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