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Plants and Animals


Arizona's flora varies by region. The strongly deviating temperatures and average rainfall per region are the main reasons for this.

Southwestern Arizona is home to one of the largest drought regions in the entire United States, the Sonoran Desert, which is best known for its impressive cactus species. This area has two nature reserves, namely the Saguaro National Park (36,000 ha) and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

The Grand Canyon National Park is home to 1,700 plant and flower species. The Coconino Plateau at the South Rim of the canyon is covered with piñon pine, ponderosa seeds, juniper berries and Gambel's oak. The Douglas fir, the American aspen and ponderosa seeds grow on the Kaibab Plateau on the North Rim. In the spring, asters, sunflowers and lupines bloom on both the South and North Rand.

Particularly close to Tombstone is the largest rose bush in the world, which stands in the patio of a hotel built in 1885. The shrub, of the Lady Bank variety, now has an area of approximately 800 m2.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona Saguaro National Park, ArizonaPhoto: Joe Parks CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The more than impressive saguaro cactus is only found in the Sonoran Desert, grows up to 15 meters high, weighs up to 7,000 kg and can live for 200 years. It is a very slow-growing solitary plant that, for example, is only two meters high for the first fifty years and is only fully grown after about 150 years. The first branching, in total the number of 'arms' can rise to about 40, only appears after about 75 years and the fruits of this giant cactus species are edible! In late spring, around May, small white flowers appear on the top of the cactus, which are considered the symbol for Arizona. They bloom only one night and die the next morning. This cactus species is so special that all specimens are chipped to prevent theft.
Other cacti species that are characteristic of the Sonoran Desert are the organ pipe cactus, which has branches from the base and occurs alone, often in groups, along the Mexican border, and the hedgehog cactus. In total, about a hundred cactus species are found in Southwest Arizona.

The saguaro cactus flower is the Arizona State Symbol The saguaro cactus flower is the Arizona State Symbol Photo: Ken Bosma CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Other typical Arizona flora

The torchwood (English: devil's walking tick or ocotillo) is quite common in the Sonoran and Chihuahan deserts and is perfectly adapted to the difficult desert conditions. In severe drought, the plant appears to die, but if enough rain falls, leaves and the distinctive reddish-orange flowers develop within a week, which are very popular with hummingbirds. Individual plants can develop dozens of spiny stems that can reach between three and six meters in height and are over 70 years old.

Coach whip or torch wood, typical of the deserts in Arizona Coach whip or torch wood, typical of the deserts in ArizonaPhoto: Alan Vernon CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Pinus arizonica has long been considered one of varieties of the evergreen stately ponderosa or yellow pine (Pinus ponderosa), but is now recognized as a separate species. The Pinus arizonica covers large areas of the Colorado Plateau, can reach 25-30 meters in height and provides food and protection for many animals. The needles of the pine are usually in groups of five together and the pine cones are 5-11 cm long.

Pinus arizonica forest on Mount Lemmon, Southern Arizona Pinus arizonica forest on Mount Lemmon, Southern ArizonaPhoto: Debbie CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Iris missouriensis or Rocky Mountain iris grows mainly on mountain meadows at an altitude of 1800-2700 meters. The bladlour plant grows to about 20-40 cm high and bears one or two (occasionally three or four) beautiful purple flowers with white and yellow accents.

Iris missouriensis, characteristic of the mountains in Arizona Iris missouriensis, characteristic of the mountains in ArizonaPhoto: Walter Siegmund CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The foothills palo verde (yellow palo verde or foothill palo verde) is a twig-like, thorny shrub with yellow flowers, mainly found on rocky hills in southern Arizona. The green bark of the foothills palo verde contains chlorophyll, which ensures that photosynthesis continues even if the shrub loses its yellow-green leaves during the dry season. The foothills palo verde grows very slowly and can be several hundred years old. The seeds of the saguaro cactus can develop in the shade of the palo verde foothills.

The sagebrush shrub covers much of the Great Asin Desert in northern Arizona.


