Mourning Doves are building their nest

It is spring and the male mourning dove labors hard to set up his territory.   When this male bird is ready to mate, he circles in a courtship flight and chases other doves from the area he desires to nest.

To attract a female mourning dove, this determined handsome bird perches in an open area and sings a “passionate” coo sound that is louder than his usual call.

difference of male and female doves
Male Mourning Dove

The Coooo bird call is mostly voiced by the male mourning dove and not the female. Once he has charmed a mate, the doves pair for life.

To hear the dove’s coooOOO sound, click on the short YouTube video below:

Doves mate primarily from spring to fall but are able to mate year round and produce several clutches of young.  These love birds are tranquil and elegant. 
doves birds mate
Mourning Doves seem to be the true love birds
  **Unfortunately, the Mourning Dove Nest can hardly be called a “nest” – generally these beautiful birds just throw a few twigs somewhere and begin setting up their flimsy nest.
tan bird with spots
dove nest on our porch

The nest is constructed over the course of 2-4 days with the male and female mourning doves working together.

bird nest with 2 eggs
mourning dove nest with 2 white eggs

With a hanging basket on our porch, it didn’t take long before a couple of mourning doves took up residence.  AKA Turtle Doves have been known to reuse the same nest over and over. Commonly raising 2 – 3 broods per season.  Researchers found that the basics for constructing the bird nest are mainly instinctive, but birds can improve their skills with experience.

flimsy bird nest with twigs and white eggs
when do the 2 dove eggs hatch?

So, you spotted a dove’s nest with two milky white eggs.  When will the dove eggs hatch?  The incubation period for Mourning Dove eggs is 14-15 days. Then another 2 weeks for the squabs to leave the nest.

One white egg is laid in the evening, and the female dove lays the second egg in the morning.

dove bird nest two eggs
Mourning Dove’s Nest with 2 white eggs

The day shift is handled by the male dove and the female incubate during the night shift.  If you do not see the doves change shifts, it can seem that the same dove has been on the nest the entire time. 

***In our experience, we have seen the male and female doves change places around sunrise and sunset.

The dove chick, “hatchling”, squab pictured below is one day old.  Both eyes on the newborn bird are closed.

one day old baby bird
a newborn baby dove is called a squab
two baby birds in a nest
2 to 3 day old dove newborn

Males and female doves work together to feed their newborns crop milk or “pigeon milk” for the first few days of their life. The dove’s Crop Milk is rich in fat and protein.  Adult mourning doves secrete the milk and regurgitate it to their little ones.

The dove parent opens its mouth wide permitting the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food.

mourning dove in the nest
The Male dove daddy caring for his squab

How do you tell if the male or female dove is in the nest?

With a trained eye you will be able to tell the difference.  Male Mourning Doves have a bluish crown and nape, and a rose wash to the throat and breast.  The crown and nape of the female dove is grayish brown, and the throat and breast has a brown or tan wash.

dove nest with 3 birds
female mourning dove with her squabs
Mourning Dove Nestlings will fledge in about 12-14 days. The bird parents continue to care for the dove fledglings for about another 16-20 days.

**Please NOTE:   Doves are more flighty than other birds and may abandon the eggs or nest if you bother them too much.

Advertisements

Fun description of a tenacious Bird of Prey…. the Cooper’s Hawk !!

Cooper’s Hawks are magnificent and ominous as they perch in a hidden location and watch for prey.  Occasionally, we see this raptor’s thick legs with large yellow talons clasped to a branch or fence.  The Cooper’s Hawk belongs to the genus Accipiter and is about the same size as a crow.

hawk with yellow eyes
Young Cooper’s Hawk with yellow eyes

In 1828, this hawk species was named after William Cooper, a New York scientist.  The scientific name for hawks is Falconidae.  All hawks are classified as birds of prey and commonly called raptors.  The term raptor means to take by force or to seize.

bird of prey hawk
Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk has yellow eyes

First year juvenile Cooper’s Hawks have yellow eyes and uniformly brown backs and brown vertical stripes on their breasts as pictured above.  These determined raptors are medium sized birds of prey that hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch.

hawk bird of prey
Adult Cooper’s Hawk with red eyes

Note the tail of the Cooper’s Hawk;  a rounded, long tail crossed by several dark lines with a distinct white band on the tip.

bird of prey mantling
bird of prey mantling

The above photo shows a juvenile Cooper’s mantling.  What is mantling?   Mantling is when birds of prey hunch their shoulders and spread their wings over a kill to keep it hidden from other predators.

hawk bird with red eyes
Cooper’s Hawk talons – claws

Check out those claws, talons!  There are four, sharp talons on each of the hawk’s feet.  How strong are Cooper’s Hawks talons?  The PSI (pounds per square inch) is 150-200 pounds.  An average healthy man has a PSI of 110.  According to the University of Michigan, the larger the bird the stronger the talons.  Raptor’s talons puncture their prey hard; usually stabbing a vital organ causing the animal’s rapid death.

The talons are opened by leg muscles and will automatically close when the hawk impacts an object; example…. animal or perch.  It is a reflex!

hawk bird with red eyes
Adult Cooper’s Hawk

This hawk eats mostly birds, but will also capture mammals including squirrels and rabbits.  The beak of a raptor bird is sharp and resembles the action of scissors.

birds with red eyes
red orange eyes of Adult Cooper’s Hawk

The older adult Cooper’s Hawks have tan barring on the breast, dark red-orange eyes and a dark cap on the head, like a flat top.

These raptors have excellent vision that contain 5 times the sensory cells per millimeter of the retina than us humans. How do these birds see?  Hawks refract certain wavelengths of light with the colored oils in their eyes.

bird of prey in arizona
Mature Cooper’s Hawk with Red eyes

Certain colors are intensified for the hawk at the expense of others.  The light filtration of the hawk’s eyes make the browns and grays of typical prey items stand out against the filtered greens.

