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Coastal Wetlands Species Fact Sheet Set - Texas Parks

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Coastal Wetlands Species Fact Sheet SetWhooping Crane
C O A S T A L W E T L A N D S
Whooping cranes are one of the rarest bird species in North America. Although they breed in Canada during the summer months, whooping cranes migrate to Texas’ coastal plains near Rockport for the winter months.
TPWD PHOTO
Whooping Crane
PWD LF K0700-849A (8/02) NOTICE: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department receives federal financial assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the U.S. Department of the Interior and its bureaus prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex (in educational programs). If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program, activity, or facility, or if you desire further information, please call or write: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office for Diversity and Civil Rights Programs - External Programs, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Webb 300, Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 358-1724.
Grus americana
Height: 5 feet (1.5 m) Wingspan: 7.5 feet (2.3 m)
Distinguishing Characteristics • White with rust-colored patches on top and back of head • Black feathers on both sides of the head • Yellow eyes • Primary wing feathers are black but are visible only in flight. • Long, black legs and bills
LIFE HISTORY
Range: Limited in Texas to the migratory flyway and coastal plain around Aransas.
Diet: Crabs, clams, crayfish, snails, minnows, frogs, larval insects and leeches; occa- sionally voles, lemmings and shrews; sometimes acorns and small fruit
Sexual maturity: Between three and five years Mating season: Early spring
Nest: Made of bulrushes about 4 feet (1.2 m) wide with a flat-topped central mound up to 5 inches (12 cm) above the water
Eggs: Two Incubation: 29 to 31 days
Young: Generally, one chick survives. It can leave the nest while quite young, but is still protected and fed by its parents. Chicks are rust-colored when they hatch; at about four months, chicks’ feathers begin turning white. By the end of their first migration, they are brown and white, and as they enter their first spring, their plumage is white with black wing tips.
Life span: Up to 24 years in the wild
HABITAT
Whooping cranes winter on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge’s 22,500 acres of salt flats and marshes. The area’s coastal prairie rolls gently here and is dotted with swales and ponds. They summer and nest in poorly drained wetlands in Canada’s Northwest Territories at Wood Buffalo National Park.
BEHAVIOR
Whooping cranes begin their fall migration south to Texas in mid-September and begin the spring migration north to Canada in late March or early April. They mate for life, but will accept a new mate if one dies. The mated pair shares brooding duties; either the male or the female is always on the nest. The hatch- lings will stay with their parents throughout their first winter, and separate when the spring migration begins. The sub-adults form groups and travel together.
NOW YOU KNOW!
• Whooping cranes live in “families” with two adult birds, a male and a female, and one or two of their young. Whooping cranes migrate more than 2,400 miles a year.
• As many as 1,400 whooping cranes migrated across North America in the mid-1800s. By the late 1930s, the Aransas population was down to just 18 birds. Because of well- coordinated efforts to protect habitat and the birds them- selves, the population is slowly increasing. In 1993, the population stood at 112. In the spring of 2002, it is estimat- ed that there were 173 whoopers—a small, but important increase.
• Today, three populations exist: one in the Kissimmee Prairie of Florida, the only migratory population at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and a very small captive-bred population in Wisconsin.
WHOOPING CRANES AND PEOPLE
Whooping cranes are protected in Canada, the Unites States and Mexico. Because some of their habitat is federally protect- ed, the land is managed to preserve the animals. The greatest threats to whooping cranes are man-made: power lines, illegal hunting, and habitat loss. Because the Gulf International Waterway goes through their habitat area, the cranes are susceptible to chemical spills and other petroleum-related contamination. Public awareness and support are critical to whooping cranes’ survival as a species.
Procyon lotor
Common Raccoon
C O A S T A L W E T L A N D S
Raccoons are curious, unique, and intelligent creatures. These characteristics help them survive in the wild, but can also make for annoying neighbors. Though they prefer woodlands, they can live practically anywhere and have adapted well to human habitats.
