Amazona aestiva - Blue-fronted / Amazona amazonica - Orange-wing
Habitat:There are approximately 30 species of Amazon parrots, ranging from Mexico south through South America. They also occur on several Caribbean islands. They occur in tropical rainforests, woodlands, savannahs, and coastal mangrove swamps.
Adaptations:Unlike many parrots, which are brightly colored, Amazons are predominately green, providing camouflage in the treetops. Parrots use their feet to grasp food; just as humans can be left-handed or right-handed, parrots are often either left-footed or right-footed. Their beaks are very powerful and able to break seeds and nuts.
Diet:Seeds, nuts, berries, and fruits.
Fun Fact:In the wild, Amazons usually mix with other flocks of Amazons. Can be good talkers, but it depends upon the individual bird. Parrots are very intelligent.
Status:Numbers are decreasing in the wild. Some species of Amazon parrot are highly endangered due to habitat loss and illegal capture for the pet trade.
Habitat:The bald eagle makes its home in forested areas near the water. Including marshes, coastlines, and riverbanks. The national bird of the United States, they are also found in Canada and northern Mexico. Vagrant bald eagles have been found as far abroad as Ireland.
Adaptations:The eagle’s eyes are set close together, giving them binocular vision, which gives them excellent depth perception; eagle vision is estimated to be up to eight times better than human vision. An eagle’s ears are located under a layer of feathers just behind the eyes. Eagles have hooked beaks designed to cut, tear, and crush their food. Eagles have strong legs and powerful bright yellow feet which help them catch their prey and also allow them to perch high in the treetops.
Diet:Mainly fish; also rodents, small mammals, and carrion
Fun Fact:Bald eagle nests, built of woven sticks, are among the largest of bird nests, and may be reused and added to for years. Bald eagles do not obtain their characteristic white head until they are mature, usually at 5 years old. Despite their fierce appearance, the voice of the bald eagle is very weak, sounding more like a chicken’s cluck. The “scream” of a bald eagle often heard in movies and television is usually the call of a red-tailed hawk.
Status:Once common across North America, suffered a tremendous decline, largely due to the pesticide DDT, which resulted in weak, deformed eggshells. Since the banning of DDT in 1972, bald eagles have rebounded and were removed from Endangered Species Act federal listing in 2007
Habitat:Black-crowned night herons are found almost worldwide, from North and South America to Eurasia and Africa. They live in wetlands, mangrove swamps, and coastal areas.
Adaptations:As their name suggests, night herons are often inactive by day and can be found roosting in trees. During the breeding season, when their demand for food is higher, they may hunt at both day and night. They are very vocal, with their most common call being a harsh croak; the name Nycticorax means “Night Raven.”
Diet:Fish, aquatic invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles, small mammals.
Fun Fact:Their scientific name means “night raven,” since they are nocturnal and have a crow-like call.
Status:Protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act. They are still common and widespread, increasing in some areas, decreasing in others.
Habitat:Black-necked swans inhabit swamps, lakes, and coastal waters in southern South America.
Adaptations:Black-necked swans are among the best swimmers of all the swans – their legs, positioned at the back of their body – let them paddle very quickly. The downside is that this arrangement makes them slow, awkward, and clumsy when on land. They are strong fliers despite their great weight, but must have a long stretch of water over which they can run with their wings flapping to get airborne.
Diet:Aquatic Plants, Tadpoles, Small Fish
Fun Fact:Young swans (called cygnets) often ride on the backs of their parents, usually their father. This allows the female to spend more time feeding, regaining the weight that she lost while incubating the eggs.
Status:Widespread and common throughout its habitat
Ara ararauna -- Blue and gold macaw / Ara cloroptera -- Green winged macaw
Habitat:The macaws are a group of long-tailed, large-beaked parrots native to Central and South America. Across that range, they live in several kinds of forested habitats, from dense tropical rainforest to dry, wooded savannah.
Adaptations:The macaw’s large, strong beak and movable upper mandible are useful both for feeding, allowing them to crack open hard nuts, and climbing. Macaws travel together in loud screeching flocks.
Diet:Seeds, nuts, and fruits.
Fun Fact:Macaws are messy eaters, dropping large quantities of food as they eat. In the wild, this habit provides many ground dwelling animals with fruit they would not otherwise be able to reach. Some of the foods macaws eat in the wild contain small amounts of toxins. To counter these poisons, macaws will eat clay, gathering in large numbers on cliff faces to obtain it.
Status:Several species of macaw are already extinct, and many of those that remain are endangered. Deforestation is the major threat to their survival, as macaws require very large, old trees with cavities to nest in so that they can raise their young. They are also illegally captured and sold on the pet trade.
Habitat:As North America's smallest diving duck, Buffleheads can be found in shallow, sheltered coves, harbors, estuaries, or beaches--away from open coastlines. They breed near ponds and lakes in Canada and Alaska, with some isolated populations in the western parts of the United States.
Adaptations:The Bufflehead has a large head with glossy green and purple. Females are usually grey-brown with a neat white patch on the cheek. This bird vanishes underwater abruptly to feed, and resurfaces in the same fashion.
