White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis)

The fast flying White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis)
The fast flying White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis)

The White-throated Swift is a medium-sized bird known for its swift and agile flight, sleek body, and distinctive white throat patch. Adults typically measure around 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in length, with a wingspan of approximately 15 inches (38 cm). They have a dark, glossy plumage that aids in camouflage against the rocky cliffs where they often dwell. Their wings are long and slender, adapted for rapid and maneuverable flight, while their short bills are perfect for catching insects mid-air. Juveniles resemble adults but may have less contrast in their plumage.

Habitat and Distribution

White-throated Swifts are primarily found in the western regions of North America, ranging from the southwestern United States through parts of Mexico. They inhabit rugged, rocky terrain such as canyons, cliffs, and gorges, where they nest in crevices and on ledges. These birds are particularly well adapted to arid environments and are often seen in desert landscapes, although they may also occur in mountainous regions.

Behavior and Ecology

White-throated Swifts are highly adapted for aerial foraging, feeding primarily on flying insects such as flies, beetles, and mosquitoes. They are renowned for their impressive flight abilities, performing intricate maneuvers as they hunt on the wing. Their swift and agile movements enable them to navigate through narrow passages and steep cliffs with ease. Breeding pairs typically construct cup-shaped nests made of twigs, feathers, and saliva, which they attach to vertical rock faces. During the breeding season, males perform aerial courtship displays to attract females.

Conservation Status

The White-throated Swift is not currently considered globally threatened, although local populations may be impacted by habitat loss and disturbance. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting nesting sites, particularly in areas where cliffs are subject to human development or recreational activities. As an insectivorous species, White-throated Swifts may also be vulnerable to pesticide use, which can reduce their prey availability.

The White-throated Swift is a fascinating species well adapted to its rugged habitat and aerial lifestyle. Its graceful flight and striking appearance make it a favorite among birdwatchers and enthusiasts. By understanding the ecology and behavior of the White-throated Swift, we can better appreciate the importance of conserving its unique habitat and ensuring the long-term survival of this remarkable bird.

Field Guide Description

“Black above, black and white below, with long, forked tail. Distinguished from Violet-green swallow, (page 322) by longer narrower wings, bicolored underparts. In poor light, may be mistaken for Black Swift but smaller, with faster wingbeats. Common in mountains, canyons, cliffs. Nests in crevices.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 262




John Peters “Johnny” Ringo

Johnny Ringo was an American gunfighter and outlaw most commonly associated with the infamous happenings in Tombstone, Arizona. He was often portrayed as the hired gun of the Clanton faction, an antagonist to Doc Holiday, and could be responsible for the kill of Morgan Earp. Although not formally educated, he supposedly quoted Shakespeare and cultivate an image of the refined gunman. Although in Tombstone at the time, and quarreled with Doc Holiday, he did not participate in the gunfight or every mince more than words with Holiday.

John Peters "Johnny" Ringo ( May 3, 1850 – July 13, 1882 )
John Peters “Johnny” Ringo ( May 3, 1850 – July 13, 1882 )

John Peters “Johnny” Ringo is born May 3, 1850 to Martin and Mary Peters Ringo in Greens Fork, Indiana. On July 30, 1864, when Johnny was 14, his family was relocation from Wyoming to California. While en route, Martin Ringo, Johnny’s father was killed when he stepped off their wagon holding a shotgun, which accidentally discharged. The head wound was gruesome and the family if forced to bury him on a hillside next to the trail. On their arrival in California, the family settled in San Jose.

Mason County War

In 1869, Johnny aged 19, left San Jose and moved to Mason County, Texas. While in Texas be befriended a former Texas Ranger Scott Cooley, who was the adoptive son of Rancher Tim Williamson. Williamson is arrested by a hostile mob and killed by Peter “Bad Man” Bader on May 13th, 1875. Following, Ringo and Colley rage a war of terror of those they felt guilty to Williamson’s murder. This became locally know as the “Hoodoo War” or the “Mason County Ware”.

On August 19th, 1875, Scott Cooley and Ringo killed Charley Bader when they mistook him for his brother Pete. The two men are jailed for the murder in Burnet, Texas, but soon escaped.

The Mason County War is over in November 1876 with about a dozen lives lost.