Cooper’s Hawks build their nest in trees that average 25-50 feet high.  Southern Arizona contains several mountain ranges that host large areas of undisturbed forest which these raptors prefer.

 

Migrating birds fly off course – Brown Pelicans in the desert?

We were privileged to document the noble Brown Pelican landing at Lakeside Park in Tucson. This impressive sea-bird extended its wings (almost 8′ wingspan) to brake before alighting on the water.

migrating birds in arizona
brown pelican in Tucson Arizona

Various migratory birds wind up off course due to bad weather and end up in Arizona lakes.

birds off course in arizona
pair of pelicans at Lakeside Park

Brown Pelicans have an extremely long bill with a large pouch attached on the lower half.  The pelicans pouch is used to catch fish.

endangered birds in arizona
Brown Pelicans have a long bill
Lakeside Park migratory birds
Pelicans in the Sonoran Desert

According to the LA Times, these odd looking large Brown Pelicans were nearly driven to extinction because of abuse from hunters and fishermen.

Hunters coveted its plumage and commercial fishermen believed pelicans were gobbling too many fish. These sea birds were also hurt by the effects of a chemical pesticide, DDT.  It is no wonder brown pelicans were placed on the federal endangered species list.

Louisiana’s state bird is the Brown Pelican.  This bird started to make a recovery, only to suffer again from the coastal damage incurred from the oil spills.

Louisiana state bird pelican
Brown Pelicans damaged by the oil spill

During the oil spill in 2010, this whole area was covered with oil, said P.J. Hahn, a coastal zone director in Louisiana.  The brown pelican was particularly at risk because it dives beneath the water’s surface to forage.

Dedicated teams worked diligently to save the brown pelicans after the massive oil spill.

brown pelican bird
Volunteers helping the Brown Pelican during an oil spill

(above photo courtesy of http://www.latimes.com/  Los Angeles Times)

Are Brown Pelicans, still on the endangered species list?

The Brown Pelican finally came off the endangered species list in 2009.   Now, there is a growing fear history could repeat itself because there is not enough habitat for the birds to nest.

migratory birds in the desert
pair of brown pelicans in Arizona

One of the most prominent characteristics to observe for this large pelican, also called the California Brown Pelican, is the way it forages for food.  It dives beneath the water surface.  Pelicans simply catch the fish in their pouch, drain the water out and swallow the fish immediately.

pelicans in the desert
Brown Pelican plunge for fish
sea birds in arizona
Large pouch of the Brown Pelican bird

Watching the Pelicans effortlessly fly, gallantly dive, and methodically fish was one of the highlights of our year!

These Sea Birds can facilely glide low over the water; so low their wingtips often brush the waves – with occasional slow, powerful wing beats to gain speed.

Brown pelicans in the desert
Lakeside Park migrating birds – pelicans

Brown Pelican birds are the only pelican to plunge dive to catch their prey, other species of pelicans fish from the surface of the water.

wing span of brown pelican bird
Brown Pelican’s wing span can reach 7 feet

They can be seen performing a surface plunge from as high as 20 meters to catch their prey!

pelican birds in tucson phoenix
Brown Pelican dives to collect fish

Click below to watch a short video of Brown Pelicans diving for fish:

In flight, the Brown Pelicans hold their head back on their shoulders and rest their bill on their folded neck.

pelicans in tucson lakes - lakeside
Brown Pelican amazing flight and wing span

Pairs of Brown Pelicans are monogamous for a single season but the pair bond extends only to the nesting area; away from the nest, mates are independent.

Pelicans blown off course in Tucson
Brown Pelicans in Arizona

From the fossil record, it is known that pelicans have been around for over 40 million years.  Brown Pelicans live on both coasts in the United States.

Lakeside Park pelican heron egret Arizona
Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great White Egret

Nesting and roosting birds are very sensitive to human disturbance, load noises from boats etc…  Nest disturbance is the biggest reason for a bird to abandon its nest. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal to tamper with, or destroy active nests of native wild birds. If there are eggs or babies – you cannot touch the nest or harass the birds in any way.

Brown Pelicans reach sexual maturity at 3-5 years of age.  Adult Brown Pelicans have few natural predators.

migrating birds in Arizona
Great Blue Heron and Brown Pelican at Lakeside Park

Quick Brown Pelican Facts:

  • Young pelicans feed by sticking their bills into their parents’ throats
  • Pelicans build large nest structures on the ground, in trees, or on vegetation
  • The nesting season can extend from January through October
  • Brown pelicans normally lay three eggs and the adults share incubation duties
  • They can dive from 60 feet in the air
  • Brown pelicans can live up to 40 years old
  • A pelican’s throat pouch can hold over 2 gallons of water

If you see Brown Pelicans in Arizona PLEASE Call AZ Game and Fish at 520-290-9453 and let them know.

Cormorants, crested ducks, cottonwood trees and more… at Fort Lowell Park in Arizona

Our Arizona travels brought us not only to a gentle bird refuge; but the historical Fort Lowell Park in Tucson.  This wildlife oasis streaming with ducks, cormorants, turtles and dragonflies was an United States Army post from 1873 till 1891.

City of Tucson Ft Lowell historic park
Fort Lowell’s wildlife pond in AZ

The most prominent building at Fort Lowell was the hospital, the adobe remnants still stand under a protective structure.

Arizona parks for wildlife, bird watching
Tucson’s historic Ft Lowell in 1900

Ft. Lowell lay in ruins for numerous years. The City of Tucson eventually converted the bulk of the former post into Old Fort Lowell Park, which features ball fields, tennis and racquetball courts, a large public swimming pool, and the Fort Lowell Museum dedicated to its days as an active military installation.

