What’s Happening in the Sonoran Desert in December & January?

What’s Happening in the Sonoran Desert in December & January?

Want to know what’s happing in the Sonoran Desert? Go outside and walk around to see for yourself!  Of course you can always check here first!

December and January are the months of solstice, long nights and short days. The Sonoran Desert slows down and the last bits of heat dissipate into the crisp evening air.

The Sonoran Desert is still a spectacle of life and birds from across the western North American continent migrate through or hang out in the diverse geography of the region.


Flora: Desert Mistletoe, Chile de Espino, Phoradendron californicum

  • Desert mistletoe is a parasite that grows on mesquite trees and other woody legumes.
  • The leafless, brittle, jointed stems of the Desert Mistletoe produce small very fragrant flowers this time of year.
  • The female plants are distinguished by their edible, red berries which are an important source of food for the phainopepla.

Fauna: Phainopepla (Silky Flycatcher)

  • Contrary to their family name, silky flycatcher, the phainopepla primarily eats berries and has a very strong relationshipwith the desert mistletoe.
  • Phainopeplas have a long tail, red eyes, and white patched wings. The males are distinguished by the feather crest on their heads while the females and immature males are grey in color.
  • Their prefered habitat includes arid scrubs and they are often seen in mesquite brushlands. When it’s time to incubate their eggs, both the males and females tend to their young. 

Weather & Climate: Winter

  • Winter in the desert is mild. The temperature fluctuations throughout the day are more noticeable as the chilly nights are followed by sunny and warm afternoons.
  • This is also a time to welcome a few days of light, fast moving cold winter rains that originate in the Gulf of Alaska. Some call these short bursts of rain las equipatas or “little packages” in Spanish and they can bring snow to high elevations and even the valley bottoms!
  • In December, the average high is 65° F and the average low is 35° F.

Community & Culture:  What’s happening in Tucson?

  • The BEYOND event demonstrates solidarity for those injured, killed and  impacted by the January 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Gabe Zimmerman, and others. It’s mission is to encourage the public to participate in healthy, outdoor activities. Join us to Explore, Move, Nourish, and Connect with one another as a community.
  • ITE youth will be leading tours of the Chuk-son Trail.

Know of other natural events happening this month?? Share them with us on Social media or shoot us an email at admin@ironwoodtreeexprience.org.

-Happy Exploring Everyone –