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Unusual Nesting Site of the Cactus Wren

F. S. Daggett
Publication Information
Journal: 
Condor
Volume: 
6
Issue: 
1 (January-February)
Section: 
From Field and Study
Year: 
1904
Pages: 
24

Unusual Nesting Site of the Cactus Wren

A ten years' experience with the cactus wren (Heleodytes b. brunneicapillus) has left a memory of fleeting glimpses and hard approaches that characterized the attempts to get better acquainted with this wary bird. They have a way of sliding out of the nest just before one gets a glimpse of it, then appearing momentarily as they dive out of sight behind some clump of brush or tangle of cactus. If followed persistently it becomes a case of hide and seek in which the observer gets little satisfaction, I found a remarkable exception on June 27th this year (1903) when taking a camping trip into the San Gabriel canyon. The road, which crosses the San Gabriel River wash, near Azusa, is bordered by a row of poles carrying high power wires. The two cross arms, carrying twelve wires, are about thirty feet from the ground, A cactus wren had selected the lower of the arms and built a typical nest on the north or shady side of the pole, filling the whole space between it and the large insulator. The beginning of such a nest on the smooth arm would be possible only in a country remarkably free from winds, but after completion, the insulator acted as a set screw to hold it in place.

The road which this line of poles borders is the main travelled road to Pomona, San Bernardino and Redlands, and probably used more than any other long distance road in southern California. In some cases, for instance, a driver on a load of hay would be brought about face to face with this shy bird. While we haulted under the wires to investigate, the female alighted on the cross arm, with food in her bill for the young, which the nest contained.

Often birds are forced to adapt themselves to new conditions by the settlement of a country, which may destroy their natural nesting sites, but in this case there was no apparent reason, as the wash for miles contained hundreds of perfect nesting places, in cactus such as is usually chosen by the cactus wren.

That the bird sometimes does the unusual was noted in another instance, when I found a nest located in an apricot tree. It was the corner tree of an orchard which projected into a large wash, where the cactus and brush for some distance had been cleared.

FRANK S. DAGGETT

Pasadena, Cal.

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