Rare sighting of protected songbird in Van Horn

Cactus Wren

Photo By Norita Ayers

Desert Cardinal

Desert Cardinal

Photo provided by Google Image

By Lisa Morton

Retired school teacher and avid bird watcher, Norita Ayers was thrilled when Chona Benavides spotted a Cactus Wren in her persimmon tree and called her out to photograph it.  Ayers retired from CCAISD in 2013 after 14 years with the district, and has been an avid birdwatcher for about 30 years.  “The Cactus Wren and the Desert Cardinal, (Pyrrhuloxia), are two birds that I have only seen on occasion in this area”, said Ayers.  Coincidentally, when Ms. Ayers was a leader with the Royal Rangers, her troop name was ‘Cactus Wren’.  Ayers plans to put together a photo album of birds she’s photographed over the years.   

The Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) has a white eye stripe just behind each eye extending to just before its upper back. Its throat and breast are heavily spotted dark brown and black, and its wings and tail are barred with black, white and brown feathers. Its overall appearance is a creamy colored brown bird with varied black and white patterns covering its body and its beak is slightly curved. The largest member of the wren family growing to 7-8 inches in length, the Cactus Wren lives 7-10 years.  They are found in deserts and arid foothills that have cactus, mesquite, yucca and other types of desert scrub. The cactus wren can be found in Arizona, southern California, southern Nevada, western Texas, southwest Utah, and north-central Mexico. The Cactus Wren is not currently listed as endangered or threatened. It is however, like all songbirds, protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Cactus Wrens build nests that are the size and shape of a football with an opening at one end. They will construct this nest out of grasses and other annual plants, but can also include scraps of cloth and other woven fibers that they find.

If you are interested in bird watching or becoming a birder, The Davis Mountains State Park does weekly birding hikes in the primitive area of the park.   Entrance fee is $6.00 per person per day for access to the park.  Bring your binoculars, water, hat, field guides, but please leave your dogs at home.  From Fort Davis take State Highway 118 North.  For more information call 432-426-3337.


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