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Birds

In the Desert

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In the Desert!

Birds
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Ornithology

   There are a lot of different species of birds in the desert. If you take your time and use a good pair of binoculars you'll be amazed at how many birds you'll find that frequent this desert habitat. Birds of Prey like the Osprey seen above in the center photo are fantastic birds to watch.

Birds of Prey

Red Tailed Hawk
Osprey

Red Tailed Hawk

(Buteo jamaicensis)

   This is a large stocky majestic hawk. He has a broader, whiter chest, and more rounded wings then the Swainson Hawk and the Red Shouldered Hawk found in the desert. They mainly feed on small rodents.
Length = 18 to 25 inches
Wingspan = 4 ft.

Osprey

(Pandion haliaetus)

   Often called the Fish Hawk; hunts his food in lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Brown above and white below. This one was photographed on top of a large cactus watching the water for signs of fish.
Length = 21 to 24 inches
Wingspan = 4 ft. 6 inches to 6 ft.
Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

(Athene cunicularia)

   This Owl is a robin sized terrestrial owl, short-tailed and long legged. They fly silently. Yellow eyes and no ear tufts. They eat bugs, crickets being a favorite. This owl is diurnal. They are capable of digging their own burrows, but they have been known to use abandoned pocket gopher burrows.
Length = 9 inches.
Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

(Cathartes aura)

   This is an eagle sized blackish bird. In flight, the long wings are held upwards in a wide shallow V. The head is small, bare, and reddish in color: gray in immatures. They are often mistakenly called Buzzards..
Length = 25 to 32 inches
Wingspan = 6 ft.
Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

(Ardea herodias)

   These large birds can be found anywhere in the desert where there is water nearby. They love to fish the rivers and small streams. You'll see them on old dead trees like here or standing on the shore or wading in the water. They eat large fish, frogs, mice, and small birds.
Length = 39 to 52 inches
Wingspan = 5 ft. 10 inches
Great Egret

Great Egret

(Ardea alba)

   The Great Egret also is a great fisherman. All white plumage. The Great Egret can be distinguished from other white Egrets by it's yellow bill and black legs and feet.
Length = 33 to 40 inches
Wingspan = 4 1/2 ft.
Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

(Geococcyx)

   The Greater Roadrunner is an unmistakable bird that is often seen in the desert. Bigger than a crow and capable of flying; but they seldom do. It's also called the Chaparral Cock by the Cowboys. They eat small snakes, lizards, mice, scorpions, and insects.
Length = 24 inches
Raven

Raven

(Corvus corax)

   The Raven is found in the desert in many places. Canyons, washes, along rivers, and open areas. Large vocal bird. Similar to the American Crow but larger. They are primarily scavengers and can live fore than 30 years.
Length = 21 to 27 inches
Black-neck Stilt

Black-neck Stilt

(Himantopus mexicanus)

   Black-necked Stilt feeds in flocks and wades up to it's belly eating aquatic insects. This one was photographed near a small pond next to the Colorado River.
Length = 14 inches
Eurasian Collared Dove
Mourning Dove
White-wing Dove
Common Ground-Dove
   Doves are found all over in the desert. Pigeons and Doves are in the same family which includes some 300 species. Below are 5 that are common in the desert Southwest.

Eurasian Collared Dove

(Steptopeleia decaocto)

Eurasian Collared Dove, orginally from Asia.
Length = 13 inches

Mourning Dove

(Zenaida macroura)

Mourning Dove
Length = 12 inches

White-wing Dove

(Zenaida asiatica)

White-wing Dove
Length = 12 inches

Common Ground-
Dove

(Columbina passerina)

Common Ground-Dove
Length = 7 inches
Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew

(Numenius americanus)

   North America's largest shorebird. The bill is longer on adult females than it is on males and juveniles.They visit the soutwest in the winter months.
Length = 19 inches

Page 2  Other birds that live in the desert.

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   A lot of these birds are migratory and will only be seen in your area at certain times. Birds like the Curlew travel thousands of miles to spend the winters in Southern Arizona and Mexico then head back to Canada. They do stop and rest and eat along the way. For example, you'll find the Curlew in Utah around the end of April. 
Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

(Pica hudsonia)

   A bird that is also in the Crow family. Inhabits the western half of North America. Being only one of four North American songbirds whose tail makes up more than half of it's total body length. Often seen on farm fences in or near the desert.
Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle

Other Large Birds

Golden Eagle

(Aquila chrysaetos)

