2023 · Days of The Week · In Our Garden · On Our Property · Wildlife Wednesday

Pearl Crescent Butterfly (Phyciodes tharos)

The Pearl Crescent is a butterfly of North America. It is found in all parts of the United States except the west coast, and throughout Mexico and parts of southern Canada, in particular Ontario. Its habitat is open areas such as pastures, road edges, vacant lots, fields, and open pine woods. Its pattern is quite variable. Males usually have black antenna knobs. Its upperside is orange with black borders; postmedian and submarginal areas are crossed by fine black marks. The underside of the hindwing has a dark marginal patch containing a light-colored crescent.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_crescent

2023 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Western Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica)

Western Scrub Jay

Western scrub-jays have long tails and small bills. The head, wings, and tail are blue, the back is brown, the underside is gray to tan, and the throat is white. Unlike the Steller’s jay and the blue jays, they do not have a crest. Western scrub jays include several subspecies that live along the Pacific coast and in the interior West. The Pacific coastal group has a distinct blue collar and is brighter in color than those of the interior West. They also have beaks that are short and hooked for eating acorns, while interior scrub jays have longer, more pointed beaks for extracting pine nuts from pinecones. Their behavior can be bold and inquisitive, and their calls can be loud and raucous, although the jays of the interior tend to be quieter, and their calls are lower-pitched than those of the coast. Western scrub jays are about 11.5 inches (29 centimeters) in length and have a wingspan of just over 15 inches (38 centimeters).

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Birds/Western-Scrub-Jay

2023 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

American Bison (Bison bison)

This animal’s true name is the American bison, but most people call them buffalo. Bison are the largest terrestrial animal in North America. They can stand up to six feet (1.8 meters) tall. A male can weigh upwards of a ton (900 kilograms), and a female can weigh about 900 pounds (400 kilograms). Along with their formidable size, bison have several unique traits that help to identify them. One of the most noticeable is the hump on their shoulders. Another characteristic is their deep brown fur, which can grow very long, especially around the face and head. Bison also grow long beards and manes. The head of a bison is very large with a thick skull. Bison fight by crashing their heads or horns together. Both male and female bison have short, curved, black horns, which can grow to two feet (0.6 meters) long.

Before human intervention, bison once ranged over much of North America, including central Canada and most of the interior United States. The only places free of bison were along the coasts and deserts. Today bison are only wild in national parks, state parks, and reserves. Your best chance of seeing wild bison is to visit Yellowstone National Park in the USA or Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. American bison like open plains, savannas, and grasslands. Despite their immense size, bison still have to worry about predators. Buffalo calves can easily become the prey of a wolf pack or grizzly bear.

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/American-Bison

2023 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata)

Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata)

Male flame skimmers are known for their entirely red or dark orange body, which includes eyes, legs, and even wing veins. Females are usually a medium or darker brown with some thin, yellow markings. This type of skimmer varies in size but is generally measured between two and three inches long. These naiads are known for being rather large and chubby-looking due to their rounded abdomen. They are covered with hair but, unlike most young dragonflies, they lack hooks or spines.

2023 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Elk/Wapiti (Cervus canadensis)

Elk at the Elk & Bison Prairie in Land Between The Lakes

The North American Elk is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in its native range of North America and Central and East Asia. The word “elk” originally referred to the European variety of the moose, Alces alces, but was transferred to Cervus canadensis by North American colonists. The name “wapiti” is sometimes used for Cervus canadensis, which derives from a Shawnee and Cree word meaning “white rump”.

Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitats, feeding on grasses, plants, leaves, and bark. Male elk have large antlers which they shed each year. Males also engage in ritualized mating behaviors during the rut, including posturing, antler wrestling (sparring), and bugling, a loud series of vocalizations that establishes dominance over other males and attracts females. Although it is currently native to North America and central/eastern Asia, it had a much broader distribution in the past. Populations were present across Eurasia into Western Europe during the Late Pleistocene and survived into the early Holocene in southern Sweden and the Alps; the extinct Merriam’s elk subspecies ranged into Mexico. The elk have adapted well to countries where it has been introduced, including Argentina and New Zealand. Its adaptability may threaten endemic species and the ecosystems into which it has been submitted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elk

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctus horribilis)

Young grizzly in the meadow. Here, the bear is changing the fur from Winter to Summer.

The grizzly bear is a kind of brown bear. Many people in North America use the common name “grizzly bear” to refer to the smaller and lighter-colored bear that occurs in interior areas and the term “brown bear” to refer to the larger and typically darker-colored bear in coastal areas. However, most of these bears are now considered the same subspecies.

In North America, there are two subspecies of brown bears (Ursus arctos): the Kodiak bear, which occurs only on the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago, and the grizzly bear, which occurs everywhere else. Brown bears also occur in Russia, Europe, Scandinavia, and Asia.

