House Sparrow

House Sparrow| Passer domesticus

Printed in March 2009, this print of a female House sparrow was created using enamel paint on paper.

House sparrow info via Wikipedia

House sparrow
Passer domesticus male (15).jpg
Male in Germany
House Sparrow, England - May 09.jpg
Female in England
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Passeridae
Genus: Passer
Species: P. domesticus
Binomial name
Passer domesticus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
   Native range
   Introduced range

Fringilla domestica Linnaeus, 1758
Passer domesticus (Linnaeus, 1758) Brisson, 1760
Passer indicus Jardine and Selby, 1835
Passer arboreus Bonaparte, 1850 (preoccupied)
Passer confucius Bonaparte, 1853
Passer rufidorsalis C. L. Brehm, 1855
Passer engimaticus Zarudny, 1903
Passer ahasvar Kleinschmidt, 1904

The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in most parts of the world. A small bird, it has a typical length of 16 cm (6.3 in) and a mass of 24–39.5 g (0.85–1.39 oz). Females and young birds are coloured pale brown and grey, and males have brighter black, white, and brown markings. One of about 25 species in the genus Passer, the house sparrow is native to most of Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, and much of Asia. Its intentional or accidental introductions to many regions, including parts of Australia, Africa, and the Americas, make it the most widely distributed wild bird.

The house sparrow is strongly associated with human habitation, and can live in urban or rural settings. Though found in widely varied habitats and climates, it typically avoids extensive woodlands, grasslands, and deserts away from human development. It feeds mostly on the seeds of grains and weeds, but it is an opportunistic eater and commonly eats insects and many other foods. Its predators include domestic cats, hawks, owls, and many other predatory birds and mammals.

Because of its numbers, ubiquity, and association with human settlements, the house sparrow is culturally prominent. It is extensively, and usually unsuccessfully, persecuted as an agricultural pest. It has also often been kept as a pet, as well as being a food item and a symbol of lust, sexual potency, commonness, and vulgarity. Though it is widespread and abundant, its numbers have declined in some areas. The animal's conservation status is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.


Measurements and shape

The house sparrow is typically about 16 cm (6.3 in) long, ranging from 14 to 18 cm (5.5 to 7.1 in).[3] It is a compact bird with a full chest and a large, rounded head. Its bill is stout and conical with a culmen length of 1.1–1.5 cm (0.43–0.59 in), strongly built as an adaptation for eating seeds. Its tail is short, at 5.2–6.5 cm (2.0–2.6 in) long. The wing chord is 6.7–8.9 cm (2.6–3.5 in), and the tarsus is 1.6–2.5 cm (0.63–0.98 in).[4][5] In mass, the house sparrow ranges from 24 to 39.5 g (0.85 to 1.39 oz). Females usually are slightly smaller than males. The median mass on the European continent for both sexes is about 30 g (1.1 oz), and in more southerly subspecies is around 26 g (0.92 oz). Younger birds are smaller, males are larger during the winter, and females are larger during the breeding season.[6] Birds at higher latitudes, colder climates, and sometimes higher altitudes are larger (under Bergmann's rule), both between and within subspecies.[6][7][8][9]


Male house sparrows in breeding (left) and nonbreeding (right) plumage

The plumage of the house sparrow is mostly different shades of grey and brown. The sexes exhibit strong dimorphism: the female is mostly buffish above and below, while the male has boldly coloured head markings, a reddish back, and grey underparts.[8] The male has a dark grey crown from the top of its bill to its back, and chestnut brown flanking its crown on the sides of its head. It has black around its bill, on its throat, and on the spaces between its bill and eyes (lores). It has a small white stripe between the lores and crown and small white spots immediately behind the eyes (postoculars), with black patches below and above them. The underparts are pale grey or white, as are the cheeks, ear coverts, and stripes at the base of the head. The upper back and mantle are a warm brown, with broad black streaks, while the lower back, rump and uppertail coverts are greyish brown.[10]

