The Southern California native cactus wren prefers to construct their nests in old-growth prickly pear cactus and cholla cactus—both of which provide spiky protection from predators.
However, recent fires and past land uses including cattle ranching have eliminated much of the mature cactus the birds rely on to nest, which has in turn threatened the local cactus wren population.
On the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, groups including the non-profit Natural Communities Coalition, the city of Irvine and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy have been working together since 2013 to expand the wren’s habitat, by connecting isolated patches of prickly pear cactus with each other to over time create a larger, contiguous habitat for the coastal cactus wren. One such project includes the Mule Deer Restoration site, located in the Shady Canyon area of the City of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve. So far, 4,500 prickly pear cactus pads and more than 20 larger, mature cactuses have been planted across more than 2 acres of habitat. Now it looks like those efforts are starting to pay off, as the first signs of cactus wren nests are showing up.
To get involved in habitat restoration efforts on the Landmarks, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.