Gilamonster ArizonaGilamonster ArizonaPhoto: Public domain

Despite the often desolate landscape, Arizona's wildlife is surprisingly varied. A number of species are found all over Arizona, otherwise species have adapted to the harsh conditions to such an extent that they can no longer occur anywhere else. and toad species, including the ravine tree frog, the red-spotted toad and Ramsey Canyon leopard frog found nowhere else in the world. Ten toad lizard species are found in the Sonoran Desert, including the toad lizard, the Texan toad lizard, the giant horned lizard and the smooth horned toad lizard. Of the lizards, the poisonous, rare gila monster is protected. The desert scorpion is also poisonous, as are two spider species, the black widow and the brown recluse spider. The fauna of the Petrified Forest in Eastern Arizona includes three iguana species: the spotted iguana, the collar iguana, and the western hedge iguana. Arizona has only one species of salamander, the tiger salamander.

The Grand Canyon National Park is home to 89 mammal species, 355 bird species, 56 reptile and amphibian species, and 17 fish species. Special is the Kaibab squirrel with its white tail and black belly. While most mammals are small and belong to the rodents or bats, there are indeed large mammals in Arizona, including desert bighorn sheep, black bear, mountain lion, pecari wine, and bobcat. The black-footed bunzing, a mustelike, was virtually extinct in the wild in 1981. Through a sophisticated breeding program there were again about 1000 copies in 2011. The rarest wolf species in the world, the Mexican wolf, is also slowly climbing out of a deep valley again. In 1998 a re-production was started in Eastern Arizona (Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area) and at the beginning of 2015, 109 specimens were officially counted. but more specimens are likely to be present in this area.
The Arizona state bird is the North American cat ferret in the little bear family, which includes raccoons. The state bug of Arizona is the Papilio multicaudata butterfly of the page family.

North American Cat Ferret, Arizona SymbolNorth American Cat Ferret, Arizona SymbolPhoto: Robertbody at en. wikipedia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Arizona State Insect: Papilio multicaudataArizona State Insect: Papilio multicaudataPhoto: Alan Schmierer in the public domain

Southern Arizona is one of the best places in the United States for bird watchers and ornithologists, with about 500 species already spotted there and about a quarter of all North American birds nest in this regio. In the eastern part, the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek and Ramsey Canyon reserves, the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, the water and dry lands south of Wilcox and the Portal-Cave Creek Area in the Chiricahua Mountains near the Mexican border are mainly the most suitable places for bird watching. In the western part of southern Arizona, these are the Buenos Aires and Imperial National Wildlife Refuges.

In Arizona there are 14 breeding hummingbird species and a number of passers-by, including the bumblebee hummingbird, with up to 5.7 cm. smallest bird in the world, and further Anna's hummingbird, Costa's hummingbird, rosy hummingbird, black-crowned hummingbird, Berylamazilia, blue-throated jewel hummingbird, broad-beaked hummingbird, broad-tailed hummingbird, Rivoli's hummingbird, white-eared sapphire hummingbird, matchstick hummingbird, red-eared hummingbird/violet-eyed hummingbird/violet azalea, violet cinnabar also the smallest owl in the world, the cactus or gnome owl, is found in Arizona. Ramsey Canyon, near Sierra Vista in the far southeast of Arizona, is known as the 'Hummingbird Capital of the United States'. Arizona's bird symbol is the Cactus Wren (photo).

Cactus Wren, Arizona bird symbolCactus Wren, Arizona bird symbolPhoto: Mark Wagner CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

The Grand Canyon is home to the rare California condor, in fact a New World vulture species and the largest bird in North America with a wingspan of 2.7 meters. In the wild, following a reintroduction program, several hundred specimens, reaching the age of sixty, can be found in California and Northern Arizona. Much less rare is the turkey vulture.

California condor, rare in ArizonaCalifornia condor, rare in ArizonaPhoto: Stacy CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Eye-catching Arizona animals

The white-nosed coati, coati or pizote is a lively member of the raccoon family with a monkey tail, an anteater's muzzle, a bear's ungainly gait and mask of a raccoon. They normally live in large groups in trees, but in the mountainous southeast of Arizona mainly in caves and crevices and are constantly foraging for food.