Diet:Bufflehead dive for aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, and mollusks. They typically swallow their food while still underwater. On average, their dives last about 12 seconds. On freshwater, they mostly eat damselfly and dragonfly larvae, midge larvae, mayfly larvae, caddisfly larvae, large zooplankton such as amphipods, and snails. Their main diet consists of clams in winter. In saltwater, Bufflehead eat shrimp, crabs, amphipods, isopods, snails, mussels, herring eggs, sculpins, and ratfishes.
Fun Fact:Unlike most ducks, the Bufflehead is mostly monogamous, often remaining with the same mate for several years.
Status:The population is stable.
Habitat:The burrowing owl is found in open country and on the prairie in North and South America. They are capable of digging their own burrow, but most often live in tunnels dug by prairie dogs, gophers, desert tortoises, ground squirrels, and other burrowing animals.
Adaptations:Burrowing owls have unusually long legs, which allow them to hunt on the ground as well as in the air. They live in loose colonies which will warn each other of predators.
Diet:The owl’s diet consists of insects, small mammals, birds, frogs, snakes, and lizards. Unlike many other owls, they will also eat some fruits and seeds.
Fun Fact:To scare away predators, owls issue an incredibly accurate vocal mimicry of the rattling of a rattlesnake, accompanied with some hissing sounds. Burrowing owls have been known to “bait” the outside of their burrow with small pieces of mammal dung, which will then attract dung beetles for the owls to prey upon.
Status:In some parts of their range, burrowing owls are becoming more common due to deforestation; they will even live in man-made habitats, such as golf courses, cemeteries, and university campuses. In other areas, they are declining due to habitat loss. They are also vulnerable to car collisions, as well as predation from feral dogs and cats.
Habitat:In South America, the Chiloe Wigeon is a duck typically found on lakes, lagoons, slow-flowing rivers and other freshwater bodies. They breed in the most southern parts of South America and migrate throughout central South America.
Adaptations:This duck has an attractive pattern of black and white on its body, chestnut flanks, and a green band from its eye to the back of its neck. Their beak is usually blue-grey.
Diet:The Chiloe Wigeon feeds on aquatic vegetation from the water's surface by dipping its head. This bird will also graze from land.
Status:With such a small global range, this bird is not threatened.
Habitat:American flamingos are found in Central and northern South America. They also occur on several Caribbean islands, as well as the Galapagos. They live in lagoons, estuaries, mud flats, and lakes.
Adaptations:Flamingos are filter-feeders, sweeping their curved bills through the water with their heads held upside down. The bill filters the water and mud and the bird swallows the prey. Their tongue and beak have comb-like filaments that act as filters when feeding.
Diet:Diatoms, blue-green algae, mollusks and crustaceans. Flamingos – which are born gray – obtain their famous pink color from the food that they eat.
Fun Fact:Flamingos often mate for life, working together to build tall mud nests in which they lay their single egg. Flamingos nest in enormous colonies; it is believed that they require the presence of large groups of other flamingos to feel comfortable enough to breed.
Status:The nomadic life-style of flamingos makes conservation difficult. They are constantly on the move, making it hard to establish protected areas.
Habitat:Great curassows are found from southern Mexico throughout Central America, south into northern South America. They live in tropical forests, including rainforests and dry forests.
Adaptations:Although they can fly, curassows will usually run away to escape predators, using their wings to help jump into the branches. If confronted by a predator, such as an ocelot or eagle, they may stand their ground and fight.
Diet:Fallen fruit, berries, seeds, insects.
Fun Fact:Curassows travel in groups, with the male in the lead looking for danger. Male and female curassows look very different. Males are black with yellow knobs on their beaks. Females are chestnut colored with some white barring. Both sexes have a crest of forward-curving feathers.
Status:Great curassow populations are declining due to habitat destruction and deforestation. Local people also hunt curassows as a food source.
Habitat:Peafowl live in open grassy areas and open forests of South Asia. They can sometimes be encountered in farmlands and urban settings.
Adaptations:Male peafowl, called “peacocks,” have bright blue feathers on their neck and chest, and brown wing feathers. During breeding season males have large, colorful tails with eyespots, which they spread out and shake to attract females. Females have green feathers on their neck and chest, and the rest of the body is brown, to help camouflage them as they sit on their nests.
Diet:plants, insects, reptiles and small mammals
Fun Fact:The Indian peafowl is the national bird of India. Humans have long admired peafowl and kept them in collections for thousands of years.
Status:Indian peafowl are stable in the wild. The species is protected under the Indian Wildlife protection Act (1972).
Habitat:Greater rheas inhabit the grasslands and open woodlands of southeastern South America.
Adaptations:Rheas are members of the ratite family, the group of flightless birds that also includes the ostrich, emu, cassowary, and kiwi. Though they cannot fly they are excellent runners, possessing long, featherless legs and three toes. The birds speed away at the first sign of danger, using their wings as rudders when they change direction.
Diet:grasses, insects, roots, leaves, seeds and small vertebrates
Fun Fact:A female rhea’s involvement with her eggs ends the moment they hit the ground. Several females will lay their eggs in a shared nest, which will then be incubated and guarded by the male. After the eggs hatch, the male care for the young by himself.
Status:Rheas are sometimes hunted for their meat, eggs, and skin. They are also persecuted by farmers who view them as competitors with their livestock. Habitat loss – especially caused by livestock grazing and fences – is also a threat.
