opted for the cactus wren. Marked with white stripes over its eyes of — they look like bushy, white eyebrows of — the brown- and cream-spotted bird is the largest wren in North America, as well as one of the most conspicuous.

Compared to other wrens living in Arizona, such as the canyon wren and house wren, both of which grow up to 13 centimeters in length, the cactus wren's 18- to 22-centimeter body towers in comparison. Not only is it distinctive in its size, but the state bird is also known for its harsh and high-pitched series of char, char, char notes, which have been compared to the sound of an old car starting up.

Although cactus wrens have never starred in a popular cartoon, they're still entertaining to watch, especially when they use their calls to scold cats, chatter at fledglings and warn away other birds from their nests. These little birds are fierce defenders of their territory, and they take no chances when it comes to protecting their delicately enclosed, football-shaped, grass nests from intruders. In many cases, they even go so far as to build one nest for roosting and another as a decoy. That's because they know what birds are capable of — cactus wrens themselves make a habit of destroying other species' nests and abducting their eggs.

Like so many other desert creatures, this curve-beaked warbler is a survivor, relying on nourishment from insects, spiders, scavenged fruit and, of course, stolen eggs. Its diet usually provides everything it needs, including liquids. Because of this unique adaptation, the cactus wren lives comfortably in the arid climate of the Sonoran Desert, and stands tall as the state bird of Arizona.

>> Back to Nature Archive


Story ArchivesFind previously published stories online... [more]

Global SnapshotsSend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

Photo of the DaySend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

 

Social MediaJoin our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr communities for behind-the-scenes glimpses at Arizona Highways... [more]

Events & PromotionsEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

Travel GuidesThere's so much to see and do in Arizona. Let our online travel guide be your one-stop resource for planning your next Arizona adventure... [more]

site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

© Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.