In deserts, secondary consumers include species such as snakes, spiders and raptors that feed on smaller animals classified as herbivores. Secondary consumers, unlike primary consumers, eat mostly meat. They take the form of animals such as roadrunners, foxes, owls, hawks and vultures.
Secondary consumers rank high on the desert food chain; only tertiary consumers rank higher. The food chain begins with producers. Those organisms, primarily plants and vegetation, make their own food supplies. Most perform photosynthesis, which involves absorbing sunlight and converting light to energy. Plants make energy in the form of sugars called glucose. Producers supply primary consumers with energy.
Primary consumers include small mammals like rodents, chipmunks and squirrels. They exist in larger numbers in most desert environments than secondary consumers, giving secondary consumers a variety of food choices. Some predators, like rattlesnakes, make noise to catch prey. Others, like the Elf Owl, take a silent, stealthy approach instead. These owls produce no noise during flight. They sneak up on unsuspecting predators; soft feathers on their wing tips damper noise. Elf owls reside in deserts across the American Southwest, and extend their range into parts of Mexico as well. Elf owls feed primarily on insects like moths, beetles and scorpions. In turn, other desert predators such as foxes and coyotes consume owls.