Where Is the Sonoran Desert?
The Sonoran Desert is located primarily in Mexico, with over two-thirds of its total area in Baja California and the state of Sonora. In the U.S., most of this vast desert can be found in the southern third of Arizona, with small areas expanding into southeastern California.
Spanning this area is a wide variety of unique Sonoran Desert animals; some you might have come across while walking in your neighborhood and others you may have never been lucky enough to spot—yet! Perhaps, you’re just not sure what you’re looking for, but we can help.
From little creepy crawlies to unlikely large mammals, we’re sharing 10 of the most remarkable animals in the Sonoran Desert along with their most distinctive traits to help in your search next time you’re exploring our beautiful desert home.
10 Unique Animals in the Sonoran Desert
This varied landscape is brimming with an extensive array of wildlife, much of which thrive in the area due to the Sonoran Desert weather. Thanks to the bi-seasonal rainfall pattern we all know and love, the Sonoran Desert weather tends to be warm and lush, attracting animals from all over. Here are just a few of those wondrous Sonoran Desert animals:
- Convergent Ladybirds: Commonly known as the ladybug, the Convergent Ladybird is the most abundant lady beetle spotted on farms and gardens in the desert spring. Adults are easily recognized by their bright orange or red wings, which typically feature 12 black spots. Another common one is the seven-spot ladybird, which is similar but differs in one way…take a guess what that is!
- Desert Ironclad Beetle: This beetle has a tough exoskeleton, and is built to avoid drying out in hot, dry regions. They are a blue-ish gray with rows of bumps along their back that run parallel from head to behind. Once the insect has died, it’s known to leave its empty shells behind. You may have seen these remnants while on a hike!
- Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel: These adorable furry friends like to burrow in loose soil, often under creosote bushes and mesquite trees. They are typically even in coloration, with colors like pinkish cinnamon, gray, or a pale brown. Unlike other squirrels with shorter bushy tails, they have a fairly long, round tail.
- Cactus Mouse: This Sonoran Desert animal is often found in desert areas with cacti, hence the name, but may also be located in the rocky foothills of desert mountain ranges. These cute little critters can be identified by the naked soles on their hind feet and flesh-colored, almost naked tails. Their ears are also nearly hairless and large, and their fur ranges from a gray to cinnamon color.
- Roadrunner: Probably the most famous bird of the Sonoran Desert is the roadrunner. This energetic bird has distinct spotted brown and white feathers, gangly legs, a bushy black-feathered mohawk, and a long beak and tail. They can be seen in the desert, grasslands, and brush, typically on the ground or low perches.
- Gilded Flicker: These are the large-size woodpeckers of the thorny, sun-baked Sonoran Desert. They’re often seen perched high above the ground on the sturdy limbs of giant saguaro. They’re brownish overall with a white patch on their rear. The underside of the tail and wing feathers are typically red for western birds and yellow for eastern.
- Mexican Wolf: Also known as the Lobo, this subspecies of the gray wolf is native to southeastern Arizona, typically located in the desert or in the mountainous woodlands. Contrary to the subspecies’ name, the Mexican wolf’s coat can be buff or rust-colored in addition to gray.
- Bobcat: These big, beautiful kitties are common throughout AZ at all elevations but especially in the desert, rimrock, and chaparral areas, as well as in the outskirts of urban areas where they can scrounge for food. Most bobcats are brownish red or pale brown but vary in different regions.
- Gray Fox: These unlikely Sonoran Desert animals prefer rocky ridges and canyons but also take shelter in a wooded area, open desert, and grasslands. They have a silvery back and face with a red-tinted chest and legs, a white belly and throat, and a lush, black-tipped tail.
- Coati: Among the various animals in the Sonoran Desert, coati, or coatimundi, are some of the most unusual and rarely sighted. They are most often found in oak- and sycamore-lined canyons. They sleep in trees and prefer elevations of 4,500 to 7,500 feet but occasionally travel to lower deserts in winter. This medium-sized mammal is a grizzled-brown color with a long striped tail, long pointed snout, and a flexible nose. They resemble raccoons with their tiny ears and the white spots just above and below their eyes.
Many more native Sonoran Desert animals are all around you, including beetles, lizards, snakes, and larger creatures like mountain lions and javelina. Even winged critters like bats, owls, and hawks call Arizona home. Next time you’re out and about, up in the mountains or down in the desert, look around and see what wondrous wildlife you discover!