**This is a superb choice if you are looking for Tucson activities.

Tucson Parks with history and wildlife birds
adobe remains of Fort Lowell military installation

A lane lined with cottonwood trees, aptly named Cottonwood Lane, glorified the area in front of the officer’s houses.

Historic Cottonwood Lane in Tucson Arizona
large Cottonwood Tree at Ft Lowell Park

Following World War II, the Fort Lowell area grew into a small village which the predominantly Mexican local residents called El Fuerte.

The Fort Lowell Museum is located in the reconstructed Commanding Officer’s quarters.

Stroll from the remains of the Ft Lowell Hospital towards the wildlife pond to enjoy crested ducks with the latest updos.

ducks with hair on their head in Tucson
Brown colored Crested Duck

Catch a glimpse as a pigeon tries to remember the secret code to get passed the duck security.

Fort Lowell park in Tucson, AZ
pigeon stand off with ducks

Dedicated community members adopted Fort Lowell Park to keep it clean and build a protected area for birds.

During our visit we spoke with some of the impressive volunteers with “Friends of Fort Lowell Park” as they were planting trees and tidying up the nesting area.

Tucson Arizona wildlife park with water
nesting area created by Friends of Fort Lowell Park

A regal Neotropic Cormorant bird was standing by to make sure we didn’t decide to jump in and go swimming.

bird watching parks in Tucson Arizona
neotropic cormorants at Ft Lowell Park

Many species of cormorants make a characteristic half-jump as they dive and under water cormorants propel themselves with their feet.

wildlife oasis park in Tucson Arizona desert
community effort at Fort Lowell Park

Thanks to the collaboration of The Friends of Fort Lowell Park and Tucson Parks and Recreation for giving residents and guests a place to enjoy outdoor activities and wildlife in the Sonoran Desert.

tennis handball swimming park in the Arizona desert
Parks to visit in Tucson – Ft Lowell Park

Local historians have found evidence that Fort Lowell Park sits on a site endowed with a continuous supply of underground water and has been occupied by humans since ancient times.

Great Blue Heron in AZ – Facts and pictures about this Wading Bird

The Great Blue Heron is sometimes seen flapping casually over the desert. It hunts in typical heron fashion; standing by the water’s edge to skewer fish or clinch other aquatic creatures.

Ardea herodias,  North American herons
Great Blue Heron in Tucson Arizona, Ardea herodias

This towering bird is the most common and largest of North American herons. The Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, is in the family, Ardeidae.

grey blue wading birds Arizona
Great Blue Heron bird fishing

This wading bird is found as far north as the southern Canadian provinces.  ** From the southern United States southwards and on the Pacific coast,  Great Blue Herons are year round residents.

Arizona desert birds by water
Great Blue Heron, tallest Heron bird

As a rule, Great Blue Herons feed while standing still or leisurely wading in shallow water; it strikes at small fish swimming by with its spear-like bill.

blue heron bird exhibit
Great Blue Heron exhibit at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

You will find Great Blue Herons close to bodies of water and routinely nesting in bushes or trees.

AZ tall Wading birds with blue gray feathers
Great Blue Heron bird

These stately herons are expert fishers. Great Blues capture their prey by walking slowly, or standing still for long periods of time and waiting for fish to come within range of their long necks and blade-like bills.  Talk about patience!

It is not uncommon for a heron to make a 20 or even 30 mile round trip in its quest for a worthy foraging site.

tall wading birds in Arizona Desert
Great Blue Heron at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson

A Great Blue Heron’s deathblow is delivered with a quick thrust of their sharp bill, and then the prey is swallowed whole. Though these birds are best known as fishers;  mice and frogs are also part of their diet.

  • How tall is a Great Blue Heron?  Their height is 3.5 to 4.5 ft  (1.2 to 1.4 meters).
  • What is the Great Blue Heron’s wingspan?  Up to 6.7 ft  (2 meters).
grey birds that look like dinosaurs
wingspan of the Great Blue Heron

How fast can the Great Blue Heron Fly?  This large heron can cruise at 20-30 miles per hour.  (32 to 48 kilometers)

fishing birds flying in Arizona
wing span of the Great Blue Heron

The mature Great Blue Heron has plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season.

Below is a short,  incredible video of a deer with a Great Blue Heron.

A heron’s bill is dull yellow, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season.  Their lower legs which are gray will also become orange at the start of the breeding season.

wading bird with long legs and gray feathers
older Great Blue Heron bird with long feathers

Young Great Blue Herons are duller in color, with a blackish-gray crown, and the pattern on the flank only weakly defined; the young herons have no plumes, and the bill is dull gray-yellow.

Great Blue Herons breed in colonies. The male chooses the nest site and displays to attract a female.

pair of heron birds  in Arizona
Male and Female Great Blue Herons with orange bill for breeding season

Great Blue Herons prefer their nest site in a tree 20 to 60 feet above the ground, although shrubs are sometimes used.  The female lays 2 to 7 eggs in a platform made of sticks.

Great Blue Heron in a nest of sticks
nest of the Great Blue Heron

The eggs, which are protected and incubated by both parents, hatch in 25 to 30 days. Herons feed their young regurgitated matter.  Chicks can survive on their own by about two months of age.

large heron wading bird
a young Great Blue Heron in Tucson Arizona

These dignified birds have exemplary eye sight and that is how they locate their food.  Great Blue Herons feed at the water’s edge both day and night; typically dawn and dusk.

White-winged Doves pollinate Giant Saguaro Cacti

An essential bird pollinator and seed dispenser for the saguaro cactus plant is the white-winged dove.

The white-winged dove, Zenaida asiatica, is a large grayish brown stout bird with the renowned white stripe on their wings.  This bird’s distinctive white wing bars are visible at rest and in flight.

birds with white tip on wings
White winged dove in the desert

The dove sexes look much the same, but the young white wings have a duller and grayer plumage than adults.

white winged dove baby bird
juvenile white winged dove has brown eyes and no blue ring

Juvenile white-winged doves have no blue orbital ring and their legs are brighter pinkish red. These young doves also have brown eyes instead of the adult bird red eyes.