The desert bighorn sheep, a subspecies of the bighorn sheep, mainly lives in the mountains of the Sonio Desert and the Mojave Desert, especially on practically inaccessible slopes and cliffs of canyons. With unique sole pads, they remain perfectly balanced on a rocky surface. With their long twisted horns, the males fight against competitors and the horns are also used to break open cacti for food.

One of the five subspecies of the copper-tailed trogon, Trogon elegans canescens, migrates in summer from northwestern Mexico to the mountains and canyons of southeastern Arizona. These rare birds, about 30 cm tall, make their nests in burrows made by woodpeckers in dead maples. The brightly colored male has an emerald green back and throat, a bright red chest with a white band over it.

Copper Tail Trogon, migrating from Mexico to ArizonaCopper Tail Trogon, migrating from Mexico to ArizonaPhoto: Dominic Sherony CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

A subspecies of the gila woodpecker is a characteristic inhabitant of the Sonoran Desert and nests in the saguaro cactus, nests that are also used by owls, rats, lizards, purple swallows and other birds. The hammer noises the woodpecker makes are not only intended to make holes, but also indicate its territory. and occurs in the arid lowlands of Arizona. The Texas rattlesnake, which normally grows to a maximum length of 120 cm, with its triangular head and light to white bands is flat before the rattle, especially active in the late afternoon and night.

 Texan rattlesnake is also found in Arizona Texan rattlesnake is also found in Arizona Photo: Gregory CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Overview of snake species in Arizona

Arizona Black Rattlesnakerunnerring neck hose
Arizonan coral snakehorn rattlesnake or sidewinderNarrow-headed Garter Snake
brown pointed-headed snakemilk hoseSonora Digging Hose
three-stripe boaMexican Threadworm Snaketiger rattlesnake
checkered garter snakeMexican hook nose snakeWestern Digging Snake
ordinary king snake or chain snakeMojaver RattlesnakeWestern Black-necked Garter Snake
shiny snakeprairie rattlesnakeblack-tailed rattlesnake
gopher snakepointed nose hosewhip hose
green rat snakeringless sand hose

Overview of bat species in Arizona

pale batsmooth-nosed bat
Choeronycteris mexicanaleaf-nosed bat new world
Euderma maculatumsmooth-nosed bat
Eumops underwoodifree-tailed bat
gray batsmooth-nosed bat
big brown batsmooth-nosed bat
guano batfree-tailed bat
Idionycteris phyllotissmooth-nosed bat
little brown batsmooth-nosed bat
long-nosed batleaf-nosed bat new world
Lasionycteris noctivaganssmooth-nosed bat
Macrotus californicusleaf-nosed bat new world
hat batfree-tailed bat
Myotis auriculussmooth-nosed bat
Myotis californicussmooth-nosed bat
Myotis ciliolabrumsmooth-nosed bat
Myotis evotissmooth-nosed bat
Myotis thysanodessmooth-nosed bat
Myotis velifersmooth-nosed bat
Myotis volanssmooth-nosed bat
Myotis yumanensissmooth-nosed bat
Nyctinomops femorosaccusfree-tailed bat
Nyctinomops macrotisfree-tailed bat
ghost-faced batpleated lip bat
Townsend's big-eared batsmooth-nosed bat
western red batsmooth-nosed bat
western pipistrellesmooth-nosed bat
western yellow batsmooth-nosed bat

Western pipistrelle batWestern pipistrelle batPhoto: Gilles San Martin CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Overview bird species in Arizona

