Can You Guess Who's Who?
Can you guess the names of local wildlife pictured below? CLICK on an image for the answer and fun-facts about the species!
See if you can find any of these animals on your next nature walk around Alley Pond Park.
See if you can find any of these animals on your next nature walk around Alley Pond Park.
Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes – Red Foxes have been recorded in habitats as diverse as tundra, desert, and forest. Their natural habitat is dry, mixed landscape, with scrub and woodland. Red Foxes are solitary hunters who feed on rodents, rabbits, birds, and other small game. They are also opportunists and will eat fruit and vegetables, fish, frogs, and even worms if they find them. They face threats due to habitat degradation, loss, and fragmentation, and exploitation. Like a cat, the fox's thick tail aids its balance, but it has other uses as well. A fox uses its tail (or "brush") as a warm cover in cold weather and as a signal flag to communicate with other foxes. Did you know…? The Red Fox can leap 15 feet in a single bound! The fox can run up to 30 mph and is an excellent swimmer. They can sometimes be spotted in urban and suburban areas, including our very own Alley Pond Park, however, sightings are rare due to their elusive nature.
American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus – American bullfrogs, widely known as just "bullfrogs" in Canada and the United States, are the most wide-ranging of all North American amphibians. They are found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes from Nova Scotia, Canada to as far south as Mexico and Cuba. They are also the largest frog species in North America and have a voracious appetite, commonly feeding on crayfish, snails, water beetles, dragonfly larvae, fish, small turtles, young birds, and even other frogs! Males are distinguished from females by their large ears- or tympanums which are larger than their eyes. Did you know...? The bullfrog is capable of jumping 15 times its own body length! After mating, females can lay up to 20,000 jelly-covered eggs in the water.
Box turtle, Terrapene carolina c. – Box turtles are terrestrial turtles, preferring moist forested areas, but also wet meadows, pastures, and floodplains. All box turtles have a move movable plastron hinge which allows the lower shell to close tightly against the carapace. This means that not only can a box turtle pull its head and legs into its shell to escape danger, but it can close the bottom up like a box! Box turtles are usually seen early in the day, or after rain and they often move to swampy areas during the hot summer months. Males have red eyes and a depression in their ovular shell. Females have brown eyes and a flat under-shell. They mature in five to seven years (although some have been known to live for 140 years or more) and if undisturbed in the wild, they may live this entire time within in a ten-city-block area. Did you know…? Box turtles are now protected in New York State which means you must have a permit to own one. 30,000 have been removed from the wild by the pet trade in the past year alone.
Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura - Mourning Doves are the most abundant and widespread dove species in the United States and is able to reach flight speeds of 60 mph! They tend to live in open wooded areas, marshes, orchards and residential areas. They feed on small seeds and grains and form nests for their young to live in from March to September. Their nests are loosely constructed of twigs and sticks and normally house a clutch of two; white, unmarked eggs; two to three times(broods) a year. They have a multitude of predators including, hawks, owls, domestic cats, blue jays, and squirrels. Did you know…? The Mourning Dove is named for its sad sounding coo. Pigeon-milk or crop-milk is a regurgitated liquid they feed to their young which is highly nutritious.
Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis – The Red-Tailed Hawk is the most common hawk in North America and lives in more habitats than any other raptor. It is often seen perched on telephone poles along roadsides and atop tall dead trees. Red-Tails often hunt by swooping down from a perch and flying over meadows and fields. Normally these birds flap three to five times then glide- climbing quickly into the sky on thermals and updrafts. As they make wide circles, their fanned, red, tails are easily visible. Did you know…? Red-Tails have eyesight many times more powerful than humans and have the ability to spot a mouse or rat from hundreds of feet up in the sky. When catching prey, they extend their talons and rip apart their food with their sharp, curved beak. They are a common apex predator you can find just outside of APEC!
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis – The most familiar and widespread goose in North America, Canada Geese can be found in all kinds of water all across the continent, from the tundra to the Gulf Coast. The Canada goose favors aquatic plants, small aquatic animals, grass, and grains. The geese migrate to places where it is warmer and where food is available. Canada Geese migrate in large groups in the familiar V-formation. Did you know…? Scientists think that the reason these birds fly in the V-formation is due to what is known as the ‘drafting effect’. Basically, this helps the birds conserve their energy while flying long distances. The leader in the front splits the air current (and at the same time uses the most energy). When the leader gets tired, they move to the back and then another goose takes over the lead spot.