Grizzly bears are large and range in color from very light tan (almost white) to dark brown. They have a dished face, short, rounded ears, and a large shoulder hump. The hump is where a mass of muscles attach to the bear’s backbone and give the bear additional strength for digging. They have very long claws on their front feet that also give them the extra ability to dig after food and dig their dens.

Grizzly bears weigh upward of 700 pounds (315 kilograms). The males are heavier than the females and can weigh 200 to 300 kilograms (about 400 to 600 pounds). A large female can weigh 110 to 160 kilograms (about 250 to 350 pounds) in the lower 48 States.

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Grizzly-Bear

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Hermit Thrush by the Bittern Marsh Trail in the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA)

A bird with a lovely, melancholy song, the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests in summer and is a frequent winter companion across much of southern North America. It forages on the forest floor by rummaging through leaf litter or seizing insects with its bill. The Hermit Thrush has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that sets it apart from similar species in its genus.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Hermit_Thrush/

2022 · Days of The Week · In Our Forest · On Our Property · Wildlife Wednesday

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

Eastern chipmunks are found in forests, but also in suburban gardens and city parks, as long as there are rocks, stumps, or fallen logs to provide perching sites and cover for burrow entrances They dig complex burrows with many entrances and chambers as well as short escape tunnels, and each chipmunk defends a small area around its burrow, threatening, chasing, and even fighting with a neighbor who invades the space The chipmunks spend the winter underground, but venture to the surface occasionally on mild, sunny days They enter torpor for a few days at a time, and then arouse to feed on stored nuts and seeds Life expectancy in the wild is slightly more than a year.

http://fieldguides.eol.org/

2022 · Days of The Week · In Our Garden · On Our Property · Wildlife Wednesday

Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata)

Ladybirds are perhaps the most well-known and popular of all European beetles, and the seven-spotted ladybird is one of the most common species. The Seven-spotted Lady Beetle is native to Europe and was successfully established in the U.S. in 1973. This rounded beetle has bright red wing cases with seven black spots, although some individuals may have more or fewer spots. The thorax is black with patches of pale yellow at the front corners. The common name of this group of beetles, ‘ladybird’, was originally given to the seven-spot in honor of the Virgin Mary; the red wing cases symbolize the Virgin’s red cloak, with the seven spots representing her seven joys and seven sorrows. The larvae are blackish in color and are active predators of aphids.

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers breed in savannas with scattered trees, shrubs, and patches of brush in the south-central U.S. and just over the border into northern Mexico. They also breed in towns, farm fields, pastures, and landscaped areas like golf courses or parks—areas with a mixture of feeding perches, open space, and trees for nesting. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers spend the winter in southern Mexico and Central America, in humid savannas, pastures, agricultural lands, scrublands, villages, towns, and the edges of tropical deciduous forests. They commonly stay below 5,000 feet elevation but occasionally winter at up to 7,500 feet. Sometimes they roost in towns and disperse to the countryside to forage.

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flies in straight lines with fast wingbeats, its tail folded. It also often hovers with its tail spread or makes abrupt turns in midair. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers form large roosts during spring and fall migration, and they flock in winter as well. In some populations, the males continue roosting in groups throughout the breeding season, but breeding birds tend to forage alone or in pairs. Males arrive before females in the early spring to establish and defend territories. After pairing up, both males and females chase and attack other individuals that intrude onto their territory. Trespassing happens frequently, especially in the early morning, so keep an eye out if you see these birds as you may be treated to an amazing aerial chase. Pairs are monogamous within a breeding season but don’t always reunite in later years. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers attack intruding Red-tailed Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Mourning Doves, Great-tailed Grackles, Common Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, Western Kingbirds, Loggerhead Shrikes, House Sparrows, American Crows, Blue Jays, and Lark Sparrows.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Scissor-tailed_Flycatcher/lifehistory

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vultures are the most widespread of all the New World Vultures. They range across most of the Americas from southern Canada, through most of the continental United States, into Mexico, Central America,, and most of South America all the way south to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of Argentina. Northern populations of Turkey Vultures are migratory and will travel south to spend winters in Mexico, Central America, and coastal regions of the United States. During migration season, if you are in the right spot, it is possible to see waves upon waves of thousands of Turkey Vultures, along with other species of vultures and other species of raptors, as they float across the sky toward warmer climates.

Turkey Vultures are adapted to living in a wide range of habitats and can be found anywhere. You may spot one soaring over deserts and grasslands in search of prey, roosting in trees in forested areas, feeding on dead fish alongside marshes or coastlines, perching on fence posts in agricultural fields, or even scavenging around garbage dumps and landfills. They spend a lot of time soaring and can travel great distances in relatively short periods.

https://peregrinefund.org/explore-raptors-species/vultures/turkey-vulture

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

The familiar Great Blue Heron is the largest in North America. It is a large bird, with a slate-gray body, chestnut and black accents, and very long legs and neck. In flight, it looks enormous, with a six-foot wingspan. Adults sport a shaggy ruff at the base of their necks. A black eyebrow extends back to black plumes emerging from the head. Juveniles have a dark crown with no plumes or ruff, and a mottled neck. In flight, a Great Blue Heron typically holds its head toward its body with its neck bent.