White winged Dove

Adult white-winged doves have a patch of blue, featherless skin around each crimson red eye.

adult male dove bird with red eyes
Male White Winged dove – red eyes w blue ring

Adult males and females look-alike; except male doves are larger in size along with an iridescent sheen on their head and neck.

male white winged dove arizona birds
Male doves puff their chest to show dominance

The white-winged males show various dominant behaviors.  He may crow around.  This means the male dove puffs his chest up and walks around making cooing noises and bobbing his head up and down.

white winged doves in the desert
Male and female doves with red eyes and blue ring

The female white-winged birds don’t usually exhibit this commanding behavior.

dove birds in Arizona at birdfeeder
white winged dove’s white stripe

White-winged doves feed on a variety of seeds, grains, and cactus fruit.  The doves occurring in the Sonoran Desert rely heavily on the pollen, nectar and red fruit of the saguaro cactus, Carnegeia gigantea, for nutrition and water.

white winged dove bird feathers
dove with white tail tip feathers

In the photos above and below you can plainly see this bird’s white tail tips.

bird with white feathers on tail
white winged dove birds in the desert

Male doves seek areas with easy access to food and water; they will defend their breeding territories against intruders and competitors.

These tenacious birds can fly 25 or more miles to find water!

dove bird with white stripe
wing span of white winged dove

Their lifespan in the wild is about 10-15 years.  It is routine for white-winged dove pairs and families to stay together for life.

dove birds in the desert arizona birds
White winged dove tail and wings

The white-winged dove has a bold white band that appears as a brilliant white crescent when flying.

white stripe of the dove bird in arizona
white bar of the White winged dove

When the dove’s wings are closed, this area looks like a white bar on the lower edge of the wing.

arizona desert dove at bird feeder
tenacious birds – white winged doves

In the sweltering desert, white-winged doves are able to draw needed moisture from saguaro cactus fruit.

saguaro cactus with bird pollinating
White winged dove eats Saguaro cactus fruit
birds live on saguaro cactus flowers and fruit
white winged dove with saguaro cactus fruit

White-winged doves are a familiar sight at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. The doves migrate to the desert when the saguaro cactus are blooming.  These birds nourish themselves on the buffet of saguaro cactus blossoms and fruit.

Interesting Saguaro Cactus Facts

One of Arizona’s most majestic, lovable desert cactus plants is the Saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea. Being aware of the saguaro’s history and incredible internal design, it is an honor to walk close to the Giant Saguaro that is over 150 years old and standing tall.

Sonoran Desert cactus tall
Giant Saguaro Cactus of Arizona

These desert cacti are large, tree-like columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age.

Saguaro Cactus can not tolerate freezing temperatures in the winter and this is what limits their range.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro FACTS:  Saguaros are a very slow growing cactus.  A 10 year old plant might only be 2 inches tall.

How tall can a Saguaro Cactus grow?  It can grow 40 to 60 feet tall.

Arizona Saguaro Giant Cactus
Saguaro Cactus on Mica Mountain
60 foot Saguaro Cactus plant
A Tall Saguaro Cactus

Below are Saguaro cacti at the bottom of Mica Mountain in Saguaro National Park.

Mica Mountain Saguaro National Park

Saguaro cactus roots are only 4-6 inches deep and travel out as far from the plant as it is tall. There is one deep tap root that extends down into the ground.

A Saguaro Cactus can gather enough water through its remarkable root system, during a significant rain, to last a year!

holes in big cactus
Holes in Saguaro Cactus for birds nest

Why are there holes in the Saguaro Cactus?  The gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker excavate nest cavities inside the saguaro’s pulpy flesh.

Birds nesting in the Arizona Saguaro Cactus

Cactus Wrens are common birds that live in the holes (nests) of the Saguaro Cactus.

red fruit of cactus
Saguaro Cactus Flowers bloom, then turn to fruit

When a saguaro reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce flowers.

white flower on cactus arizona
Saguaro cactus Bloom – Flower

A Saguaro can only be fertilized from a different cactus – cross pollination.  Only a few bloom each night awaiting to be pollinated and close by late morning.

pollinated cactus flower to fruit
red fruit on Saguaro Cactus
dead saguaro cactus ribs
A living and dead Saguaro Cactus.

Because the major part of a desert saguaro cactus is made up of water, an adult plant may weigh 6 tons or more. This tremendous weight is supported by a circular skeleton of inter-connected, woody ribs.

After the saguaro dies its wood ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture.  The holes that birds nested in are called saguaro boots.

holes in cactus in Arizona
Saguaro Boot used by Native American

Native Americans used saguaro boots as water containers.

200 year old tall saguaro cactus
Saguaro Cactus next to a biker to compare the size

Saguaro branches normally begin to appear when the cactus reaches 50 to 70 years of age.

The average life span of a saguaro is approximately 175 years of age.  Experts have estimated that a Saguaro Cactus with more than 5 arms can be 200 years old.

nurse tree for saguaro cactus
Yellow Palo Verde Tree is a nurse tree

Young saguaro cacti can be very hard to find because they grow under the protection of a “nurse tree”.  The nurse tree releases nitrogen in the soil which the Saguaros and other desert cacti use to grow healthy and strong.

Saguaros sometimes grow in odd shapes or forms. The growing tip of the cactus occasionally produces a fan-like form which is referred to as crested or cristate.

rare arizona cactus
Cristate Saguaro Cactus

These crested saguaro cacti, Carnegia gigantea forma cristata, are rare.  Biologists are not sure why these Saguaros grow this fan-like shape.

