Family Wrens (Troglodytidae)

Least Concern

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)


French: Troglodyte des cactus German: Kaktuszaunkönig Spanish: Cucarachero desértico

Picolaptes brunneicapillus


, 1835,

California; error = Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico


Sometimes regarded as conspecific with C. yucatanicus, but differs significantly in plumage, voice, behaviour and nest form; genetic data also fail to support this suggestion#R. USA and N Mexican population sometimes referred to as race anthonyi, but name couesi has priority. Race purus sometimes subsumed within affinis; distinctiveness of race seri not upheld by molecular study#R and wider research found evidence of just two separate DNA lineages within the species#R. Eight subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. b. couesi Sharpe, 1882 – #RS USA (S Nevada, SW Utah, S Arizona, S New Mexico, S Texas) and NW & NC Mexico (N Sonora, N & E Chihuahua, N Coahuila).
  • C. b. sandiegensis Rea, 1986 – extreme SW USA (coastal S California) and NW Baja California.
  • C. b. bryanti (Anthony, 1894) – W coast of Baja California (between 31° N and 29°30’ N).
  • C. b. purus (van Rossem, 1930) – both coasts of Baja California between c. 29° N and 25° N.
  • C. b. seri (van Rossem, 1932) – Tiburón I, in Gulf of California.
  • C. b. affinis Xántus, 1860 – S Baja California (S from 25° N).
  • C. b. brunneicapillus (Lafresnaye, 1835) – NW Mexico (C Sonora S to C Sinaloa).
  • C. b. guttatus (Gould, 1837) – C Mexican Plateau from Nuevo León S to N Michoacán, México and W Hidalgo.
  • Descriptive notes

    18–19 cm; 33·4–46·9 g. Nominate race has supercilium white, ear-coverts streaked dark grey and white, crown unmarked chocolate-brown with rufescent... read more


    Song a series of harsh “jar-jar-jar” notes. Alarm a low buzz, also a repeated staccato... read more


    Semi-desert of various vegetational types, including Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts. Requires the... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly animal matter, including hymenopterans (ants, wasps), grasshoppers (Orthoptera), spiders (Araneae) and other arthropods, also small... read more


    Egg-laying from Feb, less often Jan, in USA (Arizona), later at high elevations; up to six broods may be attempted, usually only two or... read more


    Almost entirely sedentary; of 126 recoveries of ringed individuals, only one showed any movement,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common to abundant over much of its range. Has shown itself to be adaptable; can survive well in very degraded or modified habitats (e.g.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Kroodsma, D. & Brewer, D. (2020). Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 February 2020).