Friday, January 27, 2017


A Pyrrhuloxia or 'desert cardinal' as he's known locally, strikes a defensive pose as he alerts to a strange new noise. This time the strange new noise is a camera shutter. Still he must react to everything within ear shot.

He lives in a harsh environment...hawks and falcons hunt nearby. He questions if leaving is necessary.

Most everything in the desert pricks, sticks or stabs, yet Pyrrhuloxias' manages well in the hot arid southwest.

Living on large insects, seeds, berries and even cactus fruit, the Pyrrhuloxia doesn't require standing water to quench his thirst.  He seems to get enough water from his food.

(Click any picture to enlarge all)

The female Pyrrhuloxia shares a similar yellow parrot-like bill, but sports far fewer red feathers. She has built a nest for her eggs from plant material, horsehair, feathers and rootlets.

She incubates 2-4 eggs for two weeks while her mate brings her food.

A juvenile Pyrrhuloxia is growing straight and strong.

A bird's natural instinct is to alert and fly away when approached. It's a trait that has served them well.

To be in their presence longer, move slowly...remain silent...wear muted patient...use binoculars.

Although, most importantly, enjoy where you are.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cactus Wren

The Cactus Wren, although common in the southwest, is seldom seen in the rest of America. Most other members of the wren family are tiny birds. Yet size-wise, the Cactus Wren compares to the American Robin.

The Cactus Wren is well adapted to arid lowlands and montane thorn-scrub which is common in the lower reaches of California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.

Perching prominently, they are not secretive birds. Still, they won't let you get close. They'll fly away.

You'll find cactus wrens singing out their simple repetitive song atop thorny shrubs...typical habitat of the desert.

It's a pleasant song, raising slightly in volume and pitch, but not really musical.

These birds eats mostly insects and invertebrates found on the ground.

Surprisingly, they don't need standing water to drink.  All of their water needs are fulfilled from their food.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

The sound of a Cactus Wren singing is a delightful discovery on a walk in the desert. You are likely to hear one before you see it.

In that case, consider yourself lucky. Ninety-five percent of America doesn't get the honor of a Cactus Wren's company.

Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
Sibley's Guide to Birds