Fan like shaped cactus rare
Crested, Cristate, Fan-like Saguaro Cactus from AZ
crested cristate cactus in Tucson Phoenix
rare Saguaro in Tucson

Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of  The Arizona Saguaro Cactus. It is illegal to harm a Saguaro in Arizona. During building or construction, precautions must be taken to move every saguaro that may be affected.

Red Salvia is # 3 – in the top Ten Heat Resistant plants for the Arizona garden

Multitudes of people love Salvia.  These Salvia plants, better known as Sage or SCARLET sage, are indigenous to nearly all continents.

Most varieties of Salvia are heat resistant and drought tolerant along with providing colorful flowers that bloom lavishly.

Salvia varieties of sage
Red Salvia sage in pots, containers
drought tolerant red salvia
Red Sage, Scarlet Sage plants in containers

This plant is easy to grow and Salvias furnish over 900 species; offering amazing potential for your garden!  The lush green leaves of the Salvia plant are so attractive that this Sage looks handsome even when not in bloom.

heat tolerant plant salvia
growing salvia

Salvia is a member of the Lamiaceae or Labiatae family; the MINT family.  Hot temperatures are a considerable concern for our Arizona gardens and Red Salvia loves the heat!

Salvia splendens, Salvia coccinea, Salvia darcyi, Red Salvia, or commonly referred to as Scarlet Sage are hardy, impressive plants and our favorite choice because of their lovely red blooms.   These Red Salvia are not edible like the sage in your kitchen.

red salvia in container
growing Salvia in a pot

Like most Salvia, the fragrant foliage is deer and small critter-resistant.  One of our Scarlet Sage, RED SALVIA, gardens is growing in the open desert and available to all wildlife.  In the past several years, we can report that our desert sage was devoured 1 time by JAVELINA but has been left alone ever since.  Most likely the Salvia made them ill.

red salvia darci
red salvia is a heat resistant plant

A location with full sun is the best choice for most salvia varieties but some are shade tolerant.  Our Salvia located in part shade did not make it through the winter; on the other hand, the salvia plants in sunny locations come back year after year.

squirrel proof plants salvia
Salvia sage plants are critter proof

When the flowers are spent the Salvia will self-sow its seeds! Take a look at the photo below. No worries about Salvia being intrusive:  you can easily transplant the seedlings or share them with friends.  Simply pull up your unwanted plants.

baby salvia seedlings
salvia seeds itself

Sometimes called Autumn Sage, Red Salvia blooms continually from spring through fall. A garden plant “must have” that is perennial and hardy in Tucson and Phoenix.

Arizona red salvia in a pot
growing salvia in containers

Can you grow Salvia in pots and containers?  Absolutely! We have several different pots with gorgeous Scarlet Sage blooming throughout the yard.  Our favorite color of Salvia for our garden is red but many cultivars offer pastel blooms such as pinks and blues.

The main difference with growing Salvia in containers is:  1)  the plants need to be watered more often      2)  several of the small shrubs needed replaced after winter

red salvia in Arizona
salvia, Scarlet Sage plants in containers

The abundant showy flowers produce a good amount of nectar making them attractive to hummingbirds and some people have named salvia: HUMMINGBIRD SAGE.

red salvia plant seeds for finches
salvia plants attract small birds

Goldfinches and other birds visit the Salvia plant to pick out the tiny brown seeds hidden in the calyces.

garden plants to attract birds
birds eat salvia seeds

Deadheading Salvia encourages more blooms and more birds!  It can be so fun watching the Goldfinches pick out the seeds.  Salvia plants can get pretty tall and unshapely.  Prune the salvia stalks back for fresh growth and new blooms!  We trim often to keep a fuller shrub and nice shape.

red salvia desert garden plant
salvia, Red Hot Sally Sage varieties
colors of salvia heat resistant plants
red and blue salvia plants

Hardy Salvia has been a jewel in our garden and definitely worth a try. 🙂

desert plant with red flowers
Red Salvia, Salvia darcyi

 

Is Agua Caliente Park and natural spring drying up? (part 3 of 3)

As many of you know, Agua Caliente Park is experiencing the full force of the extended drought and change in the water table level.

There were originally two springs at Agua Caliente, one a “Hot Spring” and the other a “Cold Spring”.  The two springs produced a water flow of up to 500 gallons per minute.

Agua Caliente’s springs were blasted in the mid-1930’s reducing the water flow to 150 – 300 gallons per minute.  The spring was again blasted in the early 1960’s which cut the water flow down to 100 to 125 gallons per minute!

Agua Caliente Spring in Tucson
the water level is low at Agua Caliente Pond

During Tucson’s drought of 2003-4, the water flow from Agua Caliente’s spring fell as low as 14 gallons per minute.  Pima County Parks and Recreation put in a supplemental well.   Arizona Department of Water Resources limits the water withdrawal to 55,000 gallons of supplemental well water for the pond each day.

low water levels in the pond
is Agua Caliente drying up?

The exposed mud at the park is due to increasing natural sedimentation in the pond, declining spring flow from the ongoing drought, and insufficient recharge from rainfall.

Pima County is working to stabilize Agua Caliente’s pond system and minimized ecological impacts to the system.

is Agua Caliente Spring drying up
warning signs for the exposed areas

Evaporation from the pond surface and transpiration from the cattails and palm trees growing around Agua Caliente’s pond contribute to extra water loss.

Tucson's natural spring is dry?
Agua Caliente streams are dry

Analysis is ongoing for the framework for the long-term actions to address the low water conditions at Agua Caliente.

Over the years, the water holding capacity of the pond has changed.  Renovations will need installation of some type of liner system.  Contouring the pond is a main focus for long-term stability.