Habitat:Sandhill cranes get their name from the sandhills of Nebraska, where thousands of birds pass every year on their migrations. They live in marshes and grasslands from Canada south to northern Mexico, with other populations in Cuba and eastern Siberia.
Adaptations:The most common crane species on earth, sandhill cranes migrate in flocks that number tens of thousands of birds, traveling from their winter feeding grounds in the south to their breeding grounds in the north. Some of these migration journeys may cover over 4000 miles.
Diet:Sandhill cranes are omnivores, feeding on tubers, seeds, berries, and small animals, such as insects, worms, snakes, and small rodents.
Fun Fact:Like other cranes, sandhill cranes often mate for life. Pairs cement their bonds with elaborate “dances" spreading their wings and leaping in the air while calling.
Status:Sandhill cranes have disappeared over several parts of their range due to hunting and habitat loss. However, they are still the most common of the crane species and are not considered endangered.
Habitat:The range of the spectacled owl reaches from southern Mexico down into the central part of South America. They occupy thick, humid rain forests and wooded grasslands.
Adaptations:As with most raptors, the female is larger than the male; this allows the male and female to share a territory while catching different prey animals. Spectacled owls have an unmistakable face pattern. Light circles around their yellow eyes give them the appearance of wearing glasses or spectacles; this accounts for their name. Chicks and juveniles, on the other hand, are white with brown markings on their faces
Diet:Small Mammals, Birds, Frogs, Insects
Fun Fact:Although they are usually active at night, they will sometimes hunt during the day. Spectacled owls have several calls, including a series of popping, tapping sounds, which has given them the nickname of “knocking owl”.
Status:Its population is stable in the wild.
Habitat:Sun conures are found in the dry forests and savannahs of northeastern South America.
Adaptations:Sun conures are yellow with orange patches on the head, belly, rump, and back. The wings are green or blue with yellow tips. The voice of the sun conure is high pitched and unclear. They are quiet when feeding, but very vocal when flying. Sun conures travel in flocks of thirty, gathering into larger flocks when food is plentiful.
Diet:Fruits, Buds, Flowers, Nuts
Fun Fact:Though commonly kept as a pet, decades of trapping has made the sun conure one of South America’s rarest parrot.
Status:The sun conure is endangered because of habitat destruction. It is also threatened by capture for the pet trade
Habitat:Wild turkeys range from southern Canada through central Mexico. They are found in hardwood and mixed forests, but also need open spaces such as pastures or hayfields because these areas provide groundcover and insects used to feed their young.
Adaptations:They have keen eyesight and hearing and their feathers help them blend in with their surroundings. They can fly quickly for short distances, or fly into trees for shelter. Wild turkeys often band together in flocks. They can make a wide range of sounds, including the male’s “gobble” to attract females.
Diet:Adult turkeys forage for food such as acorns, nuts, leaves, buds, seeds, and fruit. They eat around 90% plant matter and 10% insects.
Fun Fact:Wild turkeys are one of two domesticated birds native to the New World; their name comes from the mistaken belief that they originated in Turkey. Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States rather than the Bald Eagle, which he considered a scavenger and thief.
Status:Wild turkeys were overhunted until they became very rare. Better game management and habitat restoration has allowed the species to rebound, and it is now again legally hunted.
Habitat:Found from Canada to Southeastern United States. Wood ducks prefer wooded wetlands, streams, and small lakes.
Adaptations:Unlike many ducks, wood ducks have clawed feet, which helps them perch on tree branches. They are also more vocal than many ducks, possibly an adaptation to help wood ducks stay in touch in dense vegetation.
Diet:Seeds, Fruits, Insects, Acorns, Small Fish.
Fun Fact:Wood ducks are the only North American duck to regularly raise two clutches of eggs a year. It is not uncommon for females to lay their eggs in the nest of other ducks.
Status:Wood ducks declined sharply in the early 1900s due to overhunting and habitat loss. The species has since rebounded, largely due to the provision of human-built nest boxes to replace the large trees they used to nest in.
Habitat:Canada geese are found across North America, though they have been spread by humans around the world, including Europe, East Asia, Australia, and South America. They live in marshes, rivers, and coastal waters.
Adaptations:Canada geese are known for the long migrations, flying in a characteristic “V” shape. This shape reduced resistance in the air for the birds in flight.
Diet:Grasses, Leaves, Berries, Algae, Roots. Canada geese will readily take to human-provided sources of food, such as agricultural fields, lawns, and golf courses.
Fun Fact:They have been clocked at air speeds of 60 mph during migratory flights
Status:While heavy hunting once threatened the Canada goose, it has rebounded enormously and is now very common throughout its range. Some populations have taken advantage of the abundance of food provided by humans and no longer migrate, having a potentially negative impact on local habitats.
Habitat:The mallard is found in marshes, wooded swamps, and grain fields; along ponds, rivers, and lakes in North America and Europe. It has also been introduced to much of the rest of the world, including Australia, South America, and southern Africa.
Adaptations:Mallards feed by “upending”, flipping themselves upside-down with their tail in the air and head underwater. Unlike many other ducks, which must patter along the water’s surface to get airborne, mallards can spring directly upward from the water into strong, agile flight. They migrate in pairs or small flocks from as far north as Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and back again.