Plumage of female house sparrow

The male is duller in fresh nonbreeding plumage, with whitish tips on many feathers. Wear and preening expose many of the bright brown and black markings, including most of the black throat and chest patch, called the "bib" or "badge".[10][11] The badge is variable in width and general size, and may signal social status or fitness. This hypothesis has led to a "veritable 'cottage industry'" of studies, which have only conclusively shown that patches increase in size with age.[12] The male's bill is black in the breeding season and horn (dark grey) during the rest of the year.[3]

A close-up of a male house sparrow's head

The female has no black markings or grey crown. Its upperparts and head are brown with darker streaks around the mantle and a distinct pale supercilium. Its underparts are pale grey-brown. The female's bill is brownish-grey and becomes darker in breeding plumage approaching the black of the male's bill.[3][10]

Juveniles are similar to the adult female, but deeper brown below and paler above, with paler and less defined supercilia. Juveniles have broader buff feather edges, and tend to have looser, scruffier plumage, like moulting adults. Juvenile males tend to have darker throats and white postoculars like adult males, while juvenile females tend to have white throats. However, juveniles cannot be reliably sexed by plumage: some juvenile males lack any markings of the adult male, and some juvenile females have male features. The bills of young birds are light yellow to straw, paler than the female's bill. Immature males have paler versions of the adult male's markings, which can be very indistinct in fresh plumage. By their first breeding season, young birds generally are indistinguishable from other adults, though they may still be paler during their first year.[3][10]


A male calling in San Francisco
Calls, recorded in England

Most house sparrow vocalisations are variations on its short and incessant chirping call. Transcribed as chirrup, tschilp, or philip, this note is made as a contact call by flocking or resting birds, or by males to proclaim nest ownership and invite pairing. In the breeding season, the male gives this call repetitively, with emphasis and speed, but not much rhythm, forming what is described either as a song or an "ecstatic call" similar to a song.[13][14] Young birds also give a true song, especially in captivity, a warbling similar to that of the European greenfinch.[15]

Aggressive males give a trilled version of their call, transcribed as "chur-chur-r-r-it-it-it-it". This call is also used by females in the breeding season, to establish dominance over males while displacing them to feed young or incubate eggs.[16] House sparrows give a nasal alarm call, the basic sound of which is transcribed as quer, and a shrill chree call in great distress.[17] Another vocalisation is the "appeasement call", a soft quee given to inhibit aggression, usually given between birds of a mated pair.[16] These vocalisations are not unique to the house sparrow, but are shared, with small variations, by all sparrows.[18]


A male of subspecies P. d. indicus in Kolkata, India
A male of subspecies P. d. parkini at Rajkot, India

Some variation is seen in the 12 subspecies of house sparrows, which are divided into two groups, the Oriental P. d. indicus group, and the Palaearctic P. d. domesticus group. Birds of the P. d. domesticus group have grey cheeks, while P. d. indicus group birds have white cheeks, as well as bright colouration on the crown, a smaller bill, and a longer black bib.[19] The subspecies P. d. tingitanus differs little from the nominate subspecies, except in the worn breeding plumage of the male, in which the head is speckled with black and underparts are paler.[20]P. d. balearoibericus is slightly paler than the nominate, but darker than P. d. bibilicus.[21]P. d. bibilicus is paler than most subspecies, but has the grey cheeks of P. d. domesticus group birds. The similar P. d. persicus is paler and smaller, and P. d. niloticus is nearly identical but smaller.[20] Of the less widespread P. d. indicus group subspecies, P. d. hyrcanus is larger than P. d. indicus, P. d. hufufae is paler, P. d. bactrianus is larger and paler, and P. d. parkini is larger and darker with more black on the breast than any other subspecies.[20][22][23]


