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17 animals amazingly adapted to thrive in deserts

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on March 4, 2014, 9 a.m.
elf owls

Photo: Ed Schneider /Shutterstock

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Elf owl

An owl is a creature you might not expect to see in a desert, but the elf owl is quite at home in hot, sandy environments. These tiny owls are miniscule in size — standing only about 5 inches tall — and yet are tough enough to capture and dine on scorpions among other prey. Found in riparian areas of the Sonoran desert of the western U.S., they escape the heat of day by resting in tree cavities or holes in seguaro cacti left abandoned by woodpeckers. They hunt at night, using their exceptional low-light vision. By getting enough water from the food they consume, they are able to survive in areas that completely lack surface water sources.