Adaptable and widespread, the Great Blue Heron is found in various habitats. When feeding, it is usually seen in slow-moving or calm salt, fresh, or brackish water. Great Blue Herons inhabit sheltered, shallow bays and inlets, sloughs, marshes, wet meadows, shores of lakes, and rivers. Nesting colonies are typically found in mature forests, on islands, or near mudflats, and do best when they are free of human disturbance and have foraging areas close by.

Great Blue Herons are often seen flying high overhead with slow wing beats. When foraging, they stand silently along riverbanks, lake shores, or wet meadows, waiting for prey to come by, which they then strike with their bills. They will also stalk prey slowly and deliberately. Although they hunt predominantly daily, they may also be active at night. They are solitary or small-group foragers, but they nest in colonies. Males typically choose shoreline areas for foraging, and females and juveniles forage in more upland areas.

https://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/great_blue_heron

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)

These damselflies inhabit freshwater bodies whose conditions range, they have been seen in acidic fens as well as eutrophic ponds. They have been considered one of the more sensitive insects in an aquatic setting. They are important within the trophic levels as they are an intermediate predator They consume smaller larvae and they are preyed on by fish and larvae bigger than them. The larvae prefer a habitat that has a more complex structure in the ground composition as well as the plants. The larval stages spend most of their time within the plants, climbing, and feeding. Although they do prefer a more complex habitat, they can also be found in habitats with simpler vegetation. They are efficient in both complexities equally, but the complex vegetation also serves as protection from fish. These larvae are able to live in shallow areas of water without showing signs of competition between the larvae. The damselfly larvae require a plant structure that can withstand the backward movement that occurs when the labium protracts to catch food.

The males of this species are a cerulean blue color with black markings, while the females have a larger variation in their coloring. Within females, there are a few different morphs ch they can take, andromorph and heteromorph. Andromorphic females resemble the cerulean blue males, but they have more black patterning on their bodies. The heteromorphic females are more of a brown or green-brown color and do not resemble the males at all. The reasoning behind the different morphs is to attempt to limit the amount of attention the female receives when she is near the water for reproduction. The common blue damselfly can be easily mistaken for the azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella), but on the back and the thorax, the common blue damselfly has more blue than black; for the azure damselfly, it is the other way around. The second segment of the thorax has a distinctive spot with a line below connecting to the third segment. Another difference can be observed when inspecting the side of the thorax. The common blue damselfly has only one small black stripe there, while all other blue damselflies have two.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enallagma_cyathigerum

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Eastern White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

The White-winged Doves (Zenaida asiatica) – also known as Singing or Mesquite Doves – are large, semi-tropical, and pigeon-like doves that occur naturally in the Americas. They are sometimes considered conspecific (one and the same species) with the West Peruvian Dove (Zenaida meloda); however, differences in vocalizations and morphology are credible arguments against this theory. In fact, they may best be placed into the bird genus Columba (typical pigeons) than the dove genus Zenaida (American doves).

White-winged Doves occur naturally in the United States from the Southwest east to Texas and Louisiana, south to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, into parts of western South America. Introduced populations have established themselves in Florida, USA. They have been increasing their range northward. In fact, they have been reported as far north as Alaska to Ontario, Maine, Newfoundland, and most places in between. Most of them are seasonally migratory. They breed in the United States and northern Mexico and travel south to Mexico, Central and South America, and some Caribbean islands for the winter. However, those populations occurring in areas where food is available year-round – in the southern parts of their range – tend to be year-round residents. They inhabit scrub, woodlands, desert, citrus orchards, agricultural fields, and residential areas throughout their range. Many farmers in Mexico refer to them as “la plaga” (the plague) as large flocks – sometimes thousands of them – may descend upon a single field of grain, and decimate it (particularly after the breeding season).

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

June Beetle (Phyllophaga spp.)

June Bug in Texas

June beetle, (genus Phyllophaga), also called May beetle or June bug, genus of nearly 300 species of beetles belonging to the widely distributed plant-eating subfamily Melolonthinae (family Scarabaeidae, order Coleoptera). These red-brown beetles commonly appear in the Northern Hemisphere during warm spring evenings and are attracted to lights.

The heavy-bodied June beetles vary from 12 to 25 mm (0.5 to 1 inch) and have shiny wing covers (elytra). They feed on foliage and flowers at night, sometimes causing considerable damage. June beetle larvae, called white grubs, are about 25 mm (1 inch) long and live in the soil. They can destroy crops (e.g., corn [maize], small grains, potatoes, and strawberries), and they can kill lawns and pastures by severing grasses from their roots.