Ringo in Tombstone

Johnny found his way to Tombstone in the winter of 1880. He had a reputation of a bad temper and an alcoholic. He becomes associated with the Cochise County Cowboys alongs with the Clanton’s and may have participated in some of their “activities”. Ringo did not participate in the famous gunfight, however, on January 17th, 1882, he and Doc Holiday traded words and almost had a gunfight before both men were arrested.

Ringo was a fine man any way you look at him. Physically, intellectually, morally. He was six feet tall, rather slim in build, although broad-shouldered, medium fair as to complexion with gray-blue eyes and light brown hair. His face was somewhat long. He was what might be called an attractive man. His attitude toward all women was gentlemanly. He must have been a gentleman born. Sometimes I noticed something wistful about him, as if his thoughts were far away on something sad. He would say, ‘Oh, well,’ and sigh. Then he would smile, but his smiles were always sad. There was something in his life that only he, himself, knew about …. He was always neat, clean, well dressed, showed that he took good care of himself. He never boasted of his deeds, good or bad, a trait I have always liked in men. John…was a loyal friend. And he was noble, for he never fought anyone except face to face. Every time I think of him, my eyes fill with tears.

Mary Katherine Horony Cummings – Big Nose Kate

Following the attacks on Virgil and Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp blamed Ringo for the ambush and murder of Morgan on March 18th, 1882. Morgans death prompted a “vendetta” ride which sees Wyatt hunting those whom he blamed for Morgan’s death. March 20th, 1882, Wyatt killed Frank Stillwell in Tucson, Arizona. Following, Johnny Ringo is deputized into a possse to search for the Wyatt and Holiday, although they never find them.

Mysterious Death

During Tombstone’s Fourth of July festivities, Ringo drank heavily. Two days letter he left Tombstone with several bottles of liquor. On July 8th, Deputy Billy Breakenridge ran into Ringo at Dial’s Ranch in the South Pass of the Dragoon Mountains. During this encounter “Ringo was very drunk, reeling in the saddle.” He encouraged Ringo to follow him back to the Goodrich Ranch. But, “he was drunk and stubborn and went on his way. I think this was the last time he was seen alive.”

At about 3pm on July 13, ranch hands at a nearby ranch heard a shot.

On July 14th, 1882, Ringo’s lifeless body is discovered by Teamster James Yoast, Ringo is found dead among “a bunch of five large black jack oaks growing up in a semicircle from one root, and in the center of them was a large flat rock which made a comfortable seat.” 

On discovery, Ringos body is already blacked from the hot Arizona sun.

His feet were wrapped in strips of cloth torn from his undershirt. Ringo had lost his horse with his boots tied to the saddle. The coroner’s report noted that “He had evidently traveled but a short distance in this foot gear.” A bullet hole is found at his right temple and an exit wound at the back of his head. The fatal wound was upward at a 45-degree angle between the right eye and ear. His Colt Single Action Army .45 revolver was still in his right hand with the hammer rested on the empty chamber. A knife cut was found at the base of his scalp, as if “someone had cut it with a knife.” His horse was found eleven days later about 2 miles away with Ringo’s boots still tied to the saddle. 

Despite the later claims by Wyatt Earp to have killed him, or movie depictions of Doc Holiday dispatching him and a show down, it is not difficult to image a very drunk Johnny Ringo committing suicide, after falling off and loosing his horse.


NameJohn Peters Ringo
Also Know ASJohnny Ringo, Johnny Ringgold
Birth / DeathMay 3, 1850 – July 13, 1882
Cause of DeathSuicide, Cochise County, Ariona
Side armColt Single Action Army .45 revolver
VictimsJames Cheyney – Killed – September 25, 1875 – Mason County, Texas
Charley Bader – Killed – August 19th, 1875 – Mason County, Texas
Louis Hancock – Wounded – December 1879 – Safford Arizona


Christopher Houston Carson

Christopher Houston Carson (December 24, 1809 – May 23, 1868), also known as “Kit” Carson, was a nineteenth century American Frontiersman, Army Officer and Politician and the namesake of Carson City, Nevada. During his lifetime, he achieved notoriety for his exploits as an Indian Fighter, Fur Tapper, Mountain man

Christopher 'Kit' Carson (1809-1868), American explorer - Photograph byMathew Brady or Levin C. Handy - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cwpbh.00514.
Christopher ‘Kit’ Carson (1809-1868), American explorer – Photograph by Mathew Brady or Levin C. Handy – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.