The house sparrow can be confused with a number of other seed-eating birds, especially its relatives in the genus Passer. Many of these relatives are smaller, with an appearance that is neater or "cuter", as with the Dead Sea sparrow.[24] The dull-coloured female can often not be distinguished from other females, and is nearly identical to those of the Spanish and Italian sparrows.[10] The Eurasian tree sparrow is smaller and more slender with a chestnut crown and a black patch on each cheek.[25] The male Spanish sparrow and Italian sparrow are distinguished by their chestnut crowns. The Sind sparrow is very similar but smaller, with less black on the male's throat and a distinct pale supercilium on the female.[10]

Taxonomy and systematics


The house sparrow was among the first animals to be given a scientific name in the modern system of biological classification, since it was described by Carl Linnaeus, in the 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae. It was described from a type specimen collected in Sweden, with the name Fringilla domestica.[26][27] Later, the genus name Fringilla came to be used only for the common chaffinch and its relatives, and the house sparrow has usually been placed in the genus Passer created by French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760.[28][29]

The bird's scientific name and its usual English name have the same meaning. The Latin word passer, like the English word "sparrow", is a term for small active birds, coming from a root word referring to speed.[30][31] The Latin word domesticus means "belonging to the house", like the common name a reference to its association with humans.[32] The house sparrow is also called by a number of alternative English names, including English sparrow, chiefly in North America;[33][34] and Indian sparrow or Indian house sparrow, for the birds of the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia.[35] Dialectal names include sparr, sparrer, spadger, spadgick, and philip, mainly in southern England; spug and spuggy, mainly in northern England; spur and sprig, mainly in Scotland;[36][37] and spatzie or spotsie, from the German Spatz, in North America.[38]


A pair of Italian sparrows, in Rome

The genus Passer contains about 25 species, depending on the authority, 26 according to the Handbook of the Birds of the World.[39] Most Passer species are dull-coloured birds with short, square tails and stubby, conical beaks, between 11 and 18 cm (4.3 and 7.1 in) long.[8][40]Mitochondrial DNA studies suggest that speciation in the genus occurred during the Pleistocene and earlier, while other evidence suggests speciation occurred 25,000 to 15,000 years ago.[41][42] Within Passer, the house sparrow is part of the "Palaearctic black-bibbed sparrows" group and a close relative of the Mediterranean "willow sparrows".[39][43]

The taxonomy of the house sparrow and its Mediterranean relatives is highly complicated. The common type of "willow sparrow" is the Spanish sparrow, which resembles the house sparrow in many respects.[44] It frequently prefers wetter habitats than the house sparrow, and it is often colonial and nomadic.[45] In most of the Mediterranean, one or both species occur, with some degree of hybridisation.[46] In North Africa, the two species hybridise extensively, forming highly variable mixed populations with a full range of characters from pure house sparrows to pure Spanish sparrows.[47][48][49]

In much of Italy, a form apparently intermediate between the house and Spanish sparrows, is known as the Italian sparrow. It resembles a hybrid between the two species, and is in other respects intermediate. Its specific status and origin are the subject of much debate.[48][50] In the Alps, the Italian sparrow intergrades over a roughly 20 km (12 mi) strip with the house sparrow,[51] but to the south it intergrades over the southern half of Italy and some Mediterranean islands with the Spanish sparrow.[48] On the Mediterranean islands of Malta, Gozo, Crete, Rhodes, and Karpathos, the other apparently intermediate birds are of unknown status.[48][52][53]


A male of subspecies P. d. balearoibericus in Istanbul
A male of the migratory subspecies P. d. bactrianus (with a Eurasian tree sparrow and young house or Spanish sparrows) in Baikonur, Kazakhstan

A large number of subspecies have been named, of which 12 were recognised in the Handbook of the Birds of the World. These subspecies are divided into two groups, the Palaearctic P. d. domesticus group, and the Oriental P. d. indicus group.[39] Several Middle Eastern subspecies, including P. d. biblicus, are sometimes considered a third, intermediate group. The subspecies P. d. indicus was described as a species, and was considered to be distinct by many ornithologists during the 19th century.[19]