Each female buries between 50 and 200 small pearl-like eggs in the soil. After three years of feeding on plant roots, the larvae pupate, emerge as adults in late summer, and then bury themselves again for the winter. In the spring the adults emerge once more and feed on available foliage. Adults live less than one year.

A natural enemy of the June beetle is the waved light fly (Pyrgota undata). The female fly lays an egg under the beetle’s elytra, where it hatches and feeds on the beetle, eventually killing it. Some small mammals, such as moles, are known to feed on the grubs, and June beetle larvae are considered excellent fish bait.

https://www.britannica.com/animal/June-beetle

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) 🦆

🦆 Mallard Ducks 🦆

If someone at a park feeds bread to ducks, there are Mallards in the fray. Perhaps the most familiar of all ducks, Mallards occur throughout North America and Eurasia in ponds, parks, wilder wetlands, and estuaries. The male’s gleaming green head, gray flanks, and black tail curl arguably make it the most easily identified duck. Mallards have long been hunted for the table, and almost all domestic ducks come from this species.

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Cool Facts about Mallard Ducks

The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds (everything except the Muscovy Duck). Domestic ducks can be common in city ponds and can be confusing to identify—they may lack the white neck ring, show white on the chest, be all dark, or show oddly shaped crests on the head.

The widespread Mallard has given rise to several populations around the world that have changed enough that they are considered separate species. The Mexican Duck of central Mexico and the extreme southwestern United States and the Hawaiian Duck both are closely related to the Mallard, and in both forms, the male is dull like the female. Both have been given full species status.

Mallard pairs are generally monogamous, but paired males pursue females other than their mates. So-called “extra-pair copulations” are common among birds and in many species are consensual, but male Mallards often force these copulations, with several males chasing a single female and then mating with her.

Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season. Pairing takes place in the fall, but courtship can be seen all winter. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings.

Ducks are strong fliers; migrating flocks of Mallards have been estimated to travel at 55 miles per hour.

The standard duck’s quack is the sound of a female Mallard. Males don’t quack; they make a quieter, rasping sound.

Mallards, like other ducks, shed all their flight feathers at the end of the breeding season and are flightless for 3–4 weeks. They are secretive during this vulnerable time, and their body feathers molt into a concealing “eclipse” plumage that can make them hard to identify.

Many species of waterfowl form hybrids, and Mallards are particularly known for this, hybridizing with American Black Duck, Mottled Duck, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, and Canvasback, as well as Hawaiian Ducks, Mexican Duck, the Grey Duck of New Zealand, and the Pacific Black Duck of Australia.

The oldest known Mallard was a male and was at least 27 years, and 7 months old when he was shot in Arkansas in 2008. He had been banded in Louisiana in 1981.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/overview

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis )

Brown Pelican with Roseate Spoonbills in the background

The Brown Pelican is a bird of the pelican family, Pelecanidae, one of three species found in the Americas and one of two that feed by diving into the water. It is located on the Atlantic Coast from New Jersey to the mouth of the Amazon River, and along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to northern Chile, including the Galapagos Islands. The nominate subspecies in its breeding plumage has a white head with a yellowish wash on the crown. The nape and neck are dark maroons–brown. The upper sides of the neck have white lines along the base of the gular pouch, and the lower fore neck has a pale yellowish patch. The male and female are similar, but the female is slightly smaller. The nonbreeding adult has a white head and neck. The pink skin around the eyes becomes dull and gray in the nonbreeding season. It lacks any red hue; the pouch is firmly olivaceous ochre-tinged, and the legs are olivaceous gray to blackish-gray.

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae Linnaeus)

The Gulf fritillary, Agraulis vanillae (Linnaeus), is a brightly colored butterfly common across extreme southern portions of the United States. At home in most open, sunny habitats, it frequents roadsides, disturbed sites, fields, open woodlands, pastures, yards, and parks. It is a regular in most butterfly gardens, including those in more urban settings.

The Gulf fritillary occurs throughout the southern United States southward through Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies to South America. In Florida, it can be found in all 67 counties. The butterfly undergoes distinct seasonal movements each year. Adults move northward in spring and form temporarily breeding colonies throughout the southeast. Individual vagrants may occasionally reach into the central U.S., but rarely into the Midwest. Starting in late summer and continuing through fall, huge numbers of adults migrate southward into peninsular Florida. Adults overwinter in frost-free portions of their range.