Painted turtle, Chrysemys picta – The Painted Turtle is named for its brightly colored shell and body. Scientists call the top of a turtle's shell a carapace. The painted turtle’s carapace is smooth, olive-green, and edged with red. Its hind limbs and tail are marked with red and yellow it has webbed feet that are perfect for swimming. The female is generally larger than the male and the male usually has much longer claws. They eat water plants, insects, snails, tadpoles, crayfish, worms, small fish, and carrion. Painted turtles tend to live in a varied habitat containing the following: lakes, ponds, marshes, slow-moving streams, and/or rivers. One can often see these cold-blooded reptiles sunning themselves to warm up in the early morning. While cumbersome on land, their streamlined bodies help them to cut through the water with minimal effort and with a great deal of speed and agility. Did you know…? The painted turtle is the most common turtle in North America!
Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata – One of the loudest and most colorful birds of eastern back yards and woodlots, the Blue Jay is unmistakable. Intelligent and adaptable, it may feed on almost anything, and it is quick to take advantage of bird feeders. Besides their raucous “jay! jay!” calls, Blue Jays make a variety of musical sounds, and they can do a remarkable imitation of the scream of a Red-Shouldered Hawk. Not always conspicuous, they slip furtively through the trees when tending their own nest or going to rob the nest of another bird. Did you know…? A member of the crow family, the Blue Jay is highly aggressive and will often scare other birds away from bird feeders. Their calls also serve as an alarm alerting the rest of the animals in the forest to the presence of predators.
Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis – Cardinals live in oak and pine woods, suburban gardens, groves, towns and they are common in well-wooded suburbs and city parks. Here in Alley Pond, they prefer to live in and near our oak and beech trees. Did you know…? In the spring the bright-red males become extremely territorial and are known to attack their own reflections in car mirrors. They also exhibit classic “sexual dimorphism” which pertains to striking visual differences in their coloration. The females are tan and grey while males are vivid shade of red. They do not migrate and can be found within our park year-round.
Northern Raccoon, Procyon lotor – Raccoons are incredibly clever mammals that are as comfortable in natural settings (such as woodlands near open fields, rivers, and ponds) as they are in urban areas. They have heavy brown, black, and gray fur with a distinctive black face mask and bushy, ringed tail which they use for balance while climbing trees. They are opportunistic feeders- meaning they are highly adapted to gather and exploit a wide variety of food sources. In the Fall, they develop a thick layer of fat for insulation and are often seen raiding garbage cans for easy meals. They are nocturnal creatures and spend the majority of the daylight hours asleep in their dens which are commonly made in hollow trees, woodchuck burrows, under buildings, and in attics and chimneys. If you see a raccoon in the daytime, give it plenty of space because that could be an indication that it is infected with the rabies virus. Did you know…? The Northern Raccoon is an excellent climber and swimmer! We often find their footprints on our trails at APEC so keep an eye out for little muddy hand-like prints.
Cicadas are the elders of the insect world. Some species of cicada live as long as 17 years, though most of the time is spent underground. There are two groups of cicadas: annual or “dog-day” cicadas and periodical cicadas. Dog-day cicadas are very dark with greenish markings and spend four to seven years underground before emerging in July and August. Periodical cicadas are black with red eyes. They emerge in late May and early June after 13 to 17 years underground. New groups of young are born each year, so every year different generations emerge; why do you think this is? The prevailing theory is their long life cycle helps the insects avoid acquiring a predator that specifically preys on them. Above ground, male cicadas fill the air with shrill buzzing sounds, the result of small drum-like plates on the abdomen that the cicada vibrates rapidly. Some cicada calls can be heard 1 mile away! While many people find the sound annoying, the male cicada uses it to attract female cicadas for mating. Both male and female cicadas die after about five weeks above ground. Did you know…? You can often find the discarded exoskeletons of cicada nymphs on tree bark after they transform into their adult stage.
Northern Diamondback Terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin terrapin – is an aquatic turtle with distinctive diamond-shaped rings covering its shell. It lives in semi-salty or “brackish” coastal tidal marshes of the Eastern and Southern United States. Unlike their freshwater relatives, they can survive in salty seawater for extended periods thanks to special glands located near their eyes which help in removing this excess salt from their bloodstream. Terrapins also exhibit unusual and sophisticated behaviors to obtain freshwater, including drinking the freshwater surface layer that can accumulate on top of saltwater during rainfall and raising their heads into the air with mouths open to catch falling raindrops. Terrapins are extremely strong swimmers. They have webbed hind feet, but not flippers like sea turtles. Like their relatives, they have strong jaws for crushing shells of prey, such as clams and snails. This is especially true of females, who have larger and more muscular jaws than males. Did you know…? Diamondback terrapins are listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable. They are threatened by the development and destruction of their coastal habitats, pollution, and commercial harvesting.
Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias – Great Blue Herons (often miscalled a crane) are the largest and most common heron species and the largest bird in New York State. Frequently barking like a dog when startled, they are commonly seen stalking small fish in shallow water or at the water's edge. The heron's large, four-toed feet help distribute their weight in the same manner as snowshoes, preventing them from sinking into the mud. They quickly strike at mice, squirrels, and just about anything else it might come across in its marsh home. They fly holding their neck in an S shape with their long legs trailing straight out behind them. They nest in treetops near or over open water in colonies of up to 100 birds. Did you know…? They are also the bird featured in our logo!