Diet:Mallards feed on aquatic plants, seeds, grasses, and small aquatic animals
Fun Fact:The name “mallard” comes from the Old French for “Wild Duck.”
Status:The mallard is the world’s most wide-spread duck. Their spread around the globe has actually threatened many other duck species, who are not able to compete against the mallard.
Habitat:Originating in Manitoba, Canada and Minnesota west to northern California, the American white pelican migrates to its winter grounds in early fall. It winters in California, Mexico, Central America, along the Gulf Coast and in Florida.
Adaptations:Unlike the brown pelican the white pelican scoops up fish and water in its pouch. It holds its heads up and drains out the water and then swallows the fish. Pelicans often hunt for food in groups. They will form a line and start swimming towards shore while flapping their wings and herding their prey towards the shore.
Diet:fish, salamanders, crayfish
Fun Fact:The American white pelican eats up to three pounds of fish per day.
Status:Vulnerable to habitat loss.
Adaptations:The waterfowl – ducks, geese, and swans – represent one of the most successful groups of birds on earth. They can be found on every continent in any habitat with sufficient water. The wetlands and coastal waters of the Delmarva Peninsula provide some of the best waterfowl habitat in North America. Every winter, thousands of birds fly south to Delmarva from their breeding grounds in the Arctic. Unlike geese and swans, most species of duck are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the males look different from the females. Males of many species have bright, beautiful coloration, which helps to attract a mate. Females, on the other hand, are often a drab brown color, which provides camouflage as they sit on their eggs.
Habitat:Laughing kookaburras are native to eastern Australia, though they have also been introduced to southwest Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. They live in woodland and open forests.
Adaptations:The laughing kookaburra is the largest member of the kingfisher family. They are best known for their wild, raucous call, when sounds like crazed laughter; in actuality, it’s a territorial call. Their tendency to call most frequently at dawn and dusk has given them the nickname of “bushman’s clock”.
Diet:Kookaburras mostly eat insects, worms, and crustaceans, but will also take larger prey – small mammals, frogs, birds, and snakes. Lacking the talons that birds of prey possess, kookaburras will kill larger prey animals by whacking it repeatedly against a branch or the ground.
Fun Fact:Kookaburras are bold and curious, and readily come to associate people with food. They’ve even been known to swoop down and snatch food right out of people’s hands!
Status:Its population is stable in the wild.
Habitat:The eastern rosella are native to southeastern Australia & Tasmania; it has also been introduced to New Zealand. They live in open woodlands, grasslands, and forest edges.
Adaptations:They typically move around the landscape in pairs or small flocks, sometimes gathering into larger flocks. They feed early in the day, resting during the hot noon hours.
Diet:seeds, fruit, nectar, shoots, leaves
Fun Fact:They voice up to 25 different calls. Most often hear is the un-parrot like “pee-ping” contact call. They also make a babbling, chattering sound when feeding and a shrill scream when startled.
Status:It is an abundant species that continues to spread. In some areas, it is considered an agricultural pest.
Habitat:The Tawny Frogmouth is found throughout Australia, including Tasmania. They can be seen in almost any habitat type except the denser rainforests and treeless deserts.
Adaptations:Tawny Frogmouths may have been named because of their tawny colored plumage with dark streaks, which gives them excellent camouflage. At the hint of threat or disturbance they freeze, compacting their plumage to disguise themselves as a broken branch. During the winter, they save energy by going into torpor - lowering their heart rate and metabolism.
Diet:Insects, Worms, Snails, Small Mammals, Reptiles, Frogs. Frogmouths hunt from perches, pouncing onto the ground to grab prey. They will sometimes sit with their mouths open, snatching up insects that fly into their beak.
Fun Fact:Though they don’t move much, frogmouths can be very talkative. When danger approaches, adults will give an alarm call to their chicks, telling them to stay still. Males and females often sing drumming duets to one another.
Status:Frogmouths are not endangered. The biggest threats that they face are road accidents as they go to feed on insects that are attracted to car headlights.
Habitat:American Crows found in North America, from Canada to northern Mexico. They are found in open habitats, such as meadows, farmland, and open woodland. Northern crows may migrate south in the winter; southern crows do not.
Adaptations:American Crows are very social, sometimes forming flocks in the thousands. Their flight style is unique, a patient, methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides. The most usual call is CaaW!-CaaW!-CaaW!.
Diet:Crows are very opportunistic, and will eat several kinds of food, including insects, earthworms, fruit, seeds, reptiles, eggs, and rodents. In towns and cities, they quickly learn to associate people with food and will scavenge garbage.
Fun Fact:Inquisitive and sometimes mischievous, crows and their cousins, the ravens, jays, and magpies, are some of the most intelligent of all birds. They learn quickly and are excellent problem solvers, even learning how to use tools in some cases.
Status:The American crow is one of the most common songbirds in North America. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
Habitat:Brazilian agoutis are found in northern South America. They live in rainforests and scrublands.
