Desert Animals

Despite being some of the most inhospitable habitats in the world, deserts actually house hundreds of animals and birds. Collectively referred to as xerocoles, all these species have special adaptive features to survive in the desert ecosystem.

Desert Animals

List of animals that live in the desert biome

Sahara Desert, Africa

  • Sand Cat
  • Mediterranean Monk Seal
  • Fennec Fox
  • Monitor Lizard
  • Saharan Silver Ant
  • White Antelope
  • Deathstalker Scorpion
  • African Silverbill
  • Saharan Cheetah
  • North African Gerbil
  • Jerboa
  • Desert Headgehog
  • Olive Baboon
  • Addax
  • Cairo Spiney Mouse
  • Desert Long-eared Bat
  • Cape Hare
  • Arabian Camel (Dromedary)
  • Egyptian Pipistrelle
  • Pale Fox
  • North African Sahara Honeybee
  • Rüppell’s Fox
  • Dama Gazelle
  • Egyptian Praying Mantis
  • Sahara Oryx
  • Barbary Ostrich
  • Saharan Striped Weasel
  • Sahara Frog
  • Dorcas Gazelle
  • Saharan Shrew
  • African Desert Warbler
  • Desert Crocodile
  • Rhim Gazelle
  • Nubian Bustard
  • Scarab Beetle
  • Saharan Horned Viper

Sonoran Desert, North America

  • Desert Tortoise
  • Pronghorn
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Sonora Sucker
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Sonoran Desert Toad
  • Kit Fox
  • Black-tailed Jackrabbit
  • Mearns Coyote
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Cactus Wren
  • Javelina (Peccary)
  • Mule Deer
  • Harris’s Hawk
  • White-winged Dove
  • White-throated Woodrat
  • Gambel’s Quail
  • Coyote
  • Bobcat
  • Arizona Bark Scorpion
  • Collared Lizard
  • Elf Owl
  • Tarantula
  • Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
  • Gray Fox
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Harris’s Antelope Squirrel
  • Ring-tailed Cat
  • Rock Squirrel
  • Sonoran Pronghorn
  • Sonora mud turtle
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep
  • Arizona Night Lizard
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Vermilion Flycatcher
  • Canyon Bat
  • Pocketed Free-tailed Bat
  • North American Jaguar
  • Common Desert Centipede
  • Desert Box Turtle
  • Desert Pupfish
  • Desert Whitetail
  • Ferruginous Pygmy-owl
  • Desert Iguana
  • Tiger Rattlesnake
  • Speckled Rattlesnake
  • Colorado Desert Sidewinder
  • Sonoran Shovelnose Snake
  • Flame Skimmer
  • Gilded Flicker
  • Loach Minnow
  • Zebra-tailed Lizard
  • Gila Topminnow
  • Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
  • Lawrence’s Goldfinch
  • Round-tailed Ground Squirrel
  • Flat-tail Horned Lizard
  • Broad-billed Hummingbird
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Costa’s Hummingbird
  • Agile Ground Mantis
  • Desert Recluse
  • Mesquite Mouse
  • Mexican Black Kingsnake
  • Arizona Pocket Mouse
  • Eva’s Desert Mouse
  • Merriam’s Kangaroo Rat
  • Bezy’s Night Lizard
  • Spotted Owl
  • Pacific Burrowing Wasp
  • Northern Phainopepla
  • Stink Beetle
  • Sonoran Gopher Snake
  • Maricopa harvester ant
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Desert Spiny Lizard
  • Giant Sonoran Centipede
  • Sonoran Collared Lizard
  • Sonoyta Pupfish
  • Southern Pocket Gopher
  • Coachella Valley Grasshopper
  • Bell’s Sparrow
  • Black-chinned Sparrow
  • Great Plains Toad
  • LeConte’s Thrasher
  • Crissal Thrasher
  • Trans-Pecos Striped Whiptail
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Bendire’s Thrasher
  • Colorado River Toad
  • Long-tailed Brush Lizard
  • Bell’s Vireo
  • Western Pygmy Blue
  • Mexican Whip-poor-will
  • Gray Vireo
  • Cassin’s Vireo
  • Lucy’s Warbler
  • Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail
  • Desert Grassland Whiptail Lizard
  • Yuma Myotis
  • Desert Cottontail
  • Great Basin Collared Lizard
  • Mexican Long-tongued Bat
  • California Leaf-nosed Bat