TPWD PHOTO
Common Raccoon
PWD LF K0700-849B (8/02) NOTICE: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department receives federal financial assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the U.S. Department of the Interior and its bureaus prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex (in educational programs). If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program, activity, or facility, or if you desire further information, please call or write: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office for Diversity and Civil Rights Programs - External Programs, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Webb 300, Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 358-1724.
Procyon lotor
APPEARANCE
Length: 33 to 45 in. (84 to104.5 cm) Weight: 7 to 20 lb. (3 to 9 kg)
Distinguishing Characteristics • Gray, with dark black markings around their eyes, and black
bands on their tail • Belly and muzzle are lighter colored while the feet are darker
gray. • Coat is medium length and coarse, and the tail is very bushy. • Dexterous hands. Hands and feet have five fingers and toes. • Stocky with short legs • Small rounded ears
LIFE HISTORY
Range: North America Diet: Fruits and nuts, insects and aquatic
invertebrates, fish, small rodents, frogs, bird eggs, carrion and human garbage
Predators: Owls, coyotes, bobcats and humans Sexual maturity: Male: 2 years; female: 1 year Mating season: Mid to late summer
Gestation and birth: 60 to 74 days; four cubs Young: Baby raccoons’ ears and eyes open
about 18-24 days after birth. They can walk around by the time they are four to six weeks old. Although they are weaned by three months, they remain with their mothers for another year.
Life span: 10 to 15 years
HABITAT
Raccoons prefer brushy or wooded areas near streams, lakes or swamps, although they can live close to developed areas if sufficient food, water and cover are provided.
BEHAVIOR
Raccoons are almost exclusively nocturnal. During the day they sleep in dens in the trees. During cold winter periods, they may sleep for an extended period, but do not hibernate. They are primarily solitary, and will only gather with other raccoons during breeding season. Raccoons are polygamous, they have a number of partners. Males do not stay to help raise the young.
NOW YOU KNOW!
• Raccoons have excellent night vision and an acute sense of hearing.
• They are very agile climbers and strong swimmers. • They use their nimble fingers to feel stream bottoms for food,
to climb trees and to open containers and garbage cans. They can find their way into a house to get food.
• Home ranges are about 3-4 square km, about half as small for females.
COMMON RACCOONS AND PEOPLE
The name “raccoon” came from an Algonquian Indian word arakun, which means “he scratches with his hands.” During the 1700s, American colonists dropped the “a” in arakun, and the name became raccoon.
Wild raccoons accustomed to being fed by well-intentioned people will generally loose their natural fear of humans and seek to move closer to their food source–your house. Once raccoons take up residence in an attic or outbuildings they can become very destructive and difficult to remove. Malnutrition, diseases like rabies, and predation by humans, coyotes and bobcats take their toll, but raccoon populations are not in decline in most areas of Texas.
Charadrius melodus
Piping Plover
TPWD PHOTO
C O A S T A L W E T L A N D S
The piping plover is a “winter Texan,” living on the beaches and tidal mudflats of the Texas coastline and migrating north in the spring. This beautiful little bird finds it hard to survive habitat loss and is listed as a threatened species.
Piping Plover
PWD LF K0700-849C (8/02) NOTICE: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department receives federal financial assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the U.S. Department of the Interior and its bureaus prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex (in educational programs). If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program, activity, or facility, or if you desire further information, please call or write: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office for Diversity and Civil Rights Programs - External Programs, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Webb 300, Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 358-1724.
Charadrius melodus
APPEARANCE
Height: 6 to 7.5 inches (15 to 19 cm) Wingspan: 15 inches (31 cm)
Distinguishing Characteristics • Sandy-colored with grayish-brown crowns and backs • White foreheads and dark bands across their crowns • Dark, but incomplete rings around their necks. • Yellow-orange legs, black bands across their foreheads from
eye to eye, and black rings around the base of their necks. • Small, stocky, sandy-colored birds that resemble sandpipers. • Short, stubby bills
LIFE HISTORY
Range: From Canada south through the central United States to Texas. They winter pri- marily along Gulf Coast beaches and the Atlantic coast from North Carolina south to Florida.
