Happy Father’s Day: Wildlife Facts

Happy Father’s Day to all of the father-like figures out there.  I was definitely more of a Daddy’s Girl growing up.  My Dad taught me how to fish, play sports, and would read books to me (Choose your own Adventure, Hardy Boys… etc).  We took the UTV out on our farm land, which we converted to trees and prairies when I was in middle school (around 1999/2000), and we looked for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and other wildlife.  My love for nature and all things wildlife probably have a lot to do with my upbringing.

In honor of my Dad and all the father-figures in our lives, here are facts about some of the animals I grew up seeing with my Dad.

  • Canadian Geese (Branta canadensis) mate for life.  They start looking for their mate when they are around 2-3 years old and can live for 10-25 years in the wild.
Canadian goose
Canadian Goose (Branta canadensis)
Canadian goose with gosling
Canadian goose with a gosling
  • Baby geese (called goslings) will follow their parents to water shortly after hatching.  They quickly learn to swim and within the first day they can often dive up to 40 feet deep.  Within another 2-3 months these goslings will be flying.
  • White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) get their name because the underside of their tail is white.  When they run or when they feel threatened they will lift their tail (called “flagging) and show the white side of their tail.
  • White-tailed deer are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.
white-tailed deer
Small female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
  • Only male white-tailed deer have antlers, the females are antler free.  Males will knock antlers with other males to fight over females… I’m sure those females are very impressed.
  • For a bird, ring-neck pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) don’t do a whole lot of flying.  They usually don’t fly more than 600 feet at a time unless they can catch a nice breeze to sail and gain some real distance.
fall in Wisconsin
So I do not have any pictures of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) since the few times I have seen them I have not had a camera on me. That said, here is a picture of the habitat you may find one in and the land I grew up exploring as a child.
  • Ring-necked pheasants are not actually native to the United States.  They were brought over from Europe and Asia in the 1700’s and 1800’s. 
  • Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) make their nests in the cavities of trees.  However, they can not create their own holes in a tree so they will find ones already present in the tree to make their nest in (maybe from a branch breaking off or from a woodpecker).
  • Instead of making a nest, some female wood ducks will lay their eggs in another wood duck’s nest.  For that reason, some wood duck nests can have more than 15 eggs in them! 
wood duck at an aquarium
In the center is a male wood duck (Aix sponsa). This one is an an aquarium but I have seen them in the wild too.
  • Wood ducks are my favorite bird… It is a fact, but probably one you didn’t really come here to learn.
  • The fathers of both smallmouth and largemouth bass will build a nest moving rocks, weeds, and debris with their mouths.  After mating with a female, he will then guard the nest and protect the eggs and fry (what baby fish are called, he isn’t grilling his babies) from becoming a tasty snack. My true Father’s Day fact of the day!
Courtney with a smallmouth bass
Me fishing with my Dad in 2010. My smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) of the day. Yeah, not my best pic.
  • As the name suggests, largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) have larger mouths than smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu).  Exactly how much bigger though: if you are looking at both fish from the side, a smallmouth bass’ mouth cannot open wider than in line with where its eyes are on its head, whereas largemouth bass can open their mouths past where their eyes are located.  
  • Despite their bulky large size, wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) do fly and actually sleep in trees at night, this is called roosting.  They do tend to make their nests on the ground though.
wild turkey track
So I couldn’t find any pictures of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in my digital albums but here is a pic of a wild turkey track I took in 2011
  • Myth busted: maybe you heard the “fact” that if a wild turkey looks up while it’s raining it will drown itself….  Yeah, that isn’t true.  I don’t know where this myth came from but turkey’s have no problem looking up to the rainy sky and living to tell (or maybe gobble) the tale.
  • Another turkey myth busted: The wild turkey was never in the running against the bald eagle to be the National Symbol of the United States.  Benjamin Franklin did like the wild turkey and in a letter to his daughter he wrote that he thought the wild turkey would have been a better choice than the bald eagle, but this was after the bald eagle was already chosen.  In fact it came about in the letter because, according to the Benjamin Franklin Institute, Franklin thought the original drawing of the bald eagle on the Great Seal of the United States looked more like a wild turkey.

Well, that’s all I have for you today.  Comment below to let me know what else you would like to learn about.

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