The Gulf fritillary produces multiple generations each year. Adults may be found in all months of the year throughout much of Florida. Adults have a quick, erratic flight but are easily drawn to nearby flowers. Females lay the small yellow eggs singly on or near leaves, stems, or tendrils of purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata L.), corky stem passionflower (Passiflora suberosa L.), yellow passionflower (Passiflora lutea L.) and several other passionflower vines. The larvae are bright orange with numerous black, branched spines. Larvae may feed on all parts of the plant and can rapidly defoliate host vines. The pupa is mottled brown and resembles a dead leaf. Adults overwinter.

https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/gulf_fritillary.htm

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Queen

The Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) is a North and South American butterfly in the family Nymphalidae with a wingspan of 318 – 338 inches (80 – 85 millimeters). It is orange or brown with black wing borders and small white forewing spots on its dorsal wing surface, and reddish ventral wing surface fairly similar to the dorsal surface. The ventral hindwings have black veins and small white spots in a black border. The male has black androconial scent patch on its dorsal hindwings. It can be found in meadows, fields, marshes, deserts, and at the edges of forests.

This species is possibly a close relative to the similarly colored soldier butterfly (or tropical queen, D. eresimus), in any case, it is not close to the plain tiger (D. chrysippus, African queen) as was long believed. There are seven subspecies.

Females lay one egg at a time on larval host plants. Larvae use these plants as a food source, whereas adult butterflies feed mainly on nectar from flowers. Unpalatability to avian predators is a feature of the butterfly; however, its level is highly variable. Unpalatability is correlated with the level of cardenolides obtained via the larval diet, but other compounds like alkaloids also play a part in promoting distastefulness.

Males patrol to search for females, who may mate up to 15 times a day. Male organs called hair-pencils play an important role in courtship, with males with lower hair-pencil counts being selected against. These hair-pencils may be involved in releasing pheromones during courtship that could attract female mates.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_(butterfly)

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Southwestern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus cowlesi)

Southwestern Fence Lizard in Blue Mesa, Arizona

The Southwestern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus cowlesi), also known as Cowles’ prairie lizard, the White Sands prairie lizard, or the White Sands swift, is a species of spiny lizard in the family Iguanidae. The species is native to the Chihuahuan Desert of the southwestern United States and northcentral Mexico. Originally described in 1956 as Sceloporus undulatus cowlesi, a subspecies of the eastern fence lizard, subsequent DNA studies elevated the southwestern fence lizard to species status. The specific name, cowlesi, is in honor of American herpetologist Raymond Bridgman Cowles.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southwestern_fence_lizard

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Western Honeybee (Apis)

Honeybee on Photinia Blossom

A honey bee (also spelled honeybee) is a eusocial flying insect within the genus Apis of the bee clade, all native to Afro-Eurasia. After bees spread naturally throughout Africa and Eurasia, humans became responsible for the current cosmopolitan distribution of honey bees, introducing multiple subspecies into South America (early 16th century), North America (early 17th century), and Australia (early 19th century).

Honey bees are known for their construction of perennial colonial nests from wax, the large size of their colonies, and surplus production and storage of honey, distinguishing their hives as a prized foraging target of many animals, including honey badgers, bears and human hunter-gatherers. Only eight surviving species of honey bee are recognized, with a total of 43 subspecies, though historically 7 to 11 species are recognized. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees.

The best-known honey bee is the western honey bee, (Apis mellifera), which was domesticated for honey production and crop pollination. The only other domesticated bee is the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana), which occurs in South, Southeast, and East Asia. Only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees, but some other types of bees produce and store honey, and have been kept by humans for that purpose, including the stingless bees belonging to the genus Melipona and the Indian stingless or dammar bee Tetragonal iridipennis. Modern humans also use beeswax in making candles, soap, lip balms, and various cosmetics, as a lubricant and in mold-making using the lost wax process.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Western Raven (Corvus corax sinuatus)

“Hello! Welcome to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park! I hope you have had a great trip so far?!”

Common ravens have coexisted with humans for thousands of years and have been so numerous in some areas that people have regarded them as pests. Part of their success as a species is due to their omnivorous diet: they are extremely versatile and opportunistic in finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion, insects, cereal grains, berries, fruit, small animals, nesting birds, and food waste. Some notable feats of problem-solving provide evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent. Over the centuries, it has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many cultures, including the indigenous cultures of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland, and Wales, Bhutan, the northwest coast of North America, and Siberia and northeast Asia, the common raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or godlike creature.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_raven

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Plateau Fence Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus)

Plateau Fence Lizard

At up to 3.1 inches (80 millimeters) from snout to vent, the plateau fence lizard is a grayish, brownish, or greenish lizard. The upper side of its body has keeled scales and there is a series of narrow dark brown cross-bands on both sides of the midline. An elongated metallic blue patch can be found on each side of the belly and each side of the throat. Males are typically smaller than females with males and females in Montezuma County measuring 2.5 inches (63 millimeters) and 2.6 inches (67 millimeters), respectively.