Mojave Desert, North America

  • Glossy Snake
  • Mojave Ground Squirrel
  • Elf Owl
  • Rosy Boa
  • Western Screech Owl
  • Common Raven
  • Chuckwalla
  • Gopher Snake
  • Cottontail Rabbit
  • Amargosa Toad
  • Badwater Snail
  • Pallid Bat
  • Spotted Bat
  • Pocketed Free-tailed Bat
  • Botta’s Pocket Gopher
  • California Rock Lizard
  • Chisel-toothed Kangaroo Rat
  • Tui Chub
  • Texas Diamondback Rattlesnake
  • Desert Kit Fox
  • Moapa Dace
  • Morongo Desert Snail
  • Black Toad
  • California Quail
  • Inyo Mountains Salamander
  • Panamint Chipmunk
  • Red Diamond Rattlesnake
  • Mearns’ Coyote
  • Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
  • Doll’s Sphinx Moth
  • Lesser Long-nosed Bat
  • California Carpenter Bee
  • Black-tailed Jackrabbit
  • Panamint alligator lizard
  • Kern Plateau salamander
  • Costa’s hummingbird
  • Panamint Rattlesnake
  • Panamint chipmunk
  • Flame Skimmer
  • San Joaquin Pocket Mouse
  • Desert Recluse Spider
  • Desert Cottontail Rabbit
  • Mojave Sootywing
  • Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard
  • Lawrence’s Goldfinch
  • White-tailed Antelope Squirrel
  • Fringe-toed Lizard
  • Ring-tailed Cat
  • Great Basin Gopher Snake
  • Panamint Kangaroo Rat
  • Mojave Rattlesnake
  • Tecopa Pupfish
  • Saratoga Springs Pupfish
  • Death Valley Pupfish
  • Owens Pupfish
  • Devils Hole Pupfish
  • Shoshone Pupfish
  • Victorville Shoulderband
  • Cactus Mouse
  • Desert Tortoise
  • Desert Woodrat
  • Desert Night Lizard
  • California Leaf-nosed Bat
  • California Mantis
  • Canyon Bat
  • Cactus Wren
  • Merriam’s Kangaroo Rat
  • Desert Iguana
  • Gila Mountain sucker

Gobi Desert, Asia

  • Bactrian Camel
  • Central Asian Viper
  • Jerboa
  • Golden Eagle
  • Gobi Ibex
  • Marbled Polecat
  • Gobi Bear
  • Snow Leopard
  • Mongolian Wild Ass
  • Goitered Gazelle
  • Sandplover
  • Brown Bear
  • Przewalski’s Horse
  • Grey Wolf
  • Przewalski’s Wonder Gecko

Chihuahuan Desert, North America

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Roadrunner
  • Collared Lizard
  • Collared Peccary
  • Jaguar
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Painted Bunting
  • Trans-Pecos Rat Snake
  • Chihuahua Chub
  • Carbonera Pupfish
  • Chihuahua Shiner
  • Comanche Springs Pupfish
  • Mojave Rattlesnake
  • Desert Pocket Gopher
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Vermilion Flycatcher
  • Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Broad-billed Hummingbird
  • Mexican Jay
  • Gray-banded Kingsnake
  • Obscure Ground Mantis
  • Chestnut-collared Longspur
  • Merriam’s Pocket Mouse
  • Mexican Wolf
  • Devils River Minnow
  • Clark’s Nutcracker
  • Desert Cardinal
  • Montezuma Quail
  • Chihuahuan Raven
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Rough-footed Mud Turtle
  • Crevice Spiny Lizard
  • Giant Redheaded Centipede
  • Southwestern Fence Lizard
  • Black-chinned Sparrow
  • Cassin’s Sparrow
  • Sagebrush Sparrow
  • Texas Banded Gecko
  • Bendire’s thrasher
  • Crissal Thrasher
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Bolson Tortoise
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Trans-Pecos Striped Whiptail
  • Bell’s Vireo
  • Gray Vireo
  • Grace’s Warbler
  • Lucy’s Warbler
  • Olive Warbler
  • Red-faced Warbler
  • Western Pygmy Blue
  • Mexican Whip-poor-will
  • Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail
  • Desert Grassland Whiptail Lizard
  • Arizona Woodpecker
  • Cactus Wren