Adaptations:Large members of the rodent family, agoutis inhabit the forest floor. When they detect danger – such as a puma or jaguar - they will freeze, trying to locate the source of the threat. They will then give an alarm call and dash through the forest, zig-zagging among the trees and retreating to shelter. They dig burrows under rocks, between roots of trees, or in sloping banks. Agoutis are primarily diurnal, but will be active under the light of a full moon.
Diet:Seeds, Fruits, Leaves, Tubers
Fun Fact:Brazil nut trees are dependent on the agouti. Agoutis have teeth strong enough to break open a Brazil nut. They will often bury the seeds to save them. From these buried seeds, new Brazil nut trees grow.
Habitat:Alpacas are a domesticated member of the camel (camelid) family, which also includes the llama, guanaco, and vicunas from South America. Alpacas were domesticated from the vicuna by the Incas over 5000 years ago and are among the most ancient of the world's domestic animals.
Adaptations:Alpacas are raised for their exquisite fleece which comes in many colors. Their dense coat keeps them warm in the cold climates. They are herd animals. Alpacas are agile climbers and have been used to haul items up and down mountains. They are very alert, with excellent eyesight.
Diet:Hay and grasses
Fun Fact:A baby alpaca is called a "cria". A female is called a "hembra" and a male is called a "macho".
Status:Alpacas are a domesticated species and do not exist in the wild. However, they are becoming more popular as pets and can be found on farms and ranches throughout North America.
Habitat:Andean bears live in the mountainous regions of western Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and western Bolivia. They are found in a variety of habitats, including scrub desert and grassland, but are most often associated with the cloud forests high in the Andes Mountains.
Adaptations:The Andean bear is also known as the spectacled bear, because of light coloration around the eyes which resembles spectacles, or glasses; they also have cream-colored markings on the muzzle and chest. Markings vary considerably: no two bears have the same pattern. One of the smaller bears, Andean bears measure five to eight feet long, and can weigh up to 300 pounds. They are excellent climbers and may build tree nests where they will sleep during the day, coming down to forage at night.
Diet:Andean bears are one of the most herbivorous (plant-eating of bears), with less than 10% of their diet consisting of met. The majority of their foods are fruit, seeds, leaves, palm sprouts, bromeliads, and bamboo hearts.
Fun Fact:The Andean bear is the only bear native to the continent of South America. Female Andean bears are much smaller than males, usually half the size. If a female bear meets a male bear and feels threatened, she will take advantage of her lighter build and run up into the trees, where the male will be too big and clumsy to follow.
Status:Andean bears are endangered, with possibly as few as 10,000 left in the wild. Their habitat is disappearing due to increased deforestation to support agriculture.
Habitat:Found in North America in streams and lakes with trees or shrubs on banks. Unlike many animals, beavers will make their own habitat, using downed trees, mud, and rocks to form dams, which blockade streams to form ponds. These dams can measure up to half a mile long.
Adaptations:As a semi-aquatic species, the eyes, ears, and nose are located on the top of the head. This allows the animal to see, hear, and breathe while the rest of its body is submerged. The eyes have a transparent (nictitating) membrane that covers the eyes while underwater. The large hind feet are webbed for swimming. The mouth has extra “lips” that close behind the incisors to allow chewing underwater. The tail is broad and flat and is used as a paddle when swimming and for balance on land. If frightened, a beaver will slap the surface of the water with its tail, sounding an alarm.
Diet:Leaves, twigs, inner bark of trees, ferns, skunk cabbage. In the autumn beavers cut and gather young saplings. They stock pile them near the lodge until they sink from the weight of the pile. This stock pile will be a source of fresh food during the winter months.
Fun Fact:During the colonial era, beaver fur was one of the most valuable trade items in the Americas. One of the main driving forces behind the exploration of North America was the search for more beaver pelts, and wars were fought over access to beaver-rich lands. Heavy hunting pressure caused beavers to disappear from much of their range, though they have since become more common.
Habitat:Historically, bison were found from Alaska southward to northern Mexico. Today, they occupy a patchy distribution on public and private lands on the prairies of western North America.
Adaptations:Bison are approximately six feet tall, up to 11 feet long, and weighing over 2000 pounds, making them the largest land animal in the western hemisphere. The shaggy, brownish-black fur is shed in the summer, revealing a shorter coat underneath. The large hump on the back is used to support the massive head, which in turn is used to clear snow away from hidden grasses.
Fun Fact:While they are often called “buffalo,” the true buffalo are found in Africa and Asia. Although the bison’s senses of smell and hearing are sharp, its vision is poor. Despite their great bulk, bison are capable of running over 30 miles an hour for an extended period of time. In 2016, the American bison was designated the National Mammal of the United States of America.
Status:Bison once roamed North America in the tens of millions. These herds were destroyed in the 19th century, partially due to demand for their meat and hides, but largely to control the Plains Indians, who depended upon the bison for their survival. Though they were brought to the edge of extinction, last minute conservation measures saved the species, and bison are no longer endangered.
Habitat:Capybaras live in family groups or small herds of twenty or less near lakes and rivers in South and Central America. Capybaras rest in shallow depressions in the ground.
Adaptations:The world’s largest rodent, the capybara can stand over two feet tall at the shoulder and weigh in excess of 120 pounds. They are sometimes referred to as “water hogs”, both because of their pig-like appearance and because they spend considerable time in the water. They are crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). They are graceful swimmers, having partially webbed feet, and can remain submerged for several minutes; a large amount of fatty tissue gives them neutral buoyancy in the water.