The plateau fence lizard is found in central Arizona, southwestern Utah, western Colorado, and the San Luis Valley. It can also be found in parts of New Mexico and Wyoming. It generally dwells in rocky and wooded areas, making use of canyon walls, boulder-strewn hillsides, fallen tree trunks, and other debris and vantage points.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plateau_fence_lizard

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) at LLELA, Lewisville, Texas

Painted Lady butterflies inhabit every continent except Australia and Antarctica You can find painted ladies everywhere from meadows to vacant lots. Although they live only in warmer climates, painted ladies often migrate to colder regions in spring and fall, making them the butterflies with the widest distribution of any species. 

The painted lady is an irruptive migrant, meaning that it migrates independently of any seasonal or geographic patterns. Some evidence suggests that painted lady migrations may be linked to the El Niño climate pattern. In Mexico and some other regions, it appears that migration is sometimes related to overpopulation. The migrating populations that move from North Africa to Europe may include millions of butterflies. In spring, painted ladies fly low when migrating, usually only 6 to 12 feet above the ground. This makes them highly visible to butterfly watchers but also makes them susceptible to colliding with cars. At other times, painted ladies migrate at such high altitudes that they are not observed at all, appearing unexpectedly in a new region. 

Thistle, which can be an invasive weed, is one of the painted lady caterpillar’s favorite food plants. The painted lady probably owes its global abundance to the fact that its larvae feed on such common plants. The painted lady also goes by the name thistle butterfly, and its scientific name— Vanessa cardui —means “butterfly of thistle.”

 https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-painted-lady-butterflies

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Juniper Hairstreak Butterfly (Callophrys gryneus)

Juniper Hairstreak Butterfly (Callophrys gryneus)

The Juniper Hairstreak in the southwestern United States is bright green below with a single white line on the forewing, hindwing, and tails. The butterfly is dark above but usually overscaled with rusty red. Bright green fades to gray-brown over time. Juniper Hairstreaks live throughout much of temperate North America.

2022 · Days of The Week · In Our Forest · On Our Property · Wildlife Wednesday

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

White-tailed Deer have long, slender legs, prominent ears, and large liquid brown eyes set off against thick white eye rings. Whitetails have a shiny black nose contrasting with a whitish nose band. The chin is white and edged on either side with a wide band of dark hair. The throat area is also white or grayish.

The deer’s prominent ears are edged in a dark color contrasting with white hair on the inside. The ears are often in motion; they can swivel independently of each other to capture sound from multiple directions and pinpoint the sound’s exact location.

The deer’s underparts, including its belly and the inner portions of its upper legs, are white. The rump and underside of the tail are also white. When alarmed, the deer flashes its tail, and the white hairs on its rump flare out, giving rise to the name “white-tail.”

https://wildadirondacks.org/adirondack-mammals-white-tailed-deer-odocoileus-virginianus.html

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus)

The most common rabbit species in Texas is the Eastern cottontail, identifiable by its two- to three-pound body, brown or gray coat, white belly, and distinctive white tail. They are widespread in brushy areas from southern Canada to South America, predominantly east of the Rocky Mountains.

Cottontails feed at night, subsisting on a variety of green plants, barks, buds, and grasses. Unlike the jackrabbit, which is actually a member of the hare family, cottontails are true rabbits. This distinction is important, as hares are born virtually self-sufficient, whereas rabbits are born hairless, blind, and helpless. In addition, hares tend to be larger and more muscular than rabbits.

The cottontail is an essential element of the food chain, serving as prime prey for many predators. As a result, cottontail life expectancy is extremely short — one year or less — requiring the prolific reproduction so often attributed to rabbit species. In addition to their reproductive strategy, cottontails thrive because they are swift-moving and can jump distances of up to eight feet at a time when pursued, making split-second changes in direction to frustrate and elude predators.

Cottontails are somewhat difficult to view, due to their swift and elusive nature. Viewing opportunities are best in brushy areas near ponds, marshes, and streams, particularly along the Texas coast.

by Shannon Blackburn in Wild Texas Travel Guide

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

Mockingbirds are one of the most commonly noticed birds in the state of Texas. They are either applauded for their audaciousness or cursed for their persistence in nocturnal singing or in the defense of their territory. Insects, fruit, crustaceans, and small vertebrates make up the mockingbird’s diet. The fact that they enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables hasn’t exactly made them gardeners’ friends either, although they do eat lots of insects.

Mockingbirds are found in just about every habitat type in the state. The males’ territoriality and constant singing and displaying during the breeding season make them the most noticeable bird in Texas. Often this territoriality takes the form of early morning singing sessions or diving attacks on other animals or people!

