Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cactus wren nest in cholla cactus

with 8 comments


On November 8th of 2016 in the eastern section of Tucson’s Saguaro National Park I saw what I take to be the nest of a cactus wren, Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus. The cactus is either a staghorn cholla, Cylindropuntia versicolor, or a buckhorn cholla, Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2017 at 4:56 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

8 Responses

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  1. Amazing how it is propped in there!


    January 27, 2017 at 5:20 AM

    • Think of how many flights in and out it took the bird(s) to build that nest. I wonder if a cactus spine ever snags a wing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2017 at 7:18 AM

  2. What a keen eye you have. That nest so easily could be mistaken for a bit of debris. I suspect that’s part of the plan, along with all those protective spines surrounding the babies.

    As for the dinged wings, my experience with swallows at the marina suggests the wrens probably do just fine. The swallows often build under the floating docks, tucking their nests into the corners where the supportive structure holds the concrete walkway. The nests are high enough about the water that nothing can get to the babies from below, and the fact that the docks float means they’re never flooded.

    But to get to the nests, the birds have to fly straight in, not hitting the dock or the water. They do it — and pretty darned fast, too. It’s amazing to watch.


    January 27, 2017 at 8:26 AM

    • I’ve noticed that birds’ reflexes are much quicker than our human ones. I’ve seen birds fly at a good speed into the central part of a tree, passing through the fence of branches on the periphery without hitting a single one.

      The swallows I’ve observed in Austin make their nests under highway overpasses, in corners, as you said, where horizontal and vertical surfaces meet. The swallows have no trouble flying in and out, but I imagine birds of prey like hawks and eagles would have a hard time getting in there. That makes me wonder of those predators stake out the nests and wait for swallows to come flying out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2017 at 8:42 AM

  3. Love this Steve!
    Good question about the swallow-eaters staking out their nest sites. I read that the swallows would get nailed by traffic when they first began colonizing underpasses, but over time have evolved to zip in there without getting hit. Pretty cool, I thought.


    February 24, 2017 at 6:09 PM

    • Yes, it was a good find.

      All the swallows that I’ve seen in Austin place their nests on the sides or undersides of highway overpasses, and they enter from the side and from below. Whether they originally tried entering from above and got whacked, I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2017 at 1:30 AM

      • They did. The study showed the a lot died before they collectively got the hang of it. That reminds me of the troop of monkeys that learned to bash coconuts with a big rock. As I remember it, neighboring groups do not.


        February 26, 2017 at 9:03 AM

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