15 Birds That Live In The Desert

The desert can be a harsh environment, from frigid nights to scorching daytimes to scarce water. To get by in the desert, birds that live there must deal with a lot of hurdles. Have you ever wondered what birds do in the desert? Continue reading to learn more about the 15 birds that live in the desert’s scrub, brush, and sand.


Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinali

In the United States, I am present. The Pyrrhuloxia is similar to a Northern Cardinal only in regions of Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas. Since they are family, that is the case. However, both sexes appear similar, and they have a far narrower gene pool than their vivid-red relative.

They favor mesquite-covered upland steppe habitats. Their diets include big insects, seeds, and cactus fruits. The Pyrrhuloxia is fiercely territorial throughout the breeding season, but it mingles with other flocks of birds during the winter.


Scientific name: Piranga flava

The uplands of the southwestern deserts, among pine and oak trees, are where this bird prefers to live. Males are red, and females are greenish-yellow, as are many other North American tanagers. They migrate south into Mexico and South America after spending the spring and summer in the United States.

New Mexico and Arizona’s mountains are home to them. They search for insects and berries in a pair or small group, moving through the inside of trees and shrubs.


Scientific name: Phalaenoptilus nuttallii

Since it is nocturnal, the Common Poorwill is difficult to see when compared to other desert birds on this list. Males will sing “poorwillip” continuously for many hours during the breeding season, thankfully letting you know they are there. Grab a flashlight and binoculars after dark and pursue the sound.

The Nightjar family includes the Common Poorwill. They are covered in a layer of mottled gray and brown feathers that help them blend in with the ground during most of their day spent motionless. They hunt for flying insects mostly at dusk and dawn.

When it is extremely cold, they may fall into a state of deep sleep or torpor, similar to hummingbirds.


Scientific name: Melanerpes formicivorus

In Arizona and New Mexico’s deserts, the Acorn Woodpecker is a frequent sight. Southwest Texas is home to some as well. Acorns are one of their primary food sources, and they may be found in oak woodlands. The bark of dead trees is used to store acorns, along with other nuts. The nut is tightly pushed in after holes are drilled in the bark. They like to eat a lot of flying insects when they can get them.

They are easily identified due to their distinctive coloring. They have a somewhat “clown-like” look due to their black, white, and red head and light colored eyes.


Scientific name: Empidonax wrightii

Dusky gray flycatchers are often mistaken with other flycatchers because of their similar appearance. Thankfully, there’s a way to differentiate between them. When perched, this species does not curl its tail like its relatives, instead flicking it downward.

The Southwest’s scrubby desert landscape, as well as the Rocky Mountains’ arid areas, are ideal habitats for them. Sage bushes should be home to these birds. They sit and wait for insects to be spotted, which they can then pick up from the ground or in the air.


Scientific name: Poecile gambeli

In the western mountains of the United States, states such as Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico have flocks of insect-eating songbirds as their backbone. In the dry, desert southwest, they chirp their characteristic call in forest pockets.

For seed, suet, and even peanut butter, mountain chickadees visit feeders all year long. Nest boxes are also a hit with them. Their white eyebrow stripe distinguishes them from other chickadees, making them look similar.


Scientific name: Vireo vicinior

In the heat of southern Nevada’s and the Four Corners’ deserts, this songbird knows how to keep cool. They sing at daybreak and dusk, forage in the shady scrubby desert brush, and relax during the hottest part of the day. In the early morning or late afternoon, locate them on a stroll through an unspoiled region.

They eat mostly insects that they find on branches and leaves, sometimes foraging just a few feet above the ground inside shrubs.


Scientific name: Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus

The Cactus Wren stands out amid the busy bustle of the hot, quiet desert. They’re constantly hopping and flicking their tails. They can survive on just the water they get from the insects they consume, unlike other desert-dwelling birds that need to locate a water source.

Before you experience it, you’re likely to hear it. Their call is described as a repeated series of raspy “char” notes that sound like a car that won’t start. A prevalent sound across their desert range is the frequent and loud singing of these birds.


Scientific name: Phainopepla nitens

Because of its crest, tail, and size, some people refer to this songbird as the “desert cardinal.” Females are gray, while males are dark, almost black. They both have a crimson eye and a shaggy head crest.

Mistletoe berries are a favorite food of Phainopeplas. Other fruits that are often consumed include juniper, elderberry, boxthorn, and sumac. Insects are supplemented, and the young are fed mostly insects.

The Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, as well as the Colorado Desert in California, are home to the Phainopepla. Unless there are significant berry plants, it’s difficult to attract them to backyards.


Scientific name: Leiothlypis virginiae

This bird isn’t found in Virginia, despite its name. Before heading south to Mexico in the autumn, the summer months are spent in southwest oak and pinyon-pine woodlands. They’re a retiring breed, and during the spring, when they’re more active and sing more often, is when you’ll find them.

Unfortunately, these songbirds don’t visit feeders because they don’t eat seeds. By planting native plants, you may encourage them to stop by. They’re now endangered, so this little effort might make a significant difference in protecting their numbers.


Scientific name: Amphispiza bilineata

The Black-throated Sparrow stands out thanks to its solid white and black colorblocking. Nonetheless, unless they are standing out on a perch, their sandy colored body allows them to blend in with the desert.

The mid-level deserts west of the Rockies and east of the Sierras are home to this sparrow. Listen for the ringing of bells at a rapid pace. They prefer to search for insects and seeds on the ground among cactus and shrubs.

You can stop by a black oil sunflower seed feeder for a snack.


Scientific name: Geococcyx californianus

In the Southwest, the ubiquitous Greater Roadrunner may be seen on roadways and highways. It can eat poisonous scorpions and lizards with ease, runs faster than a human, and barely needs to drink water.

They don’t resemble the well-known cartoon roadrunner, but they are certainly one of a kind among the other desert birds. With a considerably thinner body, long legs, and long tail, the Greater Roadrunner is approximately the size of a crow. It has a crest on its head and streaksy brown and cream plumage. Adults may have vivid red and blue skin visible around their eye during breeding season.


Scientific name: Calypte costae

The bright purple moustache of feathers on this hummingbird can’t be missed. It’s only used by males, and they use it to attract prospective partners. Until the breeding season, when they fight for territory, partners, and food, both sexes live in relative harmony for the most part of the year.

In the southwestern corner of the United States, you’ll find hummingbird feeders. Peninsula, Baja Peninsula. Costa’s prefer to visit the flowers of ocotillo and chuparosa in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, where they can be found from February to May.


Scientific name: Falco mexicanus

The Prairie Falcon thrives in the open environment of the western deserts. It soars above, seeking to capture birds and small animals on thermals. Flying is more common than perched. The dark brown feathers in the ‘armpit’ should help you identify one.

Prairie Falcons will take dust-baths when water sources are insufficient, as they are in their dry habitat.


Scientific name: Toxostoma bendirei

The Curve-billed Thrasher was once mistaken for this retiring, desert-dwelling songbird. Naturalists discovered that the bird was smaller and had a straighter bill than its relative, which shattered the record.

These thrashers prefer to search for insects on the ground, where they spend most of their time. They’re typically difficult to detect since they blend in well with their surroundings. When the males perch on top of bushes and sing, that’s when you should notice them. Between late winter and early spring, this takes place in the early morning hours.

They’ve got a limited habitat in the southwest, and their numbers are believed to be dwindling.

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