Unmated male mockingbirds sing more than mated ones, and only unmated males sing at night. Both sexes sing in the fall to claim winter feeding territories. These areas are often different than their spring breeding territories. Mockingbirds mimic 50 other bird songs. They have also been known to imitate other sounds they hear such as rusty hinges, whistling, cackling hens, and dogs barking so expertly that even an electronic analysis could not tell the difference between the mockingbird and the original. Scientists have found that female mockingbirds are attracted to males that can make the most different sounds.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/mockbird/

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris)

The Pickerel Frog is common in Connecticut. Its skin is light brown with distinct, blocky, darker brown spots. Pickerel frogs are never green. Their bellies are white and the skin under their legs is orangey-yellow. This is believed to be a warning of their unpalatability. Pickerel frogs can be 2 to 3 1/2 inches long. Northern Leopard Frogs and Pickerel Frogs are sometimes confused. A pickerel frog is never green. It has orange-yellow skin under its legs. Its spots are squarish. A leopard frog can be green or brown. The skin under its legs is white. Its spots are rounded.

Resource: http://wildlifeofct.com/pickerel%20frog.html

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans)

The Green Lynx Spider is a bright-green spider usually found on green plants. It is the largest North American species in the family Oxyopidae. This spider is common in the southern U.S., Mexico, Central America, and many West Indie islands, especially Jamaica. The species name, viridans, is Latin for “becoming green”. It should not be confused with either Peucetia viridana, a species that occurs only in India and Myanmar, or Peucetia viridis from Spain and Africa.

Resource: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peucetia_viridans

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Double-crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritum)

The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin. Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigatebirds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America—perhaps attracting the most attention when they stand on docks, rocky islands, and channel markers, their wings spread out to dry. These solid, heavy-boned birds are experts at diving to catch small fish.

Resource: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Double-crested_Cormorant/

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

Ring-billed Gull at Josey Ranch Lake, Carrollton, Texas

The ‘Larus delawarensis’ is the most common and widespread gull in North America, especially inland, and numbers are probably still increasing. These gulls are sociable in all seasons; concentrations at nesting colonies or at winter feeding sites may run into the tens of thousands. The Ring-bill has adapted thoroughly to civilization. Flocks are often seen resting in parking lots, scavenging for scraps around fast-food restaurants, or swarming over landfills.

Resource: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/ring-billed-gull

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

The mournful cooing of the Mourning Dove is one of our most familiar bird sounds. From southern Canada to central Mexico, this is one of our most common birds, often abundant in open country and along roadsides. European settlement of the continent, with its opening of the forest, probably helped this species to increase. It also helps itself, by breeding prolifically: in warm climates, Mourning Doves may raise up to six broods per year, more than any other native bird.

Resource: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/mourning-dove

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Bright red with a pointed head crest and black bib, male cardinals are always a welcome sight at bird feeders. Cardinals are year-round residents in the eastern two-thirds of Texas. They prefer thick underbrush for nesting. Cardinals have been expanding their range northward.

Both male and female cardinals sing almost year-round. Common calls include “cheer cheer cheer”, “whit-chew whit-chew whit-chew” and “purty purty purty”. Cardinals eat seeds, fruit, and insects, and are easily attracted to bird feeders, especially those containing sunflower seeds.

Male cardinals vigorously defend their territory. They have been known to attack their reflections in mirrors, windows and chrome. Sometimes they will even attack small red objects they mistake for other males. Females usually sing after males establish territory but before nesting starts. A cardinal’s nest consists of a tightly woven cup of roots, stems and twigs lined with fine grass and hair.

Cardinals are colorful, tolerant of people, have pleasant calls, and are easily attracted to bird feeders. That has made them a favorite of backyard birdwatchers all over the eastern half of the U.S. Cardinals may form winter flocks of 60-70 birds. Their bright plumage brings color to our yards during the winter when many other species have flown south.

Resource: https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/northerncardinal/

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Mediterranean House Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Mediterranean House Gecko

The Mediterranean House Gecko is a relatively small, 4 – 5 in (10 – 13 cm), species that has become ubiquitous in certain areas of the United States. Unlike any native lizard, geckos have sticky toe pads, vertical pupils, and their large eyes lack eyelids. These geckos are generally light gray or almost white in color, but may have some darker mottling. This species is most easily distinguished from the similar Indo-pacific gecko by its bumpy (warty) skin. The Mediterranean House Gecko can usually be found praying on insects near external houselights or other forms of lighting on warm nights.

Like most other invasive species, the Mediterranean House Gecko breeds rapidly. Females are capable of laying multiple clutches of two eggs each throughout the summer. These eggs are laid in cracks and crevices in trees or man-made structures including buildings. Like rodents, the Mediterranean House Gecko has been aided by human development. It is very common to see the geckos on the sides of buildings under lights catching insects on a summer night.

It is uncertain how the Mediterranean House Gecko first made its way to the United States. It was first reported in Key West, Florida 1915. It is thought that this gecko was probably a stowaway on a ship from the Mediterranean area. Mediterranean House Geckos are quite common in the pet trade, which has no doubt led to its spread across the United States. Currently, this species has high numbers in Florida, and has established breeding populations all along Southern states.

