A desert is a barren land that has little or no water. Due to this, it is hard to find many plants and animals in it.
However, few plants, animals and birds, survive in such harsh conditions due to their adaptation. The Birds that survive in the desert include
- Cactus Wren ( Campylorhynchusbrunneicapillus)
- Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer)
- Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
- Turkey Vulture (Cathartesaura )
- Verdin (Auriparusflaviceps)
- Indigo Bunting (Passerinacyanea)
- Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)
- Hwamei (Garrulaxcarnorus)
- Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum)
- Rosy-Faced Lovebird( Agapornisroseicollis)
- Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pteroclesalchata)
Physiological adaptations in Desert Birds
The rate at which desert birds metabolize energy is lower than the other species of birds. This lower rate of metabolism translates into low energy expenditure, which allows the desert birds to utilize it in low food availability.
They execute hyperthermia by elevating their body temperature to 2 to 4 degrees above the normal body temperature. This leads to the lower evaporative loss from the body of the desert bird. This all makes their survival in the deserts easy.
In such extreme and scanty conditions, the dessert birds show remarkable adaptability skills that help them thrive in the desert.
Some birds and their desert adaptations are mentioned below:
Birds of Desert and their Adaptations
Cactus Wren ( Campylorhynchusbrunneicapillus)
The cactus wren is considered the largest wren type in the US. The size of this bird is close to the Spotted Towhee. The Cactus Wren has the following characteristics:
- Long and rounded tail
- Long heavy bills
- Brown in color
- Have white eyebrows
- Short rounded wings
Generally, the Cactus Wren is distributed throughout the deserts of the southwestern world.
Cactus Wrens are normally seen perching on the top of shrubs and cacti plants. It is said that the birds perch on the cacti to announce their presence. As they do not feed on any plant product, they can thrive in the desert with the least hindrance.
Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer)
Lucifer Hummingbirds are a species of sexually dimorphic birds.
The male birds are characterized by having an iridescent plumage and a purple-colored gorget.
The gorget flares on the sides.
While females are characterized by iridescent green plumage with a cinnamon patch on the upper part of feathers.
Lucifer Hummingbirds are generally found in the deserts of northern and central regions of Mexico. Some parts of West Texas also witness these birds in their deserts.
The birds feed on the nectar of plants, such as anisacanth, penstemon, agave. In some instances, they also feed on insects.
The hummingbirds are specially adapted to thrive in deserts. Because they feed on forage found in the biome, the bird can easily survive in the harsh conditions of the desert.
Apart from this, the Lucifer Hummingbirds have a feature of developing a unique call in the form of shrill shrieks to announce their presence in the desert and conserve their energy.
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
Greater Roadrunner is found in the desert, which has the following characteristics:
- Have a straight tail
- Have a long neck
- Slightly curved bill
- The Head has a short crest
The bird is found in dry open countries like North America. The bird is restricted to only the desert area.
The roadrunner species eat insects, other birds, small reptiles, mice, and fruits. They also feed on the matter that falls on the ground.
The Greater Roadrunner runs very rapidly on the road of the deserts. When they encounter their prey, they run swiftly to follow them. They also cock their tail up when they hunt. The rapid running makes them thrive in the hostile conditions of the desert. The toe is modified to run fast on the grounds of the desert.
Turkey Vulture (Cathartesaura)
These birds are designed to live life on carrion (decaying flesh of animals). They can also wait for their meals for few days and thereby conserve their energy.
Turkey Vulture has a good sense of eyesight which helps in citing the feed-in the desert. They have wrinkled heads and lack feathers.
These birds are found in warmer parts of Europe and America. Some parts of Africa and Asia also witness these birds.
They are insectivorous. They feed on the small insects, dead animals, etc
They are keen hunters and have the ability to sight their feed from a very long distance. They have insulated bodies to prevent themselves from the heat of the desert.
Verdins are seen in the desert as Gray birds. The young Verdins are characterized by having
- Gray plumage
- short bills
- thick bases
- pointed tips
As the Verdins grow, they start glowing yellow-colored feathers on their heads and chestnut-colored feathers on their shoulders. This marks their growing-up phase.
Verdins are commonly found in thorny shrub areas of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
Verdin birds commonly feed on insects like beetles, larvae, caterpillars, small spiders. They at times also feed on fruits like berries and small seeds.
To protect themselves from the scorching heat of the desert, Verdins stay at the shaded part of the desert.
They nest up their nests in the opposite direction of the wind to get cooler temperatures. All this adds up to their coping mechanism.
Indigo Bunting (Passerinacyanea)
As the name suggests, the birds have beautiful blue plumage with dark-colored legs. They have short beaks and the males have blue plumage or darker blue plumage in breeding seasons.
The females and juvenile Indigo birds have brown colored plumage with a tinge of blue in their tails.
The eastern parts of North America and the southern parts of Coniferous forest regions are the habitat of Indigo Bunting birds.
These birds don’t drink water specifically; but, they fulfill their water needs from the matters they take up. They eat up the insects like beetles, small spiders, caterpillars, herbs, berries, seeds of grasses.
These birds are categorized into migratory birds. They can fly up to 3500 km in flocks at night. Their feeding habits are also in alignment with the desert conditions, making them adjustable to the condition. In the breeding seasons, they leave the desert land.
Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)
These birds show sexual dimorphism. Males have a white and black colored body. They have tan heads and bellies with a red crown patch. Female possesses the same plumage as males do. But females lack crown patches.
Gila Woodpeckers are distributed in southeast California, southwest Nevada, Southern Arizona, and some parts of Mexico.
These birds mainly feed on insects. But sometimes, they also feed on cactus fruits, some small berries, etc. These desert birds are good at licking up sugary water from the plants also.
This species of woodpecker is famous for its flexible head and neck muscles. The long and pointed beak also helps in pecking into hard materials in the desert. Further, their diet also does not contain water, making them thrive in the desert for a longer time.
These birds are medium-sized desert birds that have olive-brown plumage, grey bellies, and some faint bars on the tails. Their eyes are also encircled by some eye rings and lines from behind.
Hwamei birds are endemic in western and southern parts of China and some regions of Laos.
These desert birds are also insectivorous. They feed on insects like locusts, beetles, caterpillars, seeds of crops. During the breeding seasons, they feed on seeds and crops.
They are sometimes referred to as the “melodious laughing thrush.” They sing a melodious song that is distinct from their species. They largely feed on insects which make them survive in the desert. Hwamei birds are difficult to find in the wild.
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum)
These bird species are the most numerous in the Glaucidium genus. These birds show the following characteristics
- Have distinct black marks on their napes
- The distinct colored tails
- large rounded heads
- Have dull grayish plumage with underparts.
Ferruginous birds are facing a lot of danger time in their habitat. They are considered endangered in Arizona.
These birds have a variety of habitats in lowlands. Some parts of the US and Argentina have also witnessed these birds in the desert.
These types of owls are active near dawn and dusk. They feed largely on the insects like crickets, beetles, caterpillars, small rodents, lizards, and scorpions.
Ferruginous Pygmy Owls are not migratory birds. They remain in the desert throughout their life span. These birds nest up nests in tree cavities or cacti holes. These holes are made up of woodpeckers and these owls make use of it. The insectivorous nature of these owls makes them thrive in the harsh conditions of the desert.
At primary times, these birds are called Peached-faced Lovebirds. They are identifiable due to their rose to peach-colored faces. This lovebird has a green plumage with tinges of blue on their backs. They look lovely in appearance.
In some parts of southwestern Africa, these birds are endemic. The parts like Namibia, Northern Cape Province.
Their diet comprises small fruits, small seeds, seed pods, and cactus fruits.
The lovebird is fully adapted to live in deserts. These birds are dependent on the water sources in the desert to thriving. The birds also may show some nomadic tendency when water is not available or little in the desert. These adaptations of lovebirds make a living good in the desert.
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pteroclesalchata)
Sandgrouse birds also show sexual dimorphism. The male bird has colorful plumage that consists of a yellowish face, upper chest, neck, and golden spots on the shoulders and back. The female birds are less colorful than the male ones. They have a whitish chin and greyish wings with black patches.
These desert birds are commonly found in semi-arid parts of northwestern Africa, the Middle East, North America, south-eastern Turkey, and some regions of Europe.
These birds feed on small seeds and small plants found in the desert. Sandgrouse can also feed on leaves, short shoots, and flowers.
As they live in semi-arid regions of the desert, they show a good sense of adaptability there. Because of their dense plumage, they don’t feel hot in the harsh weather of the desert. Further, the feathers also give insolation to the bird against the hot condition of the desert.