Diet:Capybara may graze on land or feed on hyacinth and other aquatic plants in the water. Like other rodents, their teeth grow continuously and must be worn down by gnawing.
Fun Fact:The word capybara means “Master of the Grass.” Centuries ago, capybaras were declared to be a fish by the Pope, which allowed the meat to be eaten during the Lenten season.
Status:Capybaras are used by humans as a food source and are also taken as pets. There have been some efforts to farm them commercially as a meat animal.
Predators:Jaguars, puma, caiman, anacondas, and humans.
Habitat:White-nosed coatis are found from the Southwestern United States into northern South America, where they are replaced by a different coati species. Across that range, they live in a variety of wooded habitats, including rainforest and dry scrubland.
Adaptations:Coatis resemble their relatives, the raccoons. The most obvious difference is their long, flexible snout, used to help sniff out hidden food from rocks, trees, and crevices. The long tail is used for balance when climbing; it can also be held straight up as a signal to other coatis, helping the animals keep in touch when it tall grasses. Coatis are crepuscular (active during early morning and dusk) and retire to a tree at night where they will sleep curled up, with the tail over the face.
Diet:Like raccoons, coatis have a wide-ranging diet – they will feed on earthworms, insects, spiders (including tarantulas), snails, reptiles, small mammals, eggs, roots, fruits, and nuts. Also like raccoons, they quickly come to associate humans with food, and will raid campsites and trashcans for a meal.
Fun Fact:Unlike other members of the raccoon family, coati are active by day, and tend to be social,. Females live in family groups; males, on the other hand, are solitary, joining the females only when it is time to breed.
Habitat:Found in northern Colombia, cotton-top tamarins inhabit tropical forests, including wetlands and dry thorn forests.
Adaptations:Cotton-top tamarins communicate using their facial expressions, postures, hair reaction, and high-pitched vocalizations. Acute eyesight, hearing, and smell aid in hunting and in detecting danger. Their long tails help keep balance while jumping and climbing, though they cannot swing or grasp with their tails like many South American monkeys can.
Diet:Tamarins feed on fruit, insects, and bird eggs; they obtain their drinking water by licking rain or dew off of leaves.
Fun Fact:A tamarin family consists of a mated pair and their offspring, who stay with their parents to help them raise the next set of young. After the female gives birth, she often passes the babies (usually twins) over to the father or one of her older children to carry. This frees her up to find the food she needs in order to produce milk. Cotton-tops have a specific call associated with food preferences (if they like insects or fruit better)! Cotton-tops have a complex vocal repertoire with at least 38 distinct vocalizations.
Status:Critically endangered, tamarins are disappearing due to habitat loss caused by deforestation. They are also illegally captured for sale biomedical research.
Habitat:Jaguars live in a variety of habitats, from dense jungle and scrubland to reed thickets and shoreline forests. They will even live in open country, provided the grass and rocks offer enough cover for hunting. Usually found near water, they are excellent swimmers and will swim to capture prey.
Adaptations:Resembling the leopard, the jaguar’s body is more compact, the tail is shorter, and its legs are more massive with exceptionally powerful jaws (prey is often killed with a bite to the skull). Adults can measure up to 8 feet long (including the tail), and weigh up to 200 pounds. The tawny-yellow coat is patterned with many dark rosettes; melanistic (all-black) jaguars are not uncommon. Black and spotted cubs can be born in the same litter.
Diet:Ground-living mammals (deer, capybara, peccary, tapir), fish, turtles, and small alligators.
Fun Fact:The jaguar is the largest American wildcat and the third-largest cat in the world, after the lion and the tiger. Although the jaguar is often associated with the rainforests of Central and South America, in historic times it was also found within the United States. Even today, jaguars are occasionally encountered in the American Southwest. In many parts of Latin America, the jaguar is known as “El Tigre” or “The Tiger”
Status:Threatened. The greatest threat to the jaguar, following loss of habitat, is opportunistic killing. A loss of natural prey species has forced some jaguars to resort to hunting cattle, which leads to conflicts with humans.
Habitat:The ocelot lives in the tropical forest, brushwood and rocky regions of Central and South America. Active by night, they spend their days resting among trees or in hidden dens.
Adaptations:The striped-and-spotted fur of the ocelot provides excellent camouflage among the broken shadows and patchy sunlight of the forest floor. Solitary hunters, ocelots will hunt on the ground or in the trees, and can catch prey in one of several ways – actively foraging, stalking prey, or lying in ambush.
Diet:Ocelots feed on small mammals, such as rodents, armadillos, and small monkeys, as well as birds, reptiles, fish, and crabs. They will occasionally take larger prey, such as small deer.
Fun Fact:The fur is accented with open -center dark spots that run in horizontal lines resulting in a striped pattern. No two ocelots have the same pattern.
Status:Ocelots inhabited parts of the southern United States until the 1800’s. They are now listed on the endangered species list, making trade in live animals or pelts illegal. Their populations are affected by habitat destruction, hunting for their pelts, and the black market pet trade. Only a tiny population of wild ocelots remains in the United States.
