The cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) was adopted as Arizona’s state bird on March 16, 1931. According to an article in Arizona Highways, a high school student named Virginia Fetterer came up with the idea. She took her father’s advice, and consulted a local politician, who sponsored the bill.
But state bird promoter Katherine B. Tippetts told a different story in Nature Magazine (April 1932). She claimed that the cactus wren was adopted after the General Federation of Women’s Clubs was invited to hold its Biennial Council in Phoenix, Arizona. It was suggested that a state bird be elected before the event, and a campaign was launched. The cactus wren won by a landslide. An article in Arizona Wildlife (March 1931) seems to support her version.
There’s some evidence that the roadrunner might have been suggested. But the roadrunner had already been selected as New Mexico’s bird symbol, though New Mexicans waited several years to make it official.
The cactus wren is a good partner for Arizona’s state flower, the bloom of the saguaro cactus, as it sometimes nests in saguaros. (However, cactus wrens usually build nests in cholla cactus, catclaw, thorny bushes, or large yuccas.) In fact, the saguaro was readopted as the state flower along with the cactus wren.
The cactus wren is the largest wren native to the United States. Unlike other wrens—including South Carolina’s state bird, the Carolina wren—it doesn’t usually cock its tail.