Citizen Science Project Informs Cactus Wren Habitat Restoration

Date: September 20, 2016

The coastal cactus wren represents one of the most threatened wildlife species within the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve and is endemic to our native coastal sage scrub plant community. Historic losses of habitat across southern California have led to various protections,  including California Fish and Wildlife Service recognition as a “species of special concern” and inclusion  in the Palos Verdes Natural Community Conservation Plan.

The Conservancy recently completed the 2016 Cactus Wren Monitoring program, a volunteer citizen science project documenting the location and breeding activity of wren populations within the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve. Stewardship Associate Josh Weinik who coordinated the project, presented this year’s findings at the White Point Nature Education Center.  He described varying numbers of cactus wrens and levels of nesting activity across the preserve.  The findings were consistant with trends seen across most of Southern California, that Coastal cactus wrens are restricting their activity to areas with the highest quality habitat (coastal sage scrub with plentiful cacti). The Conservancy is adapting restoration activities in response to these findings to support the habitat needs of cactus wrens.  This monitoring effort is a great example of how the Conservancy’s citizen science programs integrate local community members into research that actively contributes to the stewardship of rare species like the coastal cactus wren.

The next cactus wren monitoring season will begin in spring. There will be a one-day training workshop in March where volunteers will learn about the basic biology of the cactus wren, how to identify the bird in the field and the research methods they will be using.  Monitors will gather information twice a month over the four month survey period.  If you are interested in becoming a citizen science cactus wren monitoring volunteer, please contact or call (310) 541-7613 x215.