Great Victoria Desert, Australia

  • Chestnut-breasted Whiteface
  • Dingo
  • Sand Goanna
  • Thorny Devil
  • Bearded Dragon
  • Red Kangaroo
  • Sandhill Dunnart
  • Great Desert Skink
  • Crest-tailed Mulgara
  • Southern Marsupial Mole
  • Water-holding Frog
  • Chestnut-breasted Whiteface
  • Malleefowl
  • Perentie
  • Scarlet-chested Parrot
  • Australian Feral Camel
  • Princess Parrot
  • Bandy-bandy
  • Southern Marsupial Mole
  • Slender-billed Thornbill
  • Spinifex Hopping Mouse

Thar Desert, Asia

  • Indian Spiny-Tailed Lizard
  • Saw-scaled Viper
  • Indian spotted eagle
  • Great Indian Bustard
  • Blackbuck
  • Indian Wild Ass
  • Chinkara
  • Red Fox
  • Caracal
  • Asiatic Wildcat
  • White-footed Fox
  • Rough-scaled Sand Boa
  • Indian Desert Jird
  • Indian Peafowl
  • Short-toed Snake Eagle
  • Tawny Eagle
  • Lagger Falcon
  • Greater-spotted Eagle
  • Bengal Fox
  • Eastern Greater Hoopoe-lark
  • Laungwala Long-headed Lizard
  • Dark Grass Blue Butterfly
  • White-eyed Buzzard
  • Shaheen Falcon

Atacama Desert, South America

  • Humboldt Penguins
  • Lava Lizard
  • South American Grey Fox
  • Darwin’s Leaf-eared Mouse
  • Andean Flamingo
  • Guanaco
  • Tamarugo Conebill
  • Chilean Woodstar
  • Slender-billed Finch
  • Chimango Caracara
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Southern Viscacha
  • Vicuña
  • Shining Tree Iguana
  • Yanez’s Tree Iguana
  • Culpeo Fox
  • Giant Hummingbird
  • South American Fur Seal

Arabian Desert, Asia

  • Caracal
  • Arabian Wolves
  • Striped Hyena
  • Egyptian Uromastyx
  • Lanner Falcon
  • Namaqua Dove
  • Cape Hare
  • Red Fox
  • Golden Eagle

Namib Desert, Africa

  • Meerkat
  • Desert Elephant
  • Ostrich
  • Oryx
  • Namib Desert Beetle
  • Springbok
  • Trench Beetle
  • Black-backed Jackal
  • Black Rhinoceros
  • Grant’s Golden Mole
  • Namib Desert Viper
  • South African Lion
  • Cape Fur Seal
  • Namib Sand Gecko
  • Black Hairy Thick-tailed Scorpion
  • Namaqua Chameleon
  • Southern Warthog
  • Namib Sand Snake
  • Namib Long-eared Bat
  • Spotted Hyena
  • South African Cheetah

Negev Desert, Asia

  • Negev Tortoise
  • Negev Shrew
  • Arabian Oryx
  • Near Eastern Fire Salamander
  • Arabian Leopard
  • Sand Dune Cat
  • Nubian Ibex
  • Rock Hyrax
  • Caracal
  • Sinai Agama
  • Rüppell’s Fox
  • Desert Hedgehog
  • Crowned Sandgrouse
  • Desert Horned Viper
  • Dorcas Gazelle

