Common Birds:Red-tailed hawk: Weighing 2-4 lbs. the Red-Tail is the largest hawk. Armed with keen eyesight, considered 8 times more powerful than that of humans and a wing span that can reach 56 inches, it lives on rodents, rabbits, snakes and lizards. Ravens: Ravens are notorious as a portend of ill fortune in fables. In reality, they pose a grave threat to baby desert tortoises. Highly intelligent, opportunistic birds, ravens feed on rodents, carrion and baby desert tortoises. More development has led to an increase in trash and a raven population explosion. Raven left and Red Tailed Hawk right by Mojave Mama Cactus wren: Known for usurping the nests and removing the eggs of other birds,the Catcus Wren is found in the southern areas of California and Nevada and the central sections of Texas and Mexico. Roadrunner: Runs upwards of 15 miles per hour and dines on lizards and snakes. It can be heard “cooing” in the desert bush and chaparral where it resides. Unique “zyodactyl” feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, make it stand out among other bird species. Golden eagle: Ranges from sea level to several thousand feet, preying upon rodents and sometimes baby tortoises. More closely related to the Red-tailed Hawk than the Bald Eagle, the Golden Eagle often returns to the same nest annually, reaching maturity at approximately 5 years of age.
MammalsThe vertebrate class with hair or “fur” which helps keep them warm-blooded, maintaining a near constant body temperature. Along with bats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, mule deer, bobcats and jackrabbits are just some of the Mojave residents. Bighorn Sheep: Ovis Canadensis is one of the most regal and resilient animals in the Mojave with an unsurpassable climbing ability. Traversing rocky terrain with ease and surviving on limited water, bighorn are able to evade most predators. Bighorn sheep glean maximum nutritive value from plants of marginal quality through a complex nine-stage digestive system. Bighorn have a livespan of of 10-15 years. Black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) are among the most commonly seen of desert mammals. Jackrabbits are larger and leaner than resident cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.) with longer legs and ears. A significant amount of blood flows through the many blood vessels of a jackrabbit’s ears, which helps dissipate heat, an important adaptation in the desert. Jackrabbits are mainly nocturnal and may be seen in large numbers by the side of the road at dusk. However, they are easily startled and will frequently bolt out from under bushes where they spend the daylight hours resting. Female jackrabbits are larger than male, a condition which is not common in mammals. Coyote (Canis latrans) is another frequently seen desert mammal. One of four members of the dog family (Canidae) found within the Preserve, coyotes in the desert are significantly smaller and are lighter in color than those living in other habitats. Although mainly carnivores, coyotes may eat plants, and this adaptability has contributed to their survival in the face of habitat destruction. Although largely nocturnal, coyotes may be seen during the day. Coyotes, the most vocal of the Mojave mammals, have a complex vocabulary which includes the distinctive and legendary howl call. Bats: (Order Chiroptera), The only mammals with true wings capable of powered flight. Scientists theorize that bats evolved from gliding ancestors, whereas birds, from bipedal creatures that ran quickly along the ground. Unlike birds, bat wings are supported by the arm and four elongated fingers of the hand. Bats rely on echolocation in catching prey; the use of high-frequency sound in determining the location of objects. http://deathvalleyjim.com/california-leaf-nosed-bat-macrotus-californicus/
Horny Toad – Desert Horned Lizard: This species of lizard has a distinctive flat body with one row of fringe scales down the sides. They have one row of slightly enlarged pointed scales on each side of the throat. These prevent snakes from swallowing them. Colors can vary and generally blend in with the color of the surrounding soil. Desert horned lizards prey primarily on invertebrates, such as red harvester ants, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, worms, flies,lady bugs, meal worms and some plant material. They can often be found in the vicinity of ant hills, where they sit and wait for ants to pass by. When they find an area of soft sand, they usually shake themselves vigorously, throwing sand over their backs and leaving only their head exposed. This allows them to hide from predators and await prey.
Desert Tortoise:Desert Iguana: a blunt-nosed, medium-sized lizard which grows to (24 in) including the tail. They are pale gray-tan to cream in color with a light brown reticulated pattern on their backs and sides. Down the center of the back is a row of slightly-enlarged, keeled dorsal scales that become slightly larger as you move down the back. The reticulated pattern gives way to brown spots near the back legs, turning into stripes along the tail. The tail is usually around 1½ times longer than the body from snout to vent. They can withstand high temperatures and are out and about after other lizards have retreated into their burrows. They burrow extensively and if threatened will scamper into a shrub and go quickly down a burrow. Their burrows are usually dug in the sand under bushes like the creosote, or they use burrows of kit foxes and desert tortoises. Desert iguanas are primarily herbivorous, eating buds, fruits and leaves of many annual and perennial plants. They are especially attracted to the yellow flowers of the creosote bush.
Chuckwalla:(Sauromalus obesus) Loose skin, granular scales, and a distinctive paunch, Chuckwallas are the second largest lizard in the US next to the Gila Monster. Fond of yellow flowers, such as those found on brittle bush, 10-16 inch chuckwallas are observed along lava flows and rocky areas throughout the preserve. During breeding season, adults will develop a pinkish hue. Elusive and evasive, chuckwallas can foil predators by trapping themselves in crevices through inflating their bodies.
Snakes are the most numerous reptile found within the preserve. They descended from a four-legged terrestrial ancestor, and a few, such as boas, retain skeletal vestiges of hind legs. Lacking eyelids, snakes are unable to blink or close their eyes. A brille or transparent scale acts like a contact lens and serves to protect the eye. All snakes also lack external ear openings and tympanums (eardrums), enabling them to hear only low frequency seismic vibrations. Snakes have unique skulls designed so that they can unhinge their jaws, and swallow prey several times larger than their head. The majority of snakes lay eggs, although some such as the rosy boa, bear live young. Common Kingsnake:(Lampropeltis getulas) Although Mojave has its share of venomous snakes, the kingsnake is nonpoisonous. Dark brown or black with bands of yellow and white, it has a wide range and is found in disparate areas from southern New Jersey to the mainland of Mexico. Considered an opportunistic feeder, it eats lizards, birds, mammals, frogs and other snakes including rattlers like the one below in Panamint.