   A very large bird of prey found through out North America Eurasia, and Africa.. Goes north for the summer months, returning in the winter to mate and have young.
Length = 26 to 39 inches
Wingspan = 5 ft.to 7.7 ft.
   These birds of prey can kill animals as large as small deer and sheep, but mainly eat fox, squirrels, rabbits, mice and other rodents. The one to the left is carrying the left-overs of a rabbit. The Golden Eagle pictured here is approx. 2 years old.
Wild Turkey
Domesticated Turkey

Turkey

(Meleagris gallopavo)

   Wild turkey's are hard to find, often, as seen here, only showing their head in high weeds. They eat insects, seeds, salamanders and fruit. More likely to be found in the high desert. In the wild their life expectancy is 3 to 4 years. See below.
   We were wrong about this turkey we photographed near the town of Pintura, north of St. George, Utah. We orginally said it was a domestic bird, but it is not, and is in fact a wild turkey.
Greater-Sage Grouse

Greater-Sage Grouse

(Centrocercus urophasianus)

   These birds forage on the ground. They mainly eat sagebrush, but also insects and other plants. They nest on the ground under sagebrush or grass patches. This is a female

Photo courtesy of Gail Cook
taken in Gerlach, Nevada

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

(Bubo virginianus)

   Usually Nocturnal, often seen at dusk. Powerful predator that can take down large prey. Most common of the owls in North America. Often found in the desert.
Weight = 2 to 5.5 lbs.
Wingspan = 3.3 to 4.8 ft.
Need an ID?       START HERE
Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle

(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

   Top eagle is an juvenile Bald Eagle, with the white mottling on the wings. Bald Eagles are more common and widespread than Golden Eagles in the desert. Male and female birds are identical with the female being larger in size. These birds come down from the North to nest and have their young. These birds were photographed in Southern Utah. Golden Eagles seldom sit in trees.
They have a wing span of up to 7 ft. with a body length of 32 inches.
   Testing has confirmed that 54 Bald Eagles died last year and 4 are in rehab. due to scavenging West Nile infected grebes near Salt Lake, Utah.

Page 3  Other birds that live in the desert.

Swainson's Hawk
Harris Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

(Buteo swainsoni)

   Eats mammals and insects including ground squirrels, gophers, mice, voles and rabbits. Also snakes, lizards, and birds, in open areas.
Length = 22 in.

Harris Hawk

(Parabuteo unicinctus)

   A medium sized to large hawk. Dark overall with a white rump and undertail. White tipped to dark tail. Chestnut-red thighs and shoulders. Lives in the arid southwest and usually hunts in pairs. Found in lowland scrub and montane scrub and in some suburbs and cities. Usually breeds in the spring but can often have other clutches during the year. This photo taken in Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum.
Length = 23.2 in. Wingspan = 49 in.

Photo courtesy of Paula Kerr

Photo courtesy of Paula Kerr

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

(Accipiter cooperii)

   Cooper's Hawks mainly eat birds. Small birds are safer around Cooper's Hawks than medium sized birds. Cooper's Hawks are forest and woodland birds, but ou leafy suburbs seem nearly as good for them.
Length = 14.6 - 15.4 in.
This photo was taken in Tucson, AZ.

Photo courtesy of Rob Boone
Inca Dove

Inca Dove

Columbina (Scardafella) inca

Inca Dove
Length = 8 inches
Photo courtesy of Tracy Churchill
Greater-Sage Grouse
   Two males in a "lek" in Morgan County, Utah. Sage Grouse congregate on "leks", an ancestral strutting ground which the birds return to year after year. "Leks" vary in size from 1 to 40 acres.

Photo courtesy of Mike Flaherty

Video courtesy of Jeff Strong Photography, Increase the Volume.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

(Falco pergrinus)

   Powerful and fast flying, the Peregrine Falcon hunts medium sized birds dropping down on them from high above in a spectacular dive.
Wingspan: 2.4 to 3.9 ft.
Speeds up to 240 MPH 
This photo was taken in Wilcox, AZ.

Photo courtesy of Paula Kerr

Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

(Buteogallus anthracinus)

   It's estimated that only 250 pairs are in the wild. Lives near the edges of flowing water. Hunts low along streams even wading at times, catching fish, frogs, and other small creatures.
Length = 20 - 22 in.
Wingspan 40 - 50 in.

Rare Sighting

   This Common Black Hawk was photographed near a fish hatchery in Page Springs, AZ. Oak Creek runs through the area and it was photographed within 100 yards of the creek, back in a very small meadow. Photo courtesy of Jack L. Sheldon Jr.

White Raven

White Raven

   There are only a very few white Raven's in existence. They are born from a pair of Black Raven's with a genetic defect. They are considered "leucistic" and not "albino" because they lack pink eyes which is an indicator of an albino. They don't live as long as their black cousins. This one was found in the Western Mojave Desert.
Photo courtesy of Chet Steele

Rare

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