Migratory birds of the subspecies P. d. bactrianus in the P. d. indicus group were recorded overlapping with P. d. domesticus birds without hybridising in the 1970s, so the Soviet scientists Edward I. Gavrilov and M. N. Korelov proposed the separation of the P. d. indicus group as a separate species.[28][54] However, P. d. indicus-group and P. d. domesticus-group birds intergrade in a large part of Iran, so this split is rarely recognised.[39]

In North America, house sparrow populations are more differentiated than those in Europe.[7] This variation follows predictable patterns, with birds at higher latitudes being larger and those in arid areas being paler.[8][55][56] However, how much this is caused by evolution or by environment is not clear.[57][58][59][60] Similar observations have been made in New Zealand,[61] and in South Africa.[62] The introduced house sparrow populations may be distinct enough to merit subspecies status, especially in North America and southern Africa,[39] and American ornithologist Harry Church Oberholser even gave the subspecies name P. d. plecticus to the paler birds of western North America.[55]

P. d. domesticus group
P. d. indicus group
  • P. d. hyrcanus Zarudny and Kudashev, 1916, described from Gorgan, Iran, is found along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea from Gorgan to south-eastern Azerbaijan. It intergrades with P. d. persicus in the Alborz mountains, and with P. d. bibilicus to the west. It is the subspecies with the smallest range.[39][63]
  • P. d. bactrianus Zarudny and Kudashev, 1916, described from Tashkent, is found in southern Kazakhstan to the Tian Shan and northern Iran and Afghanistan. It intergrades with persicus in Baluchistan and with indicus across central Afghanistan. Unlike most other house sparrow subspecies, it is almost entirely migratory, wintering in the plains of the northern Indian subcontinent. It is found in open country rather than in settlements, which are occupied by the Eurasian tree sparrow in its range.[39][63] There is an exceptional record from Sudan.[64]
  • P. d. parkini Whistler, 1920, described from Srinagar, Kashmir, is found in the western Himalayas from the Pamir Mountains to south-eastern Nepal. It is migratory, like P. d. bactrianus.[19][63]
  • P. d. indicus Jardine and Selby, 1831, described from Bangalore, is found in the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, in Sri Lanka, western Southeast Asia, eastern Iran, south-western Arabia and southern Israel.[19][39][63]
  • P. d. hufufae Ticehurst and Cheeseman, 1924, described from Hofuf in Saudi Arabia, is found in north-eastern Arabia.[63][66]
  • P. d. rufidorsalis C. L. Brehm, 1855, described from Khartoum, Sudan, is found in the Nile valley from Wadi Halfa south to Renk in northern South Sudan,[63][64] and in eastern Sudan, northern Ethiopia to the Red Sea coast in Eritrea.[39] It has also been introduced to Mohéli in the Comoros.[67]

Distribution and habitat

By a nest in a saguaro cactus in Arizona
House sparrows perching on a roof, during winter in the Southern Alps of New Zealand

The house sparrow originated in the Middle East and spread, along with agriculture, to most of Eurasia and parts of North Africa.[68] Since the mid-19th century, it has reached most of the world, chiefly due to deliberate introductions, but also through natural and shipborne dispersal.[69] Its introduced range encompasses most of North America, Central America, southern South America, southern Africa, part of West Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and islands throughout the world.[70] It has greatly extended its range in northern Eurasia since the 1850s,[71] and continues to do so, as was shown by the colonisations around 1990 of Iceland and Rishiri Island, Japan.[72] The extent of its range makes it the most widely distributed wild bird on the planet.[70]


The house sparrow has become highly successful in most parts of the world where it has been introduced. This is mostly due to its early adaptation to living with humans, and its adaptability to a wide range of conditions.[73][74] Other factors may include its robust immune response, compared to the Eurasian tree sparrow.[75] Where introduced, it can extend its range quickly, sometimes at a rate over 230 km (140 mi) per year.[76] In many parts of the world, it has been characterised as a pest, and poses a threat to native birds.[77][78] A few introductions have died out or been of limited success, such as those to Greenland and Cape Verde.[79]