RECENT HEAVY RAINS !!  Sept 2013

natural spring and pond in Tucson
heavy rains have helped raise the water levels
wading birds at Agua Caliente in Tucson
Great Blue Herons enjoying the rains and abundant cattails
Agua Caliente Park has an abundance of wildlife
Mud and Painted turtles are still happy basking in the sun

This is a complex issue that needs the public’s understanding and acceptance as Tucson gives new life to the aging historical pond.

Pima County hopes to include improvements to Agua Caliente Park in the next bond election.

For more interesting information about Agua Caliente in Tucson see the links below:

http://tjsgarden.com/2013/08/16/agua-caliente-history-natural-spring-park-tucson-az/

http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/07/best-picnics-family-time-perfect-weddings-tucson-spring-park/

The best picnics, family time and perfect weddings at Agua Caliente Spring – (part 2 of 3)

We make it a point to take visitors to Agua Caliente Park.  This is an amazing lagoon; a get away from the prickly pear cacti and saguaros. It’s hard to tell that you’re even in Tucson. Agua Caliente presents you with an abundance of mature shade trees and lush backgrounds for picnics, weddings and even Plein-Air paintings.

family and picnics in the park
one of the best locations for picnics

Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park has a natural hot spring that flows through faults between gneissic rock and has been a long-inhabited settlement.

  • What is gneissic rock?   This type of rock has minerals arranged into layers which seem to be bands that alternate darker and lighter colors. The banding is developed under high temperature and pressure conditions.

Ok now, is Agua Caliente a park, a lake, or a wildlife habitat?  Well this natural spring is a bit of everything!  Pack a picnic, hang out and be sure to bring a camera.

park with water in Tucson, AZ
Gallery and Tucson Audubon in the historic ranch house

If you enjoy bird watching then Agua Caliente Park is worth a visit.  The Tucson Audubon Society is housed in the original Ranch home.

historic house in Tucson
the original Ranch House at Agua Caliente Park

Take a look inside this historic building and enjoy the gift shop and gallery.

Hohokam historical sites
Agua Caliente natural spring in Arizona

The eccentricity of the mountains and mature palm trees are reflected with vibrant color in the water.

Here you can picnic at a 101 acre aquatic / riparian habitat surrounded by the Sonoran Desert.

wildlife parks in Tucson, Arizona
ducks at Agua Caliente Park

At Agua Caliente you will see a variety of wildlife including herons, Arizona turtles and a variety of ducks.

The natural spring flow fluctuates at various times during the year due to drought. While visiting Agua Caliente you many see the lower ponds dry.

parks for picnics and rentals
Picnics, walking trails and wildlife are enjoyed at Agua Caliente

Relax on a bench and watch dozens of turtles sunning themselves.  While visiting the park it feels like we arrived in some exotic place hidden in the Sonoran Desert.

Arizona turtles
turtles at Agua Caliente

The ducks, birds and turtles entertain us at our picnic table while we wait for the Tucson sunsets.

Tucson park for wedding rental and portraits
A romantic park and perfect wedding background

It is a wonderful reprieve from the heat and definitely not what you would expect to find in Tucson, Arizona.

family picnics by the lake at Agua Caliente in Tucson
many picnic tables and locations to choose from

Adding to its charm, professional photographers frequent Agua Caliente with clients who want a stunning background.

There is a huge mesquite tree east of the ranch house estimated to be over 250 years old!

mesquite tree at Agua Caliente in Tucson
The Old Mesquite tree of Agua Caliente is supported by brick columns and steel poles

To sustain this elderly mesquite tree, Agua Caliente’s administration use brick columns and steel poles to support the enormous branches.

Agua Caliente Mesquite Tree
famous Mesquite Tree estimated over 250 years old

Agua Caliente Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This extreme east Tucson park is truly an oasis in the desert and is highly recommended for you, your family and friends.

To learn the history of Agua Caliente see my article:  http://tjsgarden.com/2013/08/16/agua-caliente-history-natural-spring-park-tucson-az/

Is Agua Caliente drying up?  : http://tjsgarden.com/2013/09/12/agua-caliente-park-spring-drying-up-tucson/


Curve-billed Thrasher – AZ desert birds with personality!

With their long tails, melodious songs and zesty personalities, the Curve-billed Thrasher is one of my favorite Arizona birds.

bird that bounces around and pounds the ground
Curve Billed Thrasher is a confident desert bird

Each bird possesses its own charisma.  And sing…?  Oh yes this bird can sing!

The Curve-billed Thrasher, Toxostoma curvirostre,  is a common bird species of the Sonoran Desert.

Order: Passeriformes
Family: Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

tucson bird digs the ground
curve billed thrasher bird arizona, red eyes

These desert birds are grayish, brown with a long tail and faint spots on the chest.  An adult Curve-billed Thrasher has vivid orange or red-orange eyes.  Juvenile birds have lighter yellow eyes.

gray brown bird with long beak orange eyes
Curve billed Thrasher’s long tail, birds with red eyes

Have you seen a Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)?  Then you’ve already witnessed their daring personality and fondness for charging into groups of birds provoking chaos.

Desert birds of the Southwest
Curve-Billed Thrasher orange red eyes bird

This Southwest bird is a ground lover.  Curve-billed Thrashers fly in abrupt jerky fashion from bush to bush.  They especially like areas with thorny mesquite trees or cholla cacti.

a bird that pounds the dirt with its beak
Thrasher birds flick the rocks looking for insects

This bird probes the dirt and leaf litter with its long, black, down curved beak.  While digging holes in the soil, the Curve-billed Thrasher flicks aside debris in search of seeds and insects.

Arizona birds
A thrasher bird foraging on the ground for food

In worker fashion, Curve-billed Thrashers use their robust legs and feet to shuffle through the plant litter beneath a cactus or shrub.

arizona desert birds
Curve-billed Thrasher’s long tail

In the U.S., this bird occurs most commonly in the southern parts of Arizona, New Mexico and western TexasMost of the country of Mexico is blessed to enjoy the sights and songs of the Curve-billed Thrasher.