Habitat:Cavies live in the dry, scrub regions of the Patagonian Pampas in central and southern Argentina.
Adaptations:Also called the mara, the Patagonian cavy is a long-legged rodent that resembles a cross between a deer and a rabbit; it is most closely-related, however, to the guinea pig. They have strong hind legs and are capable of speeds of 35 mph for several hundred yards. When a cavy spots a predator, such as a fox or wild cat, it will leap up in the air with a series of stiff-legged hops. This behavior, called stotting, is the cavy’s way of showing predators that it is too fast and fit to be caught easily.
Fun Fact:Unlike most rodents, Patagonian cavies mate for life; in parts of their range, they are considered a symbol of marital fidelity. Several breeding pairs of cavy will share a burrow, thought to be a method of protecting their young from predators. They are diurnal and spend much of the day basking in the sun.
Status:No special status. Their numbers are declining in their home range due to habitat destruction, hunting (both for meat and by ranchers who want less competition for their livestock), and competition with the introduced European hare.
Habitat:Despite their name, prairie dogs aren’t dogs – they are squirrels. Their name comes from the barking noise that they make to warn one another of danger.
Adaptations:They are very territorial. Group members announce the boundaries of their territory by rearing up on their hind legs, pointing their heads skyward, and giving a series of distinctive barks. The prairie dog maintains its social structure with a ritual of kisses.
Diet:Grasses and other plants, including crops such as alfalfa and corn.
Fun Fact:Despite their name, prairie dogs aren’t dogs – they are squirrels. Their name comes from the barking noise that they make to warn one another of danger.
Status:Prairie dogs have seen a tremendous reduction in their numbers over the past century, the result of hunting and poisoning. Many farmers viewed them as competitors with their livestock. The disappearance of prairie dogs greatly impacts their ecosystem, as they are a keystone species. Several other species make their homes in prairie dog burrows, including snakes, owls, and toads. Many predators eat prairie dogs; one, the critically endangered black-footed ferret, eats little else. Furthermore, prairie dogs aerate the soil with their tunnels, improving the quality of the grass growing there.
Habitat:Red wolves once inhabited swamps and forests throughout the southeastern United States. Today, wild red wolves are found only eastern North Carolina, at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding lands.
Adaptations:Red Wolves get their name from the reddish-brown color of their coats. Their ears are tall and pointed and they have long legs with big feet. They are about 26 inches tall and, when full grown, be around 4 ½ feet long. Adults weigh anywhere from 45-80 lbs., with males often being heavier than females.
Diet:Rabbits, Raccoons, Nutria, Deer
Fun Fact:Red wolves live in packs, usually made up of one breeding pair and their offspring. They are primarily active at dawn and dusk.
Status:By the 1970’s, red wolves were driven to extinction in the wild by habitat loss and direct persecution. All that remained was a population in zoos. Captive breeding saved this species from extinction, and a small population has been reintroduced into the wild in eastern North Carolina. A major threat to the species has been competition and cross-breeding with the closely related coyote.
Habitat:River Otters are found across much of North America, living in rivers, creeks, swamps, and lakes. They are sometimes encountered in coastal waters.
Adaptations:With their webbed feet, short legs, and long bodies, otters are well adapted to life in the water. They swim easily, flexing their bodies and muscular tails up and down and paddling with their hind feet. An otter’s flexible body makes it an underwater acrobat, as it can turn somersaults in the water. They swim on their backs or on their bellies. Otters can stay submerged in the water for up to eight minutes at a time.
Diet:Fish, Amphibians, Crustaceans, Mollusks, Reptiles, Birds, Small Mammals, Fruit
Fun Fact:Otters are able to swim even in the coldest winters because of their remarkable fur coat – an outer lair which repels water and a warm inner coat. When foraging underwater, they use their whiskers to feel for prey, as their senses of smell, vision, and hearing are diminished underwater.
Status:River otters disappeared from many parts of their former range due to habitat loss and pollution; historically, they were heavily hunted for their luxurious fur. In recent years, reintroduction and relocation efforts have restored otters to many of their former habitats.
Habitat:Live in the rainforests in southern Mexico, high among the branches in the forest canopy. They live almost entirely in the trees, rarely descending to the ground.
Adaptations:Spider monkeys are amazing acrobats, and their entire body is geared towards climbing. Their most notable feature is the prehensile (hand-like) tail, which they can use as an extra limb while climbing. Equipped with a naked patch at the end for improved gripping, the tail can be used to reach out for branches, steady the monkey’s weight, or even pick up objects. The elongated arms and legs increase the monkey’s momentum as it swings through the trees, arm over arm, reaching speeds up to 15 miles per hour.
Diet:Fruits, leaves, nuts, insects, arachnids, and eggs
Fun Fact:The name “spider monkey” refers to how the monkeys look like spiders when they hang from their tails with all four limbs extended. Spider monkeys live in social groups made up of approximately 30 individuals.
Status:Endangered: Spider monkeys are dependent upon large areas of tall forest. They can tolerate some logging, but in the face of habitat loss and hunting for food, they disappear from human-accessible areas.
Habitat:They are found in eastern and southeastern Australia, as well as the island of Tasmania. They inhabit grasslands and the edges of forested areas. It has been introduced to New Zealand.