The first of many successful introductions to North America occurred when birds from England were released in New York City, in 1852 [80][81] to control the ravages of the linden moth.[82] The house sparrow now occurs from the Northwest Territories to southern Panama,[4] and it is one of the most abundant birds in North America.[77] The house sparrow was first introduced to Australia in 1863 at Melbourne and is common throughout the eastern part of the continent,[79] but has been prevented from establishing itself in Western Australia, where every house sparrow found in the state is killed.[83] House sparrows were introduced in New Zealand in 1859, and from there reached many of the Pacific islands, including Hawaii.[84]

In southern Africa, birds of both the European subspecies P. d. domesticus and the Indian subspecies P. d. indicus were introduced around 1900. Birds of P. d. domesticus ancestry are confined to a few towns, while P. d. indicus birds have spread rapidly, reaching Tanzania in the 1980s. Despite this success, native relatives such as the Cape sparrow also occur in towns, competing successfully with it.[79][85] In South America, it was first introduced near Buenos Aires around 1870, and quickly became common in most of the southern part of the continent. It now occurs almost continuously from Tierra del Fuego to the fringes of the Amazon basin, with isolated populations as far north as coastal Venezuela.[79][86][87]


The house sparrow is closely associated with human habitation and cultivation.[88] It is not an obligate commensal of humans as some have suggested: Central Asian house sparrows usually breed away from humans in open country,[89] and birds elsewhere are occasionally found away from humans.[88][90][91] The only terrestrial habitats that the house sparrow does not inhabit are dense forest and tundra. Well adapted to living around humans, it frequently lives and even breeds indoors, especially in factories, warehouses, and zoos.[88] It has been recorded breeding in an English coal mine 640 m (2,100 ft) below ground,[92] and feeding on the Empire State Building's observation deck at night.[93] It reaches its greatest densities in urban centres, but its reproductive success is greater in suburbs, where insects are more abundant.[88][94] On a larger scale, it is most abundant in wheat-growing areas such as the Midwestern United States.[95]

It tolerates a variety of climates, but prefers drier conditions, especially in moist tropical climates.[79][88] It has several adaptations to dry areas, including a high salt tolerance[96] and an ability to survive without water by ingesting berries.[97] In most of eastern Asia, the house sparrow is entirely absent, replaced by the Eurasian tree sparrow.[98] Where these two species overlap, the house sparrow is usually more common than the Eurasian tree sparrow, but one species may replace the other in a manner that ornithologist Maud Doria Haviland described as "random, or even capricious".[99] In most of its range, the house sparrow is extremely common, despite some declines,[100] but in marginal habitats such as rainforest or mountain ranges, its distribution can be spotty.[88]


The house sparrow often bathes in water (at left) or in dust (at right)

Social behaviour

The house sparrow is a very social bird. It is gregarious at all seasons when feeding, often forming flocks with other types of birds.[101] It roosts communally, its nests are usually grouped together in clumps, and it engages in social activities such as dust or water bathing and "social singing", in which birds call together in bushes.[102][103] The house sparrow feeds mostly on the ground, but it flocks in trees and bushes.[102] At feeding stations and nests, female house sparrows are dominant despite their smaller size, and in the reproductive period (usually spring or summer), being dominant, they can fight for males.[104][105]

Sleep and roosting

House sparrows sleep with the bill tucked underneath the scapular feathers.[106] Outside of the reproductive season, they often roost communally in trees or shrubs. Much communal chirping occurs before and after the birds settle in the roost in the evening, as well as before the birds leave the roost in the morning.[102] Some congregating sites separate from the roost may be visited by the birds prior to settling in for the night.[107]

Body maintenance

Dust or water bathing is common and often occurs in groups. Anting is rare.[108] Head scratching is done with the leg over the drooped wing.[107]


Female foraging in Germany
Two females feeding on leftover food at a cafe in New Zealand.

