On the 900-acre Biodiversity Preserve at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, away from tourists, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist examines a wild cactus wren after banding the 8-inch-long songbird.
The species is the focus of ongoing studies by USGS, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and Nature Reserve of Orange County scientists that focus on habitat restoration and understanding population dynamics of a species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and listed as a California Species of Special Concern.
In 2007, the Witch Creek wildfire that devastated San Diego County also wreaked havoc on the coastal cactus wren's habitat. At the Safari Park alone, 600 acres burned, reducing the available cactus scrub, a rare habitat that this wren species relies on year round.
In Southern California the cactus wren is declining and becoming isolated due to urbanization and habitat loss.