Alaska RandloperAmerican Common Gullbigua cormorant
Allen's HummingbirdAmerican pochardBlue Grouse
wormwood tyrantAmerican Kestrelblue bishop
American Purple GrouseAmerican Wrenblue jay
American Blue HeronAmerican Little BitternHen harrier
Ringed PloverAmerican curlewblue black-throated warbler
American Tree CreeperAnna's Hummingbirdblue-gray mosquito trap
American Wood ThrushaplomadovalkBlue-throated Jewel Hummingbird
American Woodland Ridermacaw parakeetBlue-throated Bluebird
American killersArkansas King's TyrantBlue-winged Teal
Little TernAustralian Gray or Mongrel KiteBlue-winged Warbler
American Frigate Birdevening fat beakblue-footed or blue-legged booby
American Gold Roosterevening buntingbleaching tyrant
American golden ploverAsian Stone Partridge or Chukar Partridgepale bunting
American Gray RiderAztec ThrushBlonde Fairy Siran
Great Gray Shrikeazure warblerbobolink or rice troepial
American Little EgretBaird's buntingbarn swallow
American cliff swallowBaird's sandpiperBonapartes Sandpiper
American AvocetBaltic Groupialvariegated ice bunting
American crowband kingfisherpied thrush
American bullheadband-tailed hawkvariegated sandpiper
American cootband-tailed pigeoncolorful singer
American nightjarBartrams riderbobwhite quail or bobwhite
American Eagle OwlBells vireotree martin
American sandpipermountain sapwoodBotteri's bunting
American or White-headed Sea Eaglemountain bluebirdBrazilian Scops Owl
American or black mergansermountain solitairebroad-billed hummingbird
American rosefinchmountain spot thrushBroad-tailed Hummingbird
American RedstartBering Gullbroad-winged hawk
American snake-neck birdBirch Feather TyrantBrewers bunting
American wigeonBerylamaziliaBrewers troopial
American Sparrowhawkbeech tyrantgoldeneye
American Black-winged StiltBewicks WrenGlasses singer (photo)

Spectacle Parula SingerSpectacle Parula SingerPhoto: William H. Majoros CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

glasses vireoDown Woodpeckereared trogon
Spectacled Sea DuckKittiwakescaled quail
brown gentthree-toed woodpeckerstriped sandpiper
brown pelicanthree-toed sandpiperspotted tawny owl
brown towieDwarf NuthatchSpotted Screaming Owl
brown-headed cowbirddwarf thrushregular mask singer
buffalo-headed duckLittle Petrelgila woodpecker
cactus or gnome owlacorn woodpeckergolden ground woodpecker
cactus mock thrushmagpieGold Kruingors
cactus wrenepaulet starlinggold ice cream
California condorpheasantGrace's singer
California Gullwhistling swangray phalarope
callio hummingbirdForsters sternGray Shearwater
Canadian NuthatchFranklin's GullGray-sided Tit
Canada GooseGambels titgray-striped buzzard
Canadian craneyellow-breasted vireogray-throated tyrant
Canadian taiga jayYellow-breasted WarblerGray-headed Warbler
Canadian singeryellow-bellied woodpeckergray-crowned mountain finch
Summer duckYellow-Jawed Meadow Starlinggray-cheeked thrush
Cassin's buntingyellow-throated warblergray junco
Cassin's king tyrantYellow-headed TitGray Cardinal
Cassin's rosefinchyellow headed groupialGray Tit
cayenne tyrantYellow-crowned night heronGray Nutcracker
Cedar Waxwingyellow-eyed juncogray sandpiper
Chaparral Fly PickerYellow-billed Divergray vireo
lemon singerYellow-billed Cuckoogray black-throated warbler
Connecticut singeryellow-rumped warblergrooved beak ani
Cooper's SparrowhawkScarlet Warblergreen kingfisher
Costa's hummingbirdyellow cardinalgreen heron
pine ice creamyellow ralgreen singer
dickcisselyellow black-throated warblergreen swallow
Fat-billed GrebeEared Cormorantgreen-tailed towie
Big-billed TyrantBlack-necked Grebe (photo)big dappled

