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Fri, Oct. 18

An unusual visitor drops in at Jay’s Bird Barn

Author Eric Moore with the Bewick’s wren he recently found inside Jay’s Bird Barn.

Author Eric Moore with the Bewick’s wren he recently found inside Jay’s Bird Barn.

On Monday we had a most unusual two-legged visitor in the store. Our visitor had wings and feathers, too! How it got in the store is a mystery, but our special visitor was a Bewick’s wren. I was able to catch it, and I released it behind the store.

There are a variety of wren species in Arizona, perhaps more so than any other state. Even our state bird is a wren—the Cactus Wren, which is the largest wren species in North America. Only one other state has a wren as its state bird. South Carolina’s state bird is, appropriately, the Carolina Wren.

The Sibley Guide to Birds shows 11 different wren species occurring in North America, and nine of those species can be seen in Arizona! In addition to the Cactus Wren, other species include Sinaloa wren (a rare visitor from Mexico, occurring only in extreme southern Arizona near the border), rock wren, canyon wren, Pacific wren, winter wren, house wren, Bewick’s wren, and marsh wren.

Wrens are primarily insect eaters, using their long, thin, slightly curved beak to probe in the cracks and crevices of rocks and in foliage to glean for insects. Some of the wrens observed in Prescott are seen year-round, while others are either summer or winter visitors. For example, rock, canyon and Bewick’s wrens are here year-round. Pacific and winter are here in the winter, and marsh and house are typically here in the summer.

Each wren species has its preferred habitat. As you might guess, Cactus Wrens prefer the Sonoran Desert regions of Arizona, particularly where there is an abundance of cholla cactus, their preferred nesting location. They make a large, football-shaped nest with a side entrance. It is an impressive nest, to say the least.

Rock and canyon wrens prefer a similar habitat — rocky ravines, canyons, and granite outcroppings. One of the best places to see canyon wrens in this area is below the dam at Granite Basin. A reliable place to see rock wrens is in the Dells near Willow Lake.

Both Pacific and winter wrens have been observed in the Granite Basin area, typically upstream from the lake, in Mint Wash. Neither species is common here, and they can be challenging to find as they are skulkers — hanging out in low thickets and brambles as they forage for food.

Bewick’s wrens are abundant in this area and prefer both chaparral and pinyon/juniper habitats. They are a cavity-nester and they like suet, so it is not uncommon to see them in the urban interface where there is good native habitat in residential settings.

House wrens are a common summer resident at the higher elevations, breeding throughout the Bradshaw Mountains. They are fairly easy to find as they tend to vocalize a lot, so you can then track them down.

Marsh Wrens, as you might guess by their name, can be found in cattails and in the margins around the various lakes in the Prescott area — Willow, Watson, and Granite Basin.

If you want to see some birds inside of Jay’s Bird Barn, then I invite you to come to the store this Saturday, Oct. 29, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. We will be celebrating our 13-year anniversary with a free lunch for all who attend. We will have live birds of prey on display from Arizona Raptor experience, and will also be announcing the winners of this year’s wild bird photo contest. We hope you can join us.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at

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