Last updated: December 12, 2014
A diversity of ecosystems, from deserts, to prairies, to shrublands and mountain forests support an even greater diversity of animal life in the American Southwest. However, the distribution of vertebrate species in this arid land is limited by water availability and water-related vegetation diversity. Especially important are the riparian corridors, which provide vital migratory and breeding habitat for birds. More than 400 species of birds can be found in the region. Habitat degradation is responsible for the region-wide decline of several rare and listed species, including the burrowing owl, black-tailed prairie dog, mountain plover, Texas horned lizard, lesser prairie chicken, Arkansas darter and swift fox. Ungulates, once hunted to low numbers or near extinction, have made a comeback in mountain forests. Reptiles are abundant in desert and grassland areas.