Kalahari Desert, Africa

  • Brown hyena
  • Chacma Baboon
  • African Leopard
  • Secretary Bird
  • Kalahari Lion
  • Common Warthog
  • South African Cheetah
  • African Wild Dog
  • Brown Hyena
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Cape hunting dog
  • Martial Eagle
  • Giant Eagle Owl
  • Cape Porcupine
  • Kalahari Giraffe
  • Sociable Weaver
  • Rock Monitor
  • Cape Cobra
  • Pale Chanting Goshawk
  • Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
  • Common Eland
  • Gemsbok
  • Springbok
  • Steenbok
  • Kudu
  • Duiker
  • Hartebeest
  • Ratel
  • Aardvark
  • Ground Pangolin
  • Bat-eared Fox
  • Zebra
  • Kalahari Purple-glossed Snake
  • Cape Hare
  • Elephant
  • Black-backed Jackal
  • Wildebeest
  • Aardwolf
  • Blesbok
  • Southern White Rhinoceros
  • Scrub Hare
  • Burchell’s Zebra

Adaptations: How do animals survive in the desert

Behavioral adaptations

  • Since the temperatures below the surface are much cooler than above it, many of the small to medium-sized animals living in the desert dig burrows to spend the hot daytime hours, only coming out during the night. Due to this, most desert inhabitants are nocturnal or crepuscular, where they’re only active at night or during dawn and dusk.
  • Animals and birds that do not exhibit burrowing characteristics choose distinct microclimates where the temperatures are lower than other places. A falcon may opt to spend most of its day nesting on a cliff facing north, where it cooler than on the southern face.
  • Many animals adapt to their environment by going into hibernation to survive through the hottest months.
  • Some animals and birds may migrate to higher altitudes during summer seasons to escape the brutal weather conditions.

Physical adaptations

  • The bodies of the burrowing animals are capable of absorbing moisture from the ground, which is why they prefer to dig into relatively moist areas.
  • The inhabitants of the desert have light body colors, helping them to use camouflage for avoiding dangers. Some examples of sandy colored animals include camels, wild asses, etc.
  • Most of these animals have long limbs and ears, which act like car radiators, helping their bodies to stay cool.
  • They have specialized kidneys which retain water from urine, so excretion occurs in uric acid form.
  • Some animals and birds can also make water within their body by special metabolism of food items.

Diet: What do desert animals eat

Some animals, like camels, and kangaroo rats derive a lot of moisture from succulent plants like cactuses. While some species may extract nectar or sap from different plants, others may get their water from the plant parts they eat. Since insects are also aplenty in the desert, they become a regular source of food for many birds, reptiles, and bats.

Carnivores like hyenas, leopards, and lions that are at the top of the food chain, get their share of water from the bodies of their prey. Some examples of omnivores include coyotes and ravens.

Conservation Status

The population of many animals and birds of the desert have been reduced to mere hundreds because of overhunting by mankind. The IUCN considers many species as endangered, including the Egyptian tortoise, gazelles, antelopes, Saharan cheetah, fennec foxes, caracals, and pronghorns. Conservation efforts are, however, underway to save them from going extinct.

Extinct desert animals: The bubal hartebeest and desert rat-kangaroo.

Interesting facts about desert animals

  • The sandgrouse from North Africa and Asia are able to carry small quantities of water in the feathers on their belly to bring it back to the nest for their family.
  • The African spiny mouse has the ability to regenerate its damaged or wounded skin entirely, along with regrowing the hair follicles, sweat glands, cartilage, and fur.
  • Kangaroos often lick their forelegs to cool themselves, as the saliva evaporates and reduces their body temperature.
  • The addax, an inhabitant of the tropical desert of Sahara, can change the color of its pelage, which becomes white in summer to reflect sunlight while changing to a brown-grey that can absorb heat during winter.