Dear Readers;


What I originally viewed as a three part series is now, of necessity, a five part series on desert natural history. Part 4 focuses on mammals and part 5, in December, on reptiles and amphibians.


I am not an ornithologist or bird watcher. I am strictly going by what I observe.


Certainly one of the most common desert birds, and the most noticeable, because of its size, is the raven. The common raven is what you see, not a crow. I've heard that there are few, if any, crows on the desert. The raven is one of our largest birds, mostly black, and a good flyer. Most are scavengers, acting as a "clean-up crew" for road kill, and are usually bold. Sometimes, especially when nesting themselves, they will raid the nest of smaller birds. The raven is opportunistic and a civilization-follower.


Up in the sky, the bald eagles and golden eagles are fairly common, although they don't like mankind and don't descend to earth often.


Another larger, and rather bold, bird is the red-tailed hawk. Not as common on the desert as it once was, hawks mate for life, and usually nest in secret places. Hawks are also scavengers, but also take live prey, preferring squirrels, very young rabbits, mice and even snakes.


The bird that snakes really hate is the roadrunner. They are not immune to snake bites, but as an elusive target, they are quicker than the snake. Roadrunners will kill and eat most small prey, but mostly eat seeds. The brighter colored bird is the male. Rather bold and inquisitive, they can fly, but usually just run. They get most of their moisture from prey and seeds, but will not refuse free water.


Owls are more common than they appear, but are rather secretive. They, too, can be scavengers, but also can catch and eat live prey. Owls, next in out-of-the-way places, are mostly more active at night, which is one reason you don't see them more often.


Mourning doves are more heard than seen. Grays and black in color, their "cooing" is very distinctive. Doves like insects and seeds.


One sees a lot of quails in the desert. With their distinctive "top knot," they look almost comical. They're almost too lazy to fly, preferring to run, frequently with young, following along. Quails, too, eat seeds and grasses.


The desert also plays "host" to various waterfowl, including ducks, geese, and even an occasional pelican. Some of these are migratory. Mostly they like areas with open water.


Various wrens also call the desert home. The cactus wren makes its nest in cactuses, mostly ocotillos, where prey cannot get at the eggs or the young chicks.


The blue jay mostly lives in the mountains or the higher desert elevations, but will venture down on the desert, for food, mostly seeds, insects and worms.


We also have a number of starlings and finches, and the like. They seem to like civilization.


Hummingbirds also thrive where civilization exists and sip nectar from flowering plants, and especially hummingbird feeders.


Wrapping up, this is about all I know about birds.


Next up is mammals.