Black-necked GrebeBlack-necked GrebePhoto: Davis Brossard CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

large phalaropeknot or knot sandpiperlong-tailed grackle
Great Yellow-legged Riderchestnut warblerlaysanalbatros
big gray snipcat birdlazuligors
big kiskadieruffLewis' woodpecker
great crested tyrantKentucky singerLincolns bunting
big piewieBarn OwlLouisianatangare
great racing cuckooNorthern PloverLouisiana Water Thrush
large pochardGreat Gray Shrikematch hummingbird
Great merganserklapperralLucy's singer
Great ScoterLittle Blue Heronmagnolia pendant
Great Egretlittle fairy tyrantmangrove warbler
hook beakLittle Yellow-legged Ridermarble godwit
hair woodpeckerlittle gray snipMask Yellowfinch
Harlequin Titlittle huntermask groupial
hawklittle black-headed gullMcCowns Ice Bunting
Heermann's gullsmall winnerminion singer
helmet quailsmallest hunterMexican rosefinch
Hermit Thrushsmallest sandpipermiddle hunter
Hermit WarblerGap Winter Kingmiddle merganser
burrowing owl, shoco or burrowing owlCattle EgretMississippi vine
hole swallowcockade sawbeakswamp bunting
Bumblebee Hummingbirdwhite-fronted gooseswamp wren
house sparrowking tyrantMonkskaptiran
Hutton's vireocopper-tailed trogonMonk Warbler
Ice DivergadwallMontezuma Quail
long-tailed duckcurved-billed thrushCommon Sparrow
Ice Buntingcrossbillsparrow bunting
Icelandic goldeneyeCrested DiverNashville singer
inca pigeonquackNevadagors
indigogorslowland levertangareNorth American Scops Owl
bald-headed storklaughing gullNorth American Bittern
turkeylaughing ternNorth American rough-winged martin
cinnamon teal (photo0Ladder WoodpeckerNorth American dipper

Cinnamon TealCinnamon TealPhoto: "Mike" Michael L. Baird CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Northern Scops OwlGiant or Caspian ternred-billed tropicbird
Northern House WrenRidgways whippoorwillRed-tailed Hawk
northern crested caracararing-billed duckRoss' Goose or Little Snow Goose
arctic ternRing-billed Gullred whistling duck
arctic water thrushRivoli's Hummingbirdred phalarope
river tyrantred godwitruddy hummingbird
sand martinred cardinalred rough-legged hawk or king hawk
Eastern Forest Viewred spoonbillRed Mockingbird
Orange-headed Warblerred-tailed buntingruddy thorntail
regal singerred tyrantBrent Goose
orpheusvireorust flank warblerrock pigeon
oven birdrust kruingorsmourning singer
palm warblerrustback thrushrough-legged hawk
pearl diverrust wing buntingsavannah bunting
WaxwingRobin CardinalSays phoebe
PhiladelphiavireoEuropean RobinchimneyEurasian swift
phoebeRed-breasted SapwoodScotts troopial
pintailRed-bellied Spotted ThrushSiberian Sandpiper
Pinyongaaired-bellied warblerPeregrine Falcon
ponderosa scowl's owlred-necked grebeshoveler
poorwillred-necked buntingmerlin
prairie buzzardred-necked heronwigeon
prairiegorsred-hooded warblersnow goose
prairie gullRed-throated Diversnow bunting
prairie beeperred-throated bluebirdsoraral
Prairie PloverRed-headed or turkey vulturespruce tyrant
prairie falconRed-headed Woodpeckerspruce piewie
prairie singerRed-crowned Cockspruce warbler
purple buntingRed Face Warblermockingbird
purple swallowred-eyed cowbirdstarling
ravenred-eyed vireograsshopper thorn
long-eared owlred-eared buntinggolden eagle
whimbrelred-shouldered hawk (photo)turnstone

Red-shouldered HawkRed-shouldered HawkPhoto: Keith Edkins CC 3.0 Unportedno changes made