Resource: http://www.tsusinvasives.org/home/database/hemidactylus-turcicus

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Although the Greater Roadrunner occurs throughout Texas, is well known, is the topic of much folklore, and is a very popular cartoon character, the only field research studies that have been conducted are in desert scrub or brush-grassland habitats in South Texas. As a popular multicultural iconic bird, from prehistory to modern times, it is surprising that it was one of the last bird species to be given state protection because of the mistaken belief that roadrunners were a threat to declining quail populations.

Resource: https://txtbba.tamu.edu/species-accounts/greater-roadrunner/

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)

A close cousin of the ground squirrel, the Black-tailed Prairie Dog is a heavy-bodied rodent with a black-tipped tail. Prairie dogs have large eyes, short tails and brownish-tan pelage.

Prairie dogs play an important role in the prairie ecosystem. They serve as a food source for many predators and leave vacant burrows for the burrowing owl, the Black-footed Ferret, the Texas horned lizard, rabbits, hares, and even rattlesnakes.

Prairie dogs are very social animals. They live as a group in prairie dog “towns” which range from one to over 1,000 acres. These towns are subdivided into wards that are arranged like counties within a state. Wards are further subdivided into distinct social units called coteries. A coterie usually consists of a single adult male, one to four adult females, and any offspring under two years of age. Movement between wards is uncommon; however, among family members, prairie dogs greet each other with bared teeth with which they “kiss” as a form of recognition.

Prairie dogs are strictly diurnal animals. They are most active during the cool hours of the day, when they engage in social activities such as visiting and grooming each other as well as feeding on grass and herbs. When prairie dogs are out, a sentry perches on the volcano-like ring that surrounds the burrow. Should a predator or any other danger become evident, the sentry will bark out a warning, after which the community will dive into their burrows and wait for the “all clear” call before venturing out again.

Prairie dogs are native to short-grass prairie habitats of western North America. They avoid heavy brush and tall grass areas due to the reduced visibility these habitats impose.

Resource: https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/prairie/

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Common Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia Coenia)

A Common Buckeye butterfly along the Cottonwood Trail in LLELA, Lewisville, Texas

The Common Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia coenia), a member of the Nymphalinae subfamily, is distinguished by two eyespots on the upper side of each of its forewings and hindwings and by two orange cell bars on the upper sides of the anterior portion of the forewings. Its body color is brown. Its range extends from southern Canada and the United States to southern Mexico. Adults feed primarily on the nectar of flowers, such as those of chicory, knapweed, dogbane, and aster.

Resource: https://www.britannica.com/animal/brush-footed-butterfly

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) 

Red-eared sliders are Texas’s most common aquatic turtles. These turtles get their name from a broad red stripe behind their eye and their habit of sliding off rocks and logs when startled. Older turtles are often covered with a thick coat of algae. Some red-eared sliders can live more than 30 years.

Sliders are cold-blooded and spend hours sunning themselves on rocks and logs. If there are not enough rocks or logs for all of them, they will often stack themselves one on top of the other! They bury themselves in loose soil or mud during the winter to escape the cold. When population numbers get high, these turtles move across land to other bodies of water in search of food and space. They eat aquatic plants, small fish, and decaying material.

Sliders have poor hearing but are very sensitive to vibrations. This makes it hard to sneak up on them. Their name, slider, comes from the fact that they are quick to slide off rocks, logs or the banks if danger threatens.

Resource: https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/slider/

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

This big ‘Honker’ is among our best-known waterfowl. In many regions, flights of Canada Geese passing over in V-formation — northbound in spring, southbound in fall — are universally recognized as signs of the changing seasons. Once considered a symbol of wilderness, this goose has adapted well to civilization, nesting around park ponds and golf courses; in a few places, it has even become something of a nuisance.

The Canada Goose’s habitats are lakes, ponds, bays, marshes, fields. It uses different habitats in different regions; nests near water, winters where feeding areas are within commuting distance of water. Nesting habitats include tundra, fresh marshes, salt marshes, lakes in wooded country. Often feeds in open fields, especially in winter. In recent years, the Canada Goose has been also been resident in city parks, suburban ponds.

Resource: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/canada-goose

2022 · Days of The Week · Wildlife Wednesday

European Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Fallow Deer at the Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky

The European fallow deer also known as the common fallow deer or simply just fallow deer (Dama dama) is a species of ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. It is native to Turkey and possibly the Italian Peninsula, Balkan Peninsula, and the island of Rhodes in Europe but has also been introduced to other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.

Outside of Europe, this species has been introduced to Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Fernando Pó, Israel, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Morocco, New Zealand, Peru, Réunion, São Tomé, South Africa, the Comoros, the Falk Islands, the Seychelles, Tunesia, and the United States.

Resource: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_fallow_deer