Bird with yellow eyes
red eyes of the curve billed thrasher bird
Curve billed Thrasher
two adult Curve billed Thrasher birds in the AZ desert

This male and female thrasher look very much alike.  Immature birds are similar to the adults but with shorter, straighter bills and yellow instead of orange-red eyes.

It is the custom of this long-lasting pair of birds to mate in the winter after a charming courtship filled with song.

Arizona Sonoran Desert birds
adult Curve-billed Thrasher with its young

Beginning early spring the two birds cooperate in building a nest;  creating a deep bowl-shaped structure lined with long, thorny twigs.

Curve-billed Thrashers prefer the lower shaded branches of the cholla cacti;  while the Cactus Wren bird will build a ball-shaped nest on a higher cholla cactus branch.

Breeding usually takes place from May to mid-July.  The female Curve-bill Thrasher lays her spotted bluish-green eggs early in the morning on successive days, usually producing a total of 3-5.

blue green eggs with spots by cactus
bluish-green eggs in the nest of the Curve-billed Thrasher

The eggs hatch in about fourteen days.  The young birds will leave the nest, approximately, six weeks after the female produces her first clutch.

Arizona state bird - cactus wren
this Cactus Wren may nest in a Cholla Cactus near a Curve-billed Thrasher’s nest

For the next several weeks, Curve-billed Thrasher parents nurture the fledglings, still answering their cries for food but teaching them foraging to encourage their independence.

a bird that bounces around the yard
Curved billed Thrasher is a bird with personality

Unfortunately, this bird has lost a considerable part of its south Texas brushland habitat. And the expanding cities of Tucson and Phoenix are causing a rapid loss of habitat in Arizona.

Curve Billed Thrasher, Toxostoma curvirostre
Birds of Arizona, TX and Mexico

Although there has been little conservation work directly focused on the Curve-billed Thrasher; much work has been directed at protecting habitats in some areas where the species occurs.

Information on where Curve-billed Thrashers occur and in what numbers is vital to conserving the species. A project of Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is the world’s first comprehensive online bird monitoring program: http://www.audubon.org/bird/ebird/index.html

Gambel’s Quail are our favorite daily desert bird visitors – Callipepla gambelii

Gambel’s quail are very common in Arizona. Out the window I spotted a COVEY,  small family,  of Gambel’s quail covering themselves from the rain.  These birds PUFF up, for insulation, with their feathers to help stay warm.

Gambel's Quail
male, female, baby Gambel’s Quail in the rain

Gambel’s quail were discovered by Dr. William Gambel in 1841 and named in his honor.  These quail hide and nest under brushy, thorny shrubs, and dine on seeds, leaves, cactus fruits, ants and other insects.

bird with black face red hat
Gambel’s Quail, Male quail with baby chicks

Gambel’s quail live in the hot deserts of the Southwest — the Sonoran, Mohave, and Chihuahuan at elevations below 5,000 feet.

Quail in Tucson Phoenix Arizona Texas
covey of Gambel’s Quail

This photo of the quail chicks with mom and dad was taken from our back patio.  The female Gambel’s quail is the lookout while the family eats thistle seed I keep on the porch.

native desert birds of arizona
Male Gambel quail being a lookout for the bird family

If there is any danger, the lookout will issue an alarm sound and the Gambel’s quail family will sprint for cover!

Arizona gray Birds that have a red hat
Male Gambels Quail look like they have a red hat with a black feather

These delightful, lovable birds prefer walking to flying and typically fly only to avoid danger or to roost.

How fast can Gambel’s quail run?  These desert quail can run up to 15 miles per hour.  If startled and to avoid a predator they can fly up to 40 miles per hour.

Quail in Arizona
Male Gambel’s Quail

Both male and female Gambel’s quail have a comma-shaped bobbing plume of feathers on top of their small heads. Males have gray, cream and black patterns that serve as excellent camouflage.  Female Gambel’s quail lack the distinctive head pattern and are grayer overall.

Arizona Phoenix Tucson Birds quail
Female Gambel’s Quail bird

Everyday we see these chunky quail running from cover to cover in the desert shrubs. The dense cover provides shelter and camouflage for these unique desert birds.  They are so entertaining to watch!

birds nest with white eggs with brown spots
spotted eggs in a Gambel Quail nest

Female quail usually select nest sites on the ground. Preferably this bird nest is hidden under a shrub, rock, or protected site.

male female Gambel's Quail
male and female Gambel’s Quail

This bird’s predators are coyotes, bobcats, snakes and carnivorous birds.  Extreme weather can be the greatest enemy of the Gambel’s quail because harsh conditions reduce the growth of the plants that provide this bird with food and shelter.

We have had the exciting experience of watching as they go from eggs to chicks ready to run with their mom and dad!

Gambel's quail keeping watch
Gambel’s quail keeping watch with our mourning doves

The quail chicks eat mostly insects like ANTS, while the parents eat the seeds of berries, grasses, cactus fruit, and other plants.  Gambel’s quail obtain water from plant material, but still need some free water.  We keep water available throughout our property.

Male Gambel's quail
Male Gambel’s quail as a lookout

The baby quail stay close to their parents.   Gambel’s Quails run across the road in groups called coveys that can include a dozen or more birds.

Gambel's quail family running across the street
Gambel’s quail covey running across our road

The covey, quail family, form a line as they dodge in and out of cover in the desert sun, with the father leading the way. The baby birds are followed by the female quail pulling guard duty in the rear.

Tucson Quail birds
Female Gambel Quail and baby

The lookout quail will make distinct warning sounds to alert others.  Male Gambel’s quail are heard making calls for the family, covey members.  Listen to the short youtube video to hear the male quail calling his covey.

