Northern cardinals, Cardinalis cardinalis, are year-round residents of brushy desert habitat. They gather in pairs or small groups and feed on seeds, fruit and insect larvae. This fellow showed up in my back yard on a day when I’d put the expensive bird seed, the kind with the dried berries and sunflower and safflower seeds, out in the feeder. I cannot imagine how the birds know when the best seed is in the feeder, but it never fails that the goldfinches, pyrrhuloxia, and even woodpeckers show up within a couple of days after I’ve filled the feeders with the songbird seed and disappear again as soon as that bag is emptied and I’ve refilled the feeders with the less expensive seed.
Once or twice a year a roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus, pops over my backyard fence for a look around, a drink from the birdbath, or simply a chance to pose for pictures. The bird will hang around, hopping from place to place along the fence and fluttering down to race across the yard, for a few hours and then vanish back over the fence, not to be seen again for a good long time.
Roadrunners are native to the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Mohave Deserts, and their diet consists of other animals — snakes, lizards, insects, rodents, and even other birds. They’re quick enough to kill and eat a rattlesnake or a hummingbird, so I suspect that it may be my flower beds as much as my bird bath that draws them in.
There are at least 205 species of owls in the world. The common barn owl, Tyto alba, is resident in temperate regions around the world – anywhere that doesn’t have long periods during the year when the ground is snow-covered. Barn owls generally live in open countryside with scattered trees, and they’ll occupy empty buildings on occasion. The feathers of the facial disk direct sound toward the owl’s ears, and biologists have determined that barn owls are capable of hunting by sound alone. They typically eat small mammals but will also consume smaller birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.