Carson was born on December 24, 1809 in Madison County, Kentucky to Lindsey Carson and Rebecca Robinson Carson. He is a cousin to Danial Boone on his mothers’ side. The family moved to Missouri two years later. Survival being the priority, Carson never learned to read or write. At the age of 16, he signed up with a large caravan of merchants headed west towards Santa Fe.


In 1854, a change encounter with the explorer John C. Frémont, made Carson an active participant in the clash of empires that eventually extended the boundaries of the continental United States to its present. The two men met aboard a steamboat on the Missouri River. He served as a guide to for Fremont on three expeditions for a sum of $100 per month. These expeditions found the Oregon Trail and opened to west for the settlers who followed.

First expedition, 1842

In 1842, during the first expedition, Carson guided Frémont across the Oregon Trail to South Pass, Wyoming. The purpose of this expedition was to map and describe the Oregon Trail as far as South Pass. It is during this trip, that the two men produced a guidebook, maps, and other paraphernalia would be printed for westward-bound migrants and settlers. After the completion of the five-month expedition, Frémont wrote his government reports, which made Carson’s name known across the United States, and spurred a migration of settlers westward to Oregon via the Oregon Trail.

Second expedition, 1843

In 1843, Carson agreed to join Frémont’s again during his second expedition into the west. Carson guided Frémont across part of the Oregon Trail to the Columbia River in Oregon. The purpose of the expedition was to map and describe the Oregon Trail from South Pass, Wyoming, to the Columbia River. They also ventrured towards the Great Salt Lake in Utah, using a rubber raft to navigate the waters.

On the way to California, the party is held up during bad weather in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Fortunately, Carson’s good judgement and his skills as a guide and they found some American settlers who fed them. The expedition turned towards California. This ventures is illegal, at the time, and dangerous because California was Mexican territory.

During the expedition, the expedition arrive in the Mojave Desert. His party met a Mexican man and boy, who informed Carson that Native Americans had ambushed their party. The Native Americans killed the men, and the women are staked to the ground, sexually mutilated, and killed. The murderers then stole the Mexicans’ 30 horses. Carson and a mountain man friend, Alexis Godey, went after the murderers. It took the two men, two days to find the culprits. The pair rushed into their camp and killed and scalped two of the murderers. The horses were recovered and returned to the Mexican man and boy. This act brought Carson even greater reputation and confirmed his status as a western hero in the eyes of the American people.

The Mexican government ordered Frémont to leave. Frémont returned to Washington, DC and filed his reports. He but did not mention the California trip. The government liked his reports but ignored his illegal trip into Mexico. Frémont was made a captain. The newspapers nicknamed Fremont, “The Pathfinder.”

Third expedition, 1845

In 1845, Carson lead Frémont on a third expedition. Leaving Westport Landing, Missouri, they crossed the Rockies, passed the Great Salt Lake, and down the Humboldt River to the Sierra Nevada of California and Oregon. The third expedition is more political in nature. Frémont may have been working under secret government orders. US President Polk wanted Alta California, which includes parts of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and parts of Wyoming.

Once in California, Frémont set out to rouse American settlers into a patriotic fervor. The Mexican General Jose Castro at Monterey ordered him to leave. On Gavilan Mountain, Frémont erected a makeshift fort and raised the American Flag in defiance to these orders. While in Oregon, while camped near Klamath Lake, a messenger from Washington, DC, caught up with Fremont and made it clear that Polk wanted California.

On 30 March 1846, while traveling north along the Sacramento Valley, Fremont’s expedition met a group of Americans Settlers. The settlers claimed that a band of Native Americans was planning to attack them. Frémont’s party set about searching for Native Americans. On April 5 1846, Frémont’s party spotted a Wintu village and launched a vicious attack, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 120 to 300 men, women, and children and the displacement of many more. This act of savagery became known as the Sacramento River massacre. Carson, later stated that “It was a perfect butchery.


Kit Carson accepted a commission as a colonel in the U.S. Army in 1861, Carson fought against Native American and Confederate forces in several actions.

His fame was then at its height,… and I was very anxious to see a man who had achieved such feats of daring among the wild animals of the Rocky Mountains, and still wilder Indians of the plains…. I cannot express my surprise at beholding such a small, stoop-shouldered man, with reddish hair, freckled face, soft blue eyes, and nothing to indicate extraordinary courage or daring. He spoke but little and answered questions in monosyllables.