Gambel Quail Male
Male Gambel’s quail stares at his reflection

Gambel’s quails are sometimes called Desert quails.

Gambel's quail
Gambel’s quail in our front yard

A few extra facts about Gambel’s quail:

  • Average life expectancy for a wild desert quail is 1.5 years.
  • Mom lays 10 or more eggs in a nest protected by vegetation or under a rock.
  • Female Gambel’s quail are in charge of the incubation.  In approximately 3 weeks,  the quail chicks will all hatch on the same day and within hours will be out of the nest to run around with mom and dad.
  • Gambel’s quail have been introduced to the Hawaiian Islands.

My best Mourning Dove photos so far…

Over the past 6 months I have watched mourning doves survive in our unforgiving desert environment.  Following the quails, mourning doves have begun to mimic their behavior.

Mourning Dove Arizona Gambel's Quail desert
Mourning Dove with Gambel’s Quail

I’ve witnessed mourning doves out fly and out maneuver various hawks.  Always learning, mourning doves are honor roll students of the Sonoran Desert.

Tucson Phoenix birds Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove in Arizona
Tucson mourning dove birds Turtle Dove
mourning doves in a palo verde tree
larger male dove bluish eye bird
male mourning dove, Turtle Dove

Male mourning doves are bigger than females but their color is very similar.  The difference between male and female mourning doves:

  • Males have a bluish-gray crown; along with a rose color on the breast.
  • Male mourning doves can have an iridescent patch on the neck area.
  • Females have a grayish brown crown and a brownish tan breast area.
Arizona birds Turtle Doves
Mourning Dove in Arizona Desert
dove birds drinking water
mourning dove after a rain storm

Mourning doves successfully live in arid areas because they have no problem traveling several miles for water.  Their diet consists of mostly dry seeds; therefore, they must have water daily.  Mourning doves drink faster than other birds which helps them avoid predators who stay by available water.

dove squabs male and female dove
baby mourning doves 8 – 10 days old in nest

Baby mourning doves, SQUABS,  have a white patch under the eye which you can see in the photo above.

doves in Tucson Phoenix birds blue eyes
mourning dove photos
doves eating with full crop
mourning dove with his crop

Mourning doves eat enough to fill their crops and then find a comfortable location to digest.  What is a crop?  A crop is part of the digestive tract that acts as a storage bag to hold food until it can be processed by the body.

When a mourning dove feeds in the open it must be careful of predators; therefore, it will gobble up seeds as fast as it can.  The food fills up in the bird’s crop and the mourning dove hurries to safety for digestion.

dove birds in Tucson Phoenix
mourning dove getting ready to preen itself

What is preening?  When a bird grooms its feathers it is called preening.

This short video below shows a male and female mourning dove preening each other.  It is a lovely dove behavior to witness.

doves with white marks brown color birds
young morning dove squabs juvenile

Young mourning doves are darker than adults and have a white patch under the eye.  A mourning dove will reach maturity in approximately 3 months.  Mortality rate for young mourning doves is high.  On average the life span of a mourning dove is 1-3 years which is mostly due to disease and starvation.  Currently we have 70 or so mourning doves we feed daily.

The difference between male and female mourning doves – Baby doves 17 days old – Part 4

Now 17 days old.  The mourning dove babies, also called turtle dovesare out of the nest and on their own.  You have journeyed with me and the mourning doves, Jack and Jill, from the egg until today.  Since the day the doves hatched, one was bigger and more alert.  This wide eyed dove is named Jack.  He is a bold, tenacious male mourning dove that was out of the nest in only 11 days, see the photo below.

mourning dove hatchling babies
male & female baby mourning doves – 11 days old

Male mourning doves are bigger than the females.  Jack took his first practice flight to settle on the Mandevilla Trellis.

baby dove just left the nest
our baby mourning dove in the Mandevilla Vine

Jill the female baby dove was smaller and took another 3 days to become strong enough to fly from the nest.  She would perch and at times peek over the nest to watch the activity in the Arizona garden below.

11 day old mourning dove in the nest
baby mourning dove, Jill, in the nest watching her brother

Mom and Dad mourning doves were watchful and on guard in the garden.  Dad did the day shift for the feedings of his baby girl.  Most of the time this little chick was left alone in the nest.   Mom would arrive for the evening to stay in the nest and keep Jill safe through the night.

adult male mourning dove
adult male mourning dove

Males are bigger than females but their color is very similar.  To tell the difference between male and female mourning doves – look at the father in the photo above. Males have a bluish-grey crown; along with a rose color on the breast. Male mourning doves can have an iridescent patch on the neck area also.  Females have a grayish brown crown and a brownish tan breast area.

male and female morning doves
mourning doves showing love

Jill was sitting on the fence by herself and daddy flew over to greet her with a kiss.  This little mourning dove was having a harder time with flying and was so happy to have her dad nearby.

gambel's quail
a gambel’s quail and young mourning dove

Jill is sharing thistle seed with a Gambel’s Quail.  This 17 day old female mourning dove had a harder time getting out of the nest but she is assertive and makes friends easily!

young male mourning dove
young male mourning dove

Jack in the photo above is 17 days old and a king around the neighborhood.  We live in the middle of the southern Arizona desert and I wanted to make sure these young mourning doves had plenty of seed to continually grow strong; therefore I put feeders and seed all over our property!  Jack and Jill share visits with us from sunrise to sunset.

At night the mourning doves find a safe place to roost like a mesquite tree or rooftop and go to sleep.

girl and boy adult mourning dove
difference between male and female mourning doves

Mom and dad (who is the one standing tall), are in the photo above.  This is a perfect picture to see the bluish color on the adult male mourning dove’s head.

I have observed mourning doves everyday for almost 2 months; the more I learn, it is clear that these not-so common mourning doves have their own unique personalities and a true caring for one another.