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Spring: Nature’s renewal time


This feature is a reprint of a story that originally appeared in Arizona Wildlife Views.


Spring: Nature’s renewal time

Spring is time for courtship behavior among Arizona’s animals. You’ll notice as they swagger, dance, sing, whistle and otherwise compete for the attention of prospective mates.

Birds offer behaviors from melodious songs to dances, head bobbing and food offerings.

Eagles engage in some of the most spectacular courtship displays. During pair-bonding flights, a male and female eagle might lock claws and tumble downward, releasing to soar back into the sky.

Amphibians use special antics of their own. Male frogs’ air sacs expand to resonate their specialized call. Watch closely: Sometimes the neck puffs out almost to the size of its body. The noise can be impressive when large groups are “in the mood.”

In southern Arizona deserts, a large influx of birds marks the onset of spring. Zone-tailed hawks and common black-hawks arrive along the riparian corridors. Shorebird numbers build in places like Willcox, Ariz., and near Marana, Ariz. Hummingbirds commonly are seen in lowlands and mountain canyons. Migrant bats return from Mexico, and hibernating locals emerge for the season.

Springtime in central Arizona’s high country means the return of early migrants, such as turkey vultures and osprey. Melting snow and greening forage lure deer and elk from lower-elevation grassland wintering grounds back to higher forests. During dawn and dusk you can glimpse elk herds feeding where tree lines meet open meadows.

In northern Arizona, migratory waterfowl stop over to forage, crowding open water as ice begins to recede on high-country lakes. Mule deer become more visible against a backdrop of green spring vegetation at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, where warm rocks also offer reptiles basking comfort.

Along the Colorado River — Arizona’s “west coast” — spring is ushered in with higher temperatures in March. Near Hoover Dam, one of Arizona’s most charismatic large mammals can be found: desert bighorn sheep. Watch the ridge tops for their majestic silhouettes.

Spring is a great time to easily experience a variety of visual and auditory wildlife displays around the state. As spring fever sets in, get out and see how wildlife prepares for annual renewal.

—Joe Yarchin, Arizona Game and Fish Department watchable wildlife program manager

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