Diet: Marine worms, beetles, spiders, crustaceans, mollusks and other small marine animals
Predators: Gulls, crows, raccoons, foxes and skunks are threats to the eggs and falcons may prey on the adult birds.
Sexual maturity: At one year Mating season: Late March through April
Nest: Scrape shallow depression in the sand about 1 by 2.5 inches (2.5 by 6 cm)
Eggs: Four gray to pale sand-colored eggs with a few dark spots
Incubation: 25 days Young: Born within four to eight hours of each
other, and fledge 30 to 35 days later Life span: Less than five years, but on occasion, up
to 14 years
HABITAT
Piping plovers prefer sand and gravel shorelines, river sandbars and islands.
BEHAVIOR
Males compete against each other for females’ attention. They perform elaborate flights, and then scrape nests in the sand, tossing shells and small stones and twigs into them with their beaks. After their nests are built, they stand beside them with their wings partially spread and tails fanned. The males repeat this behavior until a female indicates interest. Once he has her attention, he begins a high-stepping “dance,” continuing the courtship ritual. Although both sexes share responsibility for incubating the eggs, females commonly leave the young when the hatchlings are 14 to 20 days old. Males often remain with them until they can fly.
The chicks can move freely from their nests within hours of drying off. When predators or intruders come close, the young squat motionless on the sand while the parents attempt to attract the attention of the intruders to themselves, often by feigning a broken wing. The young plovers and adult plovers generally return to the same nesting area year after year.
Plovers often run short distances, pausing to stare at the sand with a slightly tilted head, before picking a food item from the sand. When not feeding, plovers rest and preen.
NOW YOU KNOW!
• There are just over 5,000 known pairs of breeding piping plovers.
• Texas is the wintering home for 35 percent of the known population of piping plovers. They begin arriving in late July or early August, and will remain for up to nine months.
PIPING PLOVERS AND PEOPLE
Piping plovers were common along the Atlantic coast during much of the nineteenth century, but were hunted nearly to extinction for the millinery (hat) trade. Following passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, their population peaked in the 1940s. The current population decline is attributed to increased development and recreational use of beaches since the end of World War II. Although it is listed as threatened in Texas, it is listed as endangered in several Midwestern states. Vehicular and foot traffic and pets playing on the beach may destroy the birds and eggs and disrupt the species’ breeding grounds as well. Beach raking and other recreational uses degrade their wintering sites in Texas.
Malaclemys terrapin littoralis
Texas Diamondback Terrapin
C O A S T A L W E T L A N D S
Texas diamondback terrapins were once hunted to the brink of extinction because many people thought that they were especially delicious in soup.
PHOTO BY TOBY J. HIBBITS
Texas Diamondback Terrapin
PWD LF K0700-849D (8/02) NOTICE: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department receives federal financial assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the U.S. Department of the Interior and its bureaus prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex (in educational programs). If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program, activity, or facility, or if you desire further information, please call or write: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office for Diversity and Civil Rights Programs - External Programs, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Webb 300, Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 358-1724.
Malaclemys terrapin littoralis
APPEARANCE
Shell length: Females: 6 to 9 inches (15 to 22 cm);
Males: 4 to 5.5 inches (10 to 14 cm)
Distinguishing Characteristics
• Strongly webbed feet and unusually large back feet
LIFE HISTORY
Predators: Humans, raccoons, skunks and crows
Sexual maturity: Males at three years, females at six
years
sand above the high-tide line.