American Robin, Turdus migratorius – Robins live across North America and in parts of Central America. They can be found in open grassy areas, gardens, and woodlands. American Robins have orange or reddish bellies, brown backs, yellow beaks, and black heads with white outlines around the eyes. Males and females look similar, but the male American robin sports brighter colors. They often eat earthworms and berries. The birds also snack on insects, such as caterpillars and grasshoppers. American robins are most active in the daytime. They spend much of their time hopping around the grass in search of earthworms to pluck from the soil. Before and after sunrise, the males chirp a song that sounds like someone saying “cheerily cheerup.” American robins are one of the first birds to lay eggs in the Spring. Females lay between three and five bright blue eggs at a time and can have up to three broods in a season. Baby robins learn to fly two weeks after they hatch! Did you know…? The American Robin occasionally uses “anting” to rid itself of lice and parasites. The bird positions itself near an anthill and allows ants to crawl all over its body. Robins are one of the most common birds at Alley Pond Park.
Wood frog, Lithobates sylvaticus – Wood frogs are found in the United States throughout the forests of Alaska and the Northeast. The wood frog’s most distinct characteristic is the black marking across its eyes which resembles a mask. Wood frogs vary in color and are often shades of brown, red, green, or gray, with females tending to be more brightly colored than males. Adults use their long, sticky tongues to catch insects, arachnids, worms, slugs, and snails. Tadpoles are mostly herbivorous eating algae and decaying plant matter, though they have also been known to eat eggs and larvae of other amphibians. Did you know…? These frogs have adapted to cold climates by freezing solid during the winter. During this time, they stop breathing and their hearts stop beating! Their bodies produce an antifreeze substance that prevents ice from freezing within their cells, which would be deadly. Ice does form in the spaces between the cells. When the weather warms, the frogs thaw and begin feeding and mating again.
Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis – If you’ve spent any time in a New York City park, chances are you have spotted an Eastern Gray Squirrel. They are often seen leaping through wooded areas, chasing other squirrels around tree trunks, or perched on park benches nibbling on nuts, seeds, buds, and flowers. Like other tree squirrels, the Eastern Gray Squirrel plays an important role in what’s known as "seed dispersal". As winter approaches, squirrels carry their food and bury it in several locations. Most importantly, they hide more food than they will recover or eat. The buried seeds and nuts sprout and begin to grow in these locations the following Spring. Eastern Gray Squirrels have an excellent sense of smell, which they use to help locate most of the food that they’ve hidden away. They can also learn about their fellow squirrels by smelling them. They communicate with each other by making sounds and body movements, such as "tail flicking". When predators such as red foxes and red-tailed hawks are nearby, Eastern Gray Squirrels will sound warning calls to each other. Did you know…? Eastern Gray Squirrels can hide 25 nuts in half an hour and a single squirrel can remember the location of 5,000 of their stored nuts!
Black-Capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus – Black-Capped Chickadees are incredibly aerobatic birds and even have specialized leg muscles that allow them to hang upside down on branches while feeding. They live in mixed forests, parks, and residential areas found throughout New York and prey upon insects and eat seeds, berries, and carrion. Recent studies have shown that they can remember where they hide food for at least a month after putting it in its hiding place. The Black-Capped Chickadee is one of the most important pest exterminators of our temperate-deciduous forest. Unlike many of our other native songbirds, chickadees are nonmigratory and stay active, foraging for food throughout the winter even during harsh snowstorms. Did you know...? “Chickadee-Dee-Dee” is a frequently heard call of Black-Capped Chickadee and the origin of its name.
Little Brown Bat, Myotis lucifugus – Little Brown Bats are a very successful species with an extensive range from Alaska south to Mexico. As very efficient predators of nocturnal insects, Little Brown Bats benefit humans. A single bat can catch and consume between 500-600 mosquitoes in an hour! When nursing their young, females eat up to their own weight in insects every night. If you weigh 60 pounds and ate like a nursing mother bat, you’d need the equivalent of 250 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every night! Little Brown Bats are "microbats" and can hunt at night using sound to locate their prey- this incredible technique is known as echolocation. They first send out squeaks that hit objects around themselves and as the sounds bounce back the bat is able to recognize where it is in relation to everything else around them. Did you know…? During a weekend program, the students in Alley Pond Environmental Center created an artificial habitat for Little Brown Bats which will be located on our log cabin at the Northern Boulevard site!
The environmental center is located in Alley Pond Park, surrounded by lush nature trails where visitors can enjoy NYC's natural landscapes. Guests are welcome to attend one of APEC's many nature oriented programs for all ages and visit the center's animal ambassadors. Please explore our website to learn more and register for programs.
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