Monthly Archives: February 2018

Birds of the Sonoran Desert

Hello! You know curly-tail lizards like me enjoy arid landscapes, so I’m up in Arizona exploring the Sonoran Desert. My friend Elaine wrote a book about some of the plants, animals and minerals entitled “How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird.” It’s a lot of fun. So after reading her book, I went out in search of some of the things Elaine had mentioned in her book.  She has all of them in her own backyard. Today, I’m going to share some of the birds with you.  I can’t share them all because she way too many, everything from small hummingbirds to birds of prey , like the Cooper’s and Harris Hawks.  All are welcome.

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) This medium-sized hummingbird is found along the Pacific Coast and into the desert Southwest. It is the only hummingbird that remains in the West during the winter.  Named after Princess Anna de Belle Massena, an Anna’s is identified by its iridescent emerald feathers and bright pink gorget, or throat feathers.





Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) This common woodpecker in southern Arizona is often seen on Saguaro cactus. They have a distinctive horizontally barred black-and-white back with a plain brown head. The male’s head is adorned with a red crown patch. They excavate nests in saguaros and mesquite trees, and the abandoned cavities are later used by a variety of other animals.

I always knew when the woodpeckers were around because of their loud, raucous call.


I was watching the various birds who were gathered around Elaine’s many feeders when this incredible orange bird burst onto the scene.

Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus) These spectacularly colored orioles have yellow-orange bodies and black faces and wings. The medium-sized birds are known to drink from hummingbird feeders, even when doing so requires acrobatics. Nests are sewn to the underside of overhanging large leaves, such as palm fronds.








My favorite birds are the quail. The chicks hatched at different times all summer long.  They looked like little gray cotton balls with legs.

Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii) These plump, ground-dwelling birds of the desert Southwest are named after William Gambel. The bluish-gray birds are easily identified by the feather plume on their heads. Quail use camouflage to avoid their many predators. The average lifespan is a year and a half. The chicks are prococial, leaving the nest to follow and feed with their parents within hours after hatching.

Come to the desert.  It’s filled with wonderful birds.