I don’t know about you but as I travel I’m amazed as to how much I don’t know about the things that I thought I knew.
I’ve done articles on state birds and in that I knew that our state bird, the Northern Cardinal, was rather wide spread and also the state bird for several other states. I knew that he is red, she is gray and red, and both have a “top knot” on their head. I knew that they have a unique call, like feeders, and fight their reflection in windows and truck mirrors, as do mocking birds.
As I was in “Honeybee Canyon” here near Tucson, I saw and heard cardinals in the scrubby trees. I knew the call and saw the top knot on their silhouettes against the sky. This is all well and good and fairly routine with what I thought I knew.
Then, upon closer inspection, that dark silhouette was black and it had white patches under its wings as it flew. How can a bird sound and look so much like a cardinal and be colored this way?
Well, there’s your sign. Our Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis Cardinalis) is found all across the country but in that same genus is Cardinalis Sinuatus. This cardinal is of the same song, habits, and body but it is black with white patches on the underside of the wing. After reading upon Southwest birds, I realize there’s always more to know about “Redbirds.”
Another very interesting character here is the “Tarantula Hawk.” Since we don’t have tarantulas in Ohio, we might think the Tarantula Hawk is a bird of prey – wrong. The Tarantula Hawk is an insect and it preys on the tarantula. It’s actually classified as a wasp. They have mud daubers and paper wasps here, as we do at home, but this tarantula hawk wasp is one of several wasps that prey on spiders.
Speaking of spiders, they grow and die in a vast array of dimension. The wolf, trap door, black widow, brown, crab, green lynx spiders are all here. They are about ½ to one inch long and live 1- 3 years.
The tarantula; however, is 3 -4 inch long, hairy, can live for several decades and they have plenty of them here in the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran stretches from Phoenix, AZ down through the Baja Peninsula and Sonora and Sinaloa on the east side of the Gulf of California. It is vast, arid, Saguara sand between the more hospitable Prescott, AZ to the north, Durango to the south, San Diego on the west, and Nogales on the east.
The tarantula is right at home here because it burrows into the sand. That’s where the Tarantula Hawk wasp finds it. The wasp is bluish-black and 45 mm long and has orange wings. It will challenge the tarantula in the hole, coax it out and sting it. This paralyzes the spider and the wasp drags it back into its nest and lays eggs on it. As the eggs hatch, the young wasps feed on the spider.
In the Sonoran Desert there are 23 species of snakes. The venomous types would be: Sonoran coral snake, sidewinder, black-tailed, tiger, Mojave, and western diamond-back rattlesnake. Semi-poisonous are: the lyre snake and night snake. Non-venomous snakes would be: the king, gopher, long-nosed, glossy, whip, coach whip, patch nose, western thread, and sand snakes. That’s a lotta snakes for the hawks, and roadrunners to control.
Cotton-tailed rabbits and striped skunks are found in the desert and in Ohio but the desert also has jack rabbits and spotted skunks.
Everybody’s gotta be somewhere.
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.