Northern Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman


Raven ( Corvus corax )

The Raven ( Corvus corax ) is one of eight subspecies of Ravens distributed throughout the world. Also known as western or northern raven, this large black bird is a member of the Corvidae family of birds which also contains crows, jays and magpies. This bird is a rather large and features solid black feathers which offers a dramatic and ominous appearance.

Raven ( Corvus corax ) sitting on a coral fence at the Grand Canyon Western Ranch.
Raven ( Corvus corax ) sitting on a coral fence at the Grand Canyon Western Ranch.

The raven is a large bird, known to average 25 inches in length and 2.6 pounds in weight and heaviest of the passerine or perching birds. This species is renowned for its intelligence and commonly used to test animal problem solving ability. This species has a world wide distribution and can thrive in a large variety of climates. The bird is an opportunistic omnivore finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion insects, grains, berries, fruit, small animals, other birds, and food waste. The are common features around campgrounds for the food sources left by human activity.

Range map of the Common Raven
Range map of the Common Raven

The raven has a long history with man in culture, literature and superstition. Many Native American tribes cultures regard the bird as a trickster or a cosmic messenger. Edgar Allen Poe’s infamous poem forever linked this bird with ominous overtones and symbolism for in western culture. The National Football Team even has a football team named for this special mischievous bird.

Field Guide Description

“Large with a long, heavy bill and long wedge-shaped tail. Most common call is a low drawn-out croak. Larger than the Chihuahuan Raven; note thicker, shaggier throat feathers, and that nasal bristles to not extend as far our on the larger bill. Range: Found in a variety of habitats, including mountains, deserts, coastal areas. Numerous in western and northern part of range; uncommon and local, but spreading in Appalachians.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 318


Genus Corvus


Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri )

The Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) is a common character found in the forests of the western half of the United States. The bird is an opportunistic omnivore and closely related to the Blue Jay. The Stellars Jay has a black crested head and a vibrant blue body which is commonly about between eleven and twelve inches long. This bird has a lot of variations depending on location.

Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri )
Stellars Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri )

The Stellars Jay is commonly, mistakenly, called a “Blue Jay” in the Pacific Northwest. The Stellar, however, is a distinct species from the Blue Jay ( Cyanocitta cristata ). The major differentiating characteristic is the Blue Jay does not have a crest.

Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

This bird commonly feeds upon seeds, nuts and acorns. Speaking from first hand information, they also love unsalted peanuts. The will also eat insects and other small invertebrates, including mammals. They are also known to raid other birds nests and can be very aggressive with other birds.

Stellars Jay breed in monogamous pairs and a clutch of eggs is typically 3 – 5 in number. Both parents are active is feeding the young.


The Stellar’s Jay is a common bird located primarily in pine-oak woodlands and coniferous forests. The dark blue and black coloring of the species helps aid in camouflage in the shadows of the forest.

The species is fairly bold and aggressive in its behavior and it is quite common to encounter them around campgrounds and picnic areas.

This animal is found across most of the western states. The bird is known to cross breed with the Blue Jay when their ranges overlap.

The range of this bird is as far north as Alaska and to the south in Nicaragua. The Eastern boundary in the United States for this bird is Colorado and New Mexico.

A Stellar's Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) stealing peanuts in Big Bear, California
A Stellar’s Jay ( Cyanocitta stelleri ) stealing peanuts in Big Bear, California

Field Guide Description

“Crested; dark blue and black overall. Some races, including nominate from coast to northern Rockies are darker backed; have blueish streaks on forehead. Central and southern Rockies race, C.s. macrolopha, have long crest, paler back, white streaks on forehead, white mark over eye; largest race, carlottae, resident of Queen Charlotte Island off British Columbia, is almost entirely black above. Where ranges overlap in the eastern Rockies, Stellar’s Jay occasionally hybridizes with Blue Jay. Calls include a series of shack or shooka notes and other calls suggestive of Red-tailed Hawks. Range: Common in pine-oak woodlands and coniferous forests. Bold and aggressive; often scavenges at campgrounds and picnic areas. Casual winter visitor of lower elevations of the Great Basin, southern California and southwestern deserts.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 312


Genus Cyanocitta