Adaptations:Wallabies are mainly crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). They have large hind feet and use these, their tails, and front legs to walk. If startled, they will hop rapidly away on the hind feet. They can go up to 30 mph, and can leap 4-6 feet high. They have thick, course hair, and long tapered tails which are used for balance.
Diet:Grass, herbs, tree leaves, bark and fruit
Fun Fact:A baby wallaby is called a joey; a joey will remain in its mother’s pouch until it is about 9-10 months old
Status:Listed as a species of Least Concern; regarded as an agricultural pest in parts of New Zealand.
Habitat:White-tailed deer are common throughout much of the United States, but their range stretches much further, from southern Canada down through South America. They are most common in edge habitats, where fields and meadows meet woodlands from Southern Canada and eastern United States. They usually feed from very late afternoon into the night time hours and are often back in the safety of their bedding areas by first light of morning.
Adaptations:The summer hair coat is reddish brown, while the thicker winter coat is dull brown to grayish. Fawns are covered with white spots for camouflage. Deer use their excellent senses of smell, hearing, and eyesight to detect predators; when danger is spotted, the deer will flee, flashing their white tails as a warning sign to other deer. Male white-tailed deer grow antlers which they use to compete for access to females; after the breeding season, these antlers drop off, and are regrown next year.
Diet:Green plants, acorns and other nuts, tree buds, woody plants, shrubs and cultivated crops.
Fun Fact:Male white-tailed deer grow antlers which they use to compete for access to females; after the breeding season, these antlers drop off, and are regrown next year.
Status:Very common. A lack of natural predators, coupled with plentiful food sources, has led to an overpopulation of deer in many areas.
Habitat:American alligators are found throughout the southeastern United States. They live in swamps, lakes, and rivers, only rarely venturing into saltwater.
Adaptations:The eyes, ears, and nostrils of an alligator are located on top of its head. This allows even a very large alligator to remain almost completely hidden underwater while still being able to see, hear, and smell. In the northern portion of their range, alligators are subjected to cold weather conditions, sometimes even ice and snow. They survive these cold spells by taking shelter in burrows or caves, going into a state of torpor until the weather warms up.
Diet:Alligators are born hunters, able to catch prey shortly after hatching. They size of the prey depends on the size of the alligator; hatchlings take insects, frogs, and small fish, whereas large adults can capture animals the size of deer. Being cold-blooded, alligators expend little energy and can go months at a time without a meal.
Fun Fact:Despite their fearsome reputations, alligators are important members of their environment, and many animals depend on them for survival. Many birds, such as herons, egrets, and wood storks, will build their nests in trees over alligator-filled waters. The alligators provide a level of protection – even the hungriest fox or raccoon will think twice before raiding a nest if it has to pass through a swamp full of alligators! Red-bellied turtles will go one step further; they will sometimes lay their own eggs inside alligator nests. During times of drought, alligators will dig small ponds. These “gator holes” provide haven for all sorts of animals.
Status:Alligators were hunted heavily for many years due to the demand for their belly skins, which were used to make leather products. Fortunately, with protection they have been able to bounce back tremendously, and they are one of the few species to be taken off of the US Endangered Species list. In some parts of the south, they are now extremely common.
Habitat:This python species can be found in sub-South Africa, and in many homes as a pet!
Adaptations:The Ball Python is a snake of small size, and is generally friendly. Adult females average 3 to 5 feet long, where males grow to be about 2 to 3 feet.
Diet:Typically, they eat small mammals, such as rats and birds.
Fun Fact:The name "ball python" refers to its tendency to curl into a ball when stressed or frightened.
Terrapene ornata ornata
Habitat:Native to both the U.S. and Mexico, it is actually an Asian species living in the Eastern regions of the world. The Box Turtle hibernates three to five months out of the year. It's very popular among pet owners!
Adaptations:The Box Turtle has a distinctive hinged lower shell that lets it completely enclose itself.
Diet:They will essentially eat anything they can get, but their diet consists mainly of vegetation and small insects.
Habitat:During winter months, Diamondbacks hibernate, buried in the mud at the bottom of tidal creeks. In the northern part of their range, terrapins enter hibernation in November or December and emerge between April and May.
Adaptations:Diamondback Terrapins, as the name implies, have diamond-shaped markings and grooves on the tops of their shells. Their skin color is a pale grey with dark stripes or blotches. With webbed feet, they make for strong swimmers!
Diet:Typically, they eat hard-shelled prey, such as snails, crabs, mussels, and clams.
Fun Fact:They are Maryland's state reptile and the University of Maryland's mascot!
Status:Diamondbacks are listed as endangered or threatened in many states.
Habitat:You'll find the Gopher Tortoise in Florida forests, pastures, and yards. Of all five North American tortoise species, the Gopher Tortoise is the only one to be found east of the Mississippi River.
Adaptations:It is a moderate-sized turtle, about 10 inches long, with shovel-like forelimbs for digging. Their shell is oblong shaped and a tan/brown/grey color.
Fun Fact:They can live up to 60 years in the wild!
Status:Conservation of gopher tortoises depends not only on the efforts of FWC and other groups, but also on Florida's citizens. In Florida, the Gopher Tortoise is listed as Threatened but is protected under state law.