RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – The largest wren in North America makes its home in the prickly pear patches of the Rio Grande Valley. Richard Moore introduces us to a family of the aptly named Cactus wrens.
Tucked between protective pads of prickly pear, the cactus wren pauses briefly with prey before entering its nest to feed young.
Disappearing into the darkened interior, the parent carefully selects one youngster, from as many as three to seven mouths, to distribute the morsel. After lingering for a moment, the wren exits the stickery abode and takes out the garbage.
Chortling enthusiastically from atop a guayacan, this tail wagging brush country denizen voices one of the most distinctive calls of the South Texas wildlands.
At more than eight inches in length, the cactus wren is considerably larger than any other North American wren. In addition to its impressive size, the wren has a distinctive white eyebrow stripe, spotted breast, streaked brown back, and striking black and white barring on its wings and tail.
The aptly named cactus wren is comfortably at home in the prickly pear patch, and throughout the day, the male and female secure a variety of insects for their young.
Sometimes, it is a plump grasshopper, perhaps a savory spider and often caterpillars of many varieties. One thing is for sure, this pair of cactus dwelling wrens have no trouble securing sustenance for their brood.
No matter what is on the menu, they always use the same landing pad for both delivery and takeoff.
The young will fledge at approximately three weeks of age, and the faster they mature the more insects will be required.
After a round of jubilant calling from a blooming mesquite, it is time to get back to work and deliver more groceries to the growing youngsters in the nearby cactus patch.