Steller's Jayfork-tailed gulldesert raven
stilt sandpiperfan singerDesert Spot Thrush
beach larkMoorhensaw owl
Kentish ploverwater pipersinging bunting
stripe-headed singersnipeherring gull
Stricklands Woodpeckerwestern forest viewsummer tangare
bush tyrantwestern scream owlSouthern Mexican Jay
Shrub TitwhippoorwillSwallowtail King's Tyrant
Swainson's singerwild duckgooseneck grebe
Tennis singerwillow flycatcherBlack-bellied Whistling Duck
Texas nightjarwilletblack buzzard
Thayer's gullWilson's singerblack dwarf hal
Tiger WarblerWrenblack or raven vulture
tundra bearerstealblack phoebe
topperwhite band ice creamblack tern
Townsends singerWhite-breasted Nuthatchblack troopial
weeping pigeonwhite-breasted swiftBlack Scoter
tropical king tyrantWhite-bellied Heronblack silk flycatcher
garden groupialWhitefish Meadow Starlingblack-hooded mosquito trap
Vaux 'common swiftWhite-throated Sparrowblackcap vireo
multi-colored buntingWhite-crowned Gingersblack-throated bunting
veerywhite-faced ibisblackkingors
field buntingwhite-eyed vireoBlack-throated Hummingbird
Short-eared OwlWhite Sapphire Hummingbirdzwartkintowie
five-barred buntingWhite-tailed HawkBlack-headed Cardinal
violetkapamaziliaWhite-tailed tropicbirdBlack-headed Warbler
Virginiaralwhite ibisblack-crowned thorns
Virginiazangerwhite pelicanBlack-billed Cuckoo
common ternwhite-winged terror pigeonblack-tailed mosquito trap
spot backgroupialWhite-fronted TyrantBlack Wing Tangare
Spark-throated Hummingbirddesert or Harris' buzzard

Black-winged tangareBlack-winged tangarePhoto: Leppyone CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Overview mammals Arizona

American dwarf mouseermineriver or North American otter
American gerbilhouse mouseRocky Mountain Sprairie Dog
American black bear or baribalreadyjaguarbobcat or bobcat
antelope ground squirreljaguarundi or weasel catred fox
Arizona SquirrelKaibab squirrelround-tailed ground squirrel
Arizonas shrewcotton ratrocky ground squirrel
Bailey mouse gofferlittle chipmunkrugged goffer
mountain gofferlittle mouse gofferuintachipmunk
Mountain Cottontailcliff chipmunkvalley sacrifice
Canadian or North American Beaverlong-tailed weaselWest American shrew
Coloradochipmunklong-tailed volewestern spotted skunk
coyote or coyotemoon sheep or tedalWestern Hop Mouse
bighorn sheepmantled ground squirrel or gold-mantled ground squirrelwestern harvest mouse
dwarf sacrificeMerriams Kangaroo Sacrificewestern pig-nosed skunk
red deerMerriam's shrewweasel
donkey tenderloinMexican bearwhite-nosed bear, coati or pizote
Florida Rabbit or Eastern CottontailMexican wolfwhite-tailed eekhorrn
forkbuck, forked antelope or pronghornmule deerWhite-tailed Deer or Virginia Deer
collared or long-tailed skunkmuskratdesert bighorn sheep
striped skunk or skunkNorth American flute baitDesert Cottontail
Spotted Ground SquirrelNorth American Cat Ferretsilk-haired mouse goffer
Common or North American RaccoonNorthern Grasshopper Mousesilver badger or American badger
grassland hopping mouseocelot or pardelkatSouthern Grasshopper Mouse
gray foxprimeval sun or North American tree porcupineblack-tailed hare or black-tailed donkey fillet
gray desert shrewOrd's Kangaroo SacrificeBlack-tailed Prairie Dog
big-eared kit foxpinjon mouseblack-footed bunting (photo)
collar peccarybushy-tailed rat
Harris' ground squirrelcougar, mountain lion or silver lion


Balfour, Amy C. / Arizona
Lonely Planet

Balfour, Amy C. / Southwest USA's best trips : 32 amazing road trips
Lonely Planet

BBC - Country Profiles

CIA - World Factbook

Elmar Landeninformatie

Fodor's Arizona & The Grand Canyon 2015
Fodor's Travel

Heetvelt, Angela / Zuidwestelijke staten van Amerika

Southwest USA
Lonely Planet

USA-Zuidwest & Las Vegas
Van Reemst

Ward, Greg / The rough guide to Southwest USA
Rough Guides




Last updated July 2022
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