Eggs: Four to 18 eggs
Incubation: 60 to 100 days depending on local con-
ditions, especially temperature
produce more females; if temperatures
are cooler, then the nest will produce
more males. If the eggs do not hatch
before winter sets in, the hatchlings will
spend the winter in the nest and will
emerge when the weather warms.
Life span: Up to 40 years
HABITAT
the only turtle found in estuaries, tidal creeks, and saltwater
marshes where the salinity comes close to that of the ocean.
BEHAVIOR
An individual female breeds every four years or so. Occasionally,
adult diamondbacks may dig into the mud to hibernate over the
cold winter months. During the day terrapins spend most of
their time in the water or basking in the sun. At night terrapins
bury themselves in mud.
• Diamondbacks can adjust their water needs depending on
how salty the water is. When their systems become too salty,
diamondbacks secrete salt from their tear ducts to help
regulate their salt levels.
Malaclemys terrapin recognized by scientists.
TEXAS DIAMONDBACK TERRAPINS AND PEOPLE
Some believe that Prohibition helped save terrapins. Turtle soup
was made with wine during the 1920s. When Prohibition laws
made possessing wine illegal, turtle soup fell out of favor and
thousands of trapped turtles were released into the ocean.
Today, most terrapins are killed by speeding cars or become
trapped in baited blue crab traps and drown.
Micropogonias undulatus
Atlantic Croaker
C O A S T A L W E T L A N D S
The Atlantic croaker is one of the most abundant fishes in North American coastal waters. It is an important commercial fish as well as an important sport fish.
TPWD PHOTO
Atlantic Croaker
PWD LF K0700-849E (8/02) NOTICE: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department receives federal financial assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the U.S. Department of the Interior and its bureaus prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex (in educational programs). If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program, activity, or facility, or if you desire further information, please call or write: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office for Diversity and Civil Rights Programs - External Programs, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Webb 300, Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 358-1724.
Micropogonias undulatus
APPEARANCE
Length: 12 inches (30 cm) Weight: 1/2 to 2 pounds (226 g to 0.9 kg)
Distinguishing Characteristics • Three to five pairs of small barbels or “whiskers” on their
chins help them feel for food on the sea floor. • Lateral line extends to tip of caudal (tail) fin. • Inferior mouth (located to the bottom of the head facing the
ground) • Brown vertical stripes on its sides • Adults–silver with a pinkish cast • Young–silvery and iridescent • Older fish are brassy in color with vertical brown streaks
formed by spots that are on their scales.
LIFE HISTORY
Range: Atlantic coast from Massachusetts southward and throughout the Gulf of Mexico
Diet: Shrimp, crabs and detritus (dead and decomposing plant and animal matter)
Predators: Striped bass, shark, spotted seatrout, other croakers and humans
Sexual maturity: Along the Gulf Coast, at about one year old. This varies in other areas.
Spawning season: Fall, with peak between August and October
Eggs: Between 100,000 and 2 million eggs, each about 0.35 mm in diameter
Young: After hatching, the larvae (immature stage) drift toward land. They are abundant on soft bottoms, such as mud, where there are large amounts of detritus for them to feed on.
Life span: Up to eight years
HABITAT
Atlantic croaker prefer estuaries and bays through the spring and summer, then travel offshore in the fall to breed.
BEHAVIOR
Atlantic croaker “croak” by vibrating their swim bladders with special muscles as part of their spawning ritual. A swim bladder is a pocket full of air inside the fish that helps keep it afloat and facing upright. This behavior attracts females.
NOW YOU KNOW!
• Atlantic croaker are also called hardheads, King Billies and grumblers.
• Croaker that live in the northern part of their range mature later and live longer than those in the southern part of their range.
• Because of predation, more than 95% of the Atlantic croaker population dies every year.
• Atlantic croaker should not be eaten raw because they may pass trematodes (parasites) to humans.
• The croaker is closely related to spotted seatrout and red drum.
ATLANTIC CROAKER AND PEOPLE
The Atlantic croaker is a very important commercial fish. Millions of…