• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)


Air Date: Week of

In today's BirdNote® Mary McCann checks out the prickly nest of the Cactus Wren. It's America's largest wren, and has a clever way of keeping its nestlings cool in the desert heat.


GELLERMAN: Thankfully, Earth Day renews our spirit and reminds us of the precious, tenacious nature of life on earth. We offer up this from the Arizona desert:


GELLERMAN: In today's BirdNote®, Mary McCann considers the nesting habits of America's largest wren.

A Cactus Wren nesting. (Photo: Tom Grey ©)


McCANN: In late April in the Arizona desert, it’s already over 90 degrees by 11 a.m. And the mercury is still rising. A Cactus Wren sings, perched atop a many-lobed cactus.


A Cactus Wren. (Photo: Tom Grey ©)

McCANN: Then it hops down to its nest, tucked among the spiny lobes of the prickly pear. In a desert realm where it’s hot enough to fry an egg on a flat rock, how can the delicate nestlings of a Cactus Wren survive? Well Cactus Wrens, which may nest several times between March and September, carefully orient their nests in tune with the season. Their bulky twig structures, shaped roughly like footballs, have a side entrance.

That tubular entrance curves toward the inner chamber. When building a nest for the hot months, the wren faces the opening to receive the afternoon breeze. This circulates cooling air through the chamber and over the chicks.

A Cactus Wren foraging. (Photo: Tom Grey ©)


McCANN: By contrast, a Cactus Wren building a nest in early March orients the entrance away from the cold winds of that season, keeping the chicks snug and warm.


GELLERMAN: That's Mary McCann for BirdNote®. For photos and more information, fly off to our website, L-O-E dot O-R-G.



Sounds of the Cactus Wren provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by W.R. Fish and G.A. Keller.

BirdNote® Cactus Wren Nest Building Oriented with the Season was written by Bob Sundstrom.


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth