Greater Roadrunner and Other Animals in Mojave Desert

Greater Roadrunner and Other Animals in Mojave Desert

The Mojave Desert- the smallest and driest desert in the US, lies between the Sonoran and Great Basin deserts, mostly in southeastern California. Greater Roadrunner, Kit fox, and Gila monster are some of the famous animals in Mojave Desert.

The Mojave Desert covers 25,000 sq miles (65,000 sq km) of alternating mountain ranges and flat, low-lying basins, mainly in southern California. The Mojave merges almost imperceptibly with the Sonoran Desert to the south and the Great Basin Desert to the north. Its extent is traditionally indicated by the range of an endemic yucca, the Joshua tree. This distinctive plant is one of more than 200 found only in the Mojave, which make up a quarter of the desert’s plant species.

Land of Extremes

The Mojave Desert is dry because it lies in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It is a high desert, lying mostly at more than 1,970 ft (600 m) above sea level. Daytime temperatures are high, nowhere more so than in Death Valley in the north, where at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913, the atmospheric temperature reached 134°F (56.7°C), the highest ever recorded on Earth. Death Valley also holds the record for the lowest place in the US: Badwater Basin dips to 282 ft (86 m) below sea level.

The name refers to a small spring, whose waters contain high levels of dissolved salts, making them undrinkable for humans. However, the spring does support other life, including pickleweed, a variety of aquatic insects, and the Badwater snail, another Mojave endemic. Other desert specialists living in the Mojave include the kangaroo rat, greater roadrunner, the desert tortoise, and the deadly Mojave rattlesnake.

Here is Greater Roadrunner and Other Animals in Mojave Desert-

1. Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Greater Roadrunner and Other Animals in Mojave Desert
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)/Dominic Sherony

Roadrunners are predominantly ground-dwelling birds that belong to the cuckoo family. They have long, strong, bare legs, with two toes facing forward and two backward—a feature not seemingly ideal for fast running. Roadrunners favor semi-desert regions with open spaces as well as dry, bushy cover, but have spread into moister, greener habitats with scattered trees.

They are weak fliers but can get up onto treetops, wires, or roadside poles. Roadrunners eat lizards and mice, as well as small snakes and birds, snapping them up in their beak. This moisture-rich diet is an advantage when drinking water is scarce. They also conserve moisture by excreting excess salt from a gland near the eye, rather than wasting water in expelling it via the kidneys.

DESERT RUN

The roadrunner is well adapted to life in the fast lane. It walks and runs through the desert, trying to flush out prey.

2. Kit fox (Vulpes macrotis)

Kit fox, Greater Roadrunner and Other Animals in Mojave Desert
Kit fox (Vulpes macrotis)

Thanks to its huge ears, the kit fox has excellent hearing, which helps it locate prey ranging from insects to jackrabbits and lizards. Oversized ears also keep this desert dweller cool by thermoregulation: their huge surface area releases large amounts of heat during the hottest months, keeping the animal’s body temperature within comfortable limits.

Kit foxes rarely drink,obtaining moisture from their food

Survival skills

North America’s smallest wild canid has other desert survival skills. The soles of its feet are fur-lined, lending traction but also keeping the pads from burning on hot terrain. Mainly nocturnal, the kit fox avoids the heat as well as predators, such as coyotes, by spending the day inside one of many burrows that it either digs or takes over from animals such as prairie dogs. It also makes dens in manmade structures such as storm drains. Kit foxes are mainly monogamous, but pairs do not necessarily share the same den and they always hunt alone. A female bears an average of four young per litter, which stay with her for five to six months.

CHANGING COAT

The kit fox sports a rusty-tan to buff gray coat in the summer. It takes on a silvery gray hue in the winter.

3. Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)

Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)
Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)

Solidly built, strong, slow, solitary, and secretive, the Gila (pronounced “hee-luh”) is North America’s largest native lizard—and one of very few that are venomous. Toxins from the Gila’s modified salivary glands flow into a victim by capillary action along grooved teeth in the lower jaw, aided by its tenaciously chewing grip. As a result, the Gila has few natural predators.

A Gila bite is painful but rarely fatal to humans

Supersize meal

Gila monsters spend 90 percent of their time resting in a den in an appropriated old burrow, among roots, or under rocks. They feed on bird and reptile eggs, small mammals, birds (especially nestlings), reptiles such as lizards, and frogs and other amphibians, as well as bugs and worms. Given its energy-saving habits, and the ability to store fat in its tail, a sizeable meal lasts a Gila for weeks. A young Gila can eat one-half its own body weight in a sitting, an adult one-third. As a result, some Gilas eat as few as six times in a year.

BEADED BODY

Gila scales are rounded and slightly domed. The pattern of black with pink, red, or orange patches—unique on each individual—warns potential predators of its toxic bite.

4. Puma (Puma concolor)

Puma (Puma concolor)
Puma (Puma concolor)

North America’s largest cat has more than 40 common names, including mountain lion and cougar. It is not classified as a big cat, but as the largest of the small cats. Once found across the US, it has now virtually disappeared from eastern and midwestern areas. Pumas farthest from the equator tend to be larger than those closer to it.

Coat color also varies with geography; the most northern pumas are silver-gray, while those in southerly, humid climates tend to be reddish brown.Previously elusive and solitary, pumas used to avoid contact with humans whenever possible, although they had been known to kill people when cornered. However, attacks recorded in North America have risen sharply since the 1990s, with hikers, mountain bikers, and skiers particularly at risk.

Flexible feline

Highly adaptable, pumas can live in habitats as diverse as deserts and tropical rainforests. This adaptability also extends to their diet. Although hoofed mammals are preferred—especially by mothers with cubs to feed —pumas hunt rabbits, feral pigs, insects, birds, mice, coyotes, and even other pumas. Although active during the day, they hunt mostly at dawn and dusk. Female pumas can breed all year round. Males and females stay together for a few days when the female is in season.

The male then leaves in search of other potential mates, playing no part in raising his offspring. In about three months, the female gives birth to two or three spotted cubs, which stay with her for up to 18 months. At 12–14 weeks, the cubs’ spots begin to fade.

VOCALIZATIONS

Small cats cannot roar as the big cats do. Instead, pumas snarl and hiss when annoyed and purr when content.

5. Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)

Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)
Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)

Despite their name jackrabbits are in fact hares, not rabbits, with an above-ground lifestyle and a preference for outrunning predators, rather than diving into a burrow. A muscular, flexible body and long, powerful hind legs and feet act as a spring, giving the jackrabbit great speed and acceleration from a standing start. Black-tailed jackrabbits are widespread in semiarid regions with sagebrush and creosote bush, and other open shrubland. They avoid searing heat by being active mostly at night. Unusually for hares, they occasionally burrow to escape excessive heat.

Precocious Young

Females give birth to three to five fully furred, open-eyed young, called leverets, which are active soon after birth. Females can breed when under a year old, but the rate of predation is high—animals from pumas and coyotes to hawks and rattlesnakes eat jackrabbits. In favorable conditions, their numbers increase rapidly, but they fall again as food becomes scarce.

DUAL-PURPOSE EARS

Not only do jackrabbits have excellent hearing, but the ears also act as radiators in a breeze, cooling the blood

6. Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)

Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)
Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)

A member of the pit viper family, this rattlesnake has bowl-like pits below the eyes that detect infrared (heat) in warm-blooded animals. Its potent venom is used both to subdue prey, such as rats and mice, and to defend itself. The warning rattle from which its common name is derived increases in size each time the snake sheds its skin.

The Mojave rattlesnake differs from its famous close cousin, the western diamondback rattlesnake, in that the back markings fade earlier toward the tail and its white tail rings are wider than the black ones.

MOJAVE GREEN

Some Mojave rattlesnakes have an olive-green tinge—locals call them Mojave greens

7. Couch’s spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchii)

Couch’s spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchii) and Other Animals in Mojave Desert
Couch’s spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchii)

The spadefoot is named after the hard pads on its hind feet, which it uses to dig burrows in the sand. The toad spends months deep underground to avoid dry conditions. While underground, it retains the toxins that are usually expelled in urine. This creates a high chemical concentration in the toad’s body, allowing water to be absorbed from the soil through its permeable skin.

Breeding takes place in the wet season. The toads come to the surface after the first heavy rains, and females lay their eggs in temporary pools. They hatch within 36 hours, and tadpoles mature into toadlets in 40 days.

FEED AND BREED

As well as breeding, the toads spend the nights above ground hunting for as much prey as they can find.

8. Desert Blond Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes)

Lacking good vision, this desert hunter is at great risk of predation during the day. For this reason it remains in its burrow and waits for night to fall. In the dark, touch is the tarantula’s main link to its surroundings. It uses its feet and mouthparts to detect vibrations caused by passing animals that touch a network of silk threads radiating from the entrance of its burrow. The spider lies in wait for prey, then rushes out and kills it with a venomous bite.

Mating Quest

Tarantulas grow slowly, reaching sexual maturity at 10 years. Males then search for mates, delivering a silk sac of sperm to each female they find. The eggs are laid on a silk sheet at the sun-warmed mouth of the burrow. Spiderlings stay in the burrow for a few days only.

HAIRY HUNTER

The tarantula’s body hairs are sensory but also have a defensive function. When threatened, the spider uses its back legs to flick barbed, irritating hairs at its attacker

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Frequently Asked Questions-

Where does the Mojave Desert located?

The Mojave Desert lies between the Sonoran and Great Basin deserts, mostly in southeastern California. The Desert covers 25,000 sq miles (65,000 sq km) of alternating mountain ranges and flat, low-lying basins, mainly in southern California. The Mojave merges almost imperceptibly with the Sonoran Desert to the south and the Great Basin Desert to the north

What does the Great Roadrunner Eat?

Greater Roadrunner is primarily carnivorous. Roadrunners eat lizards and mice, as well as small snakes and birds, snapping them up in their beak. This moisture-rich diet is an advantage when drinking water is scarce.

What are the climatic conditions of the Mojave Desert?

The Mojave Desert receives less than 13 in (330 mm) of rain a year and some areas get none at all. Temperatures vary enormously. Daytime temperatures are high, nowhere more so than in Death Valley in the north, where at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913, the atmospheric temperature reached 134°F (56.7°C), the highest ever recorded on Earth. Death Valley also holds the record for the lowest place in the US.

How Big is the Mojave Desert?

The Mojave Desert is the smallest and driest desert in the US which covers 25,000 sq miles (65,000 sq km) of alternating mountain ranges and flat, low-lying basins, mainly in southern California. It is a high desert, lying mostly at more than 1,970 ft (600 m) above sea level.

What animals are in the Mojave Desert?

Greater Roadrunner, Kit fox, and Gila monster are some of the famous animals in Mojave Desert. The spring does support life, including pickleweed, a variety of aquatic insects, and the Badwater snail, another Mojave endemic. Other desert specialists living in the Mojave include the kangaroo rat, greater roadrunner, the desert tortoise, and the deadly Mojave rattlesnake.