As an adult, the house sparrow mostly feeds on the seeds of grains and weeds, but it is opportunistic and adaptable, and eats whatever foods are available.[109] In towns and cities, it often scavenges for food in garbage containers and congregates in the outdoors of restaurants and other eating establishments to feed on leftover food and crumbs. It can perform complex tasks to obtain food, such as opening automatic doors to enter supermarkets,[110] clinging to hotel walls to watch vacationers on their balconies,[111] and nectar robbing kowhai flowers.[112] In common with many other birds, the house sparrow requires grit to digest the harder items in its diet. Grit can be either stone, often grains of masonry, or the shells of eggs or snails; oblong and rough grains are preferred.[113][114]

Several studies of the house sparrow in temperate agricultural areas have found the proportion of seeds in its diet to be about 90%.[109][115][116] It will eat almost any seeds, but where it has a choice, it prefers oats and wheat.[117] In urban areas, the house sparrow feeds largely on food provided directly or indirectly by humans, such as bread, though it prefers raw seeds.[116][118] The house sparrow also eats some plant matter besides seeds, including buds, berries, and fruits such as grapes and cherries.[97][116] In temperate areas, the house sparrow has an unusual habit of tearing flowers, especially yellow ones, in the spring.[119]

Animals form another important part of the house sparrow's diet, chiefly insects, of which beetles, caterpillars, dipteran flies, and aphids are especially important. Various noninsect arthropods are eaten, as are molluscs and crustaceans where available, earthworms, and even vertebrates such as lizards and frogs.[109] Young house sparrows are fed mostly on insects until about 15 days after hatching.[120] They are also given small quantities of seeds, spiders, and grit. In most places, grasshoppers and crickets are the most abundant foods of nestlings.[121]True bugs, ants, sawflies, and beetles are also important, but house sparrows take advantage of whatever foods are abundant to feed their young.[121][122][123] House sparrows have been observed stealing prey from other birds, including American robins.[4]


The house sparrow's flight is direct (not undulating) and flapping, averaging 45.5 km/h (28.3 mph) and about 15 wingbeats per second.[107][124] On the ground, the house sparrow typically hops rather than walks. It can swim when pressed to do so by pursuit from predators. Captive birds have been recorded diving and swimming short distances under water.[107]

Dispersal and migration

Most house sparrows do not move more than a few kilometres during their lifetimes. However, limited migration occurs in all regions. Some young birds disperse long distances, especially on coasts, and mountain birds move to lower elevations in winter.[102][125][126] Two subspecies, P. d. bactrianus and P. d. parkini, are predominantly migratory. Unlike the birds in sedentary populations that migrate, birds of migratory subspecies prepare for migration by putting on weight.[102]


A pair of the subspecies P. d. indicus mating in Kolkata

House sparrows can breed in the breeding season immediately following their hatching, and sometimes attempt to do so. Some birds breeding for the first time in tropical areas are only a few months old and still have juvenile plumage.[127] Birds breeding for the first time are rarely successful in raising young, and reproductive success increases with age, as older birds breed earlier in the breeding season, and fledge more young.[128] As the breeding season approaches, hormone releases trigger enormous increases in the size of the sexual organs and changes in day length lead males to start calling by nesting sites.[129][130] The timing of mating and egg-laying varies geographically, and between specific locations and years because a sufficient supply of insects is needed for egg formation and feeding nestlings.[131]

Males take up nesting sites before the breeding season, by frequently calling beside them. Unmated males start nest construction and call particularly frequently to attract females. When a female approaches a male during this period, the male displays by moving up and down while drooping and shivering his wings, pushing up his head, raising and spreading his tail, and showing his bib.[131] Males may try to mate with females while calling or displaying. In response, a female will adopt a threatening posture and attack a male before flying away, pursued by the male. The male displays in front of her, attracting other males, which also pursue and display to the female. This group display usually does not immediately result in copulations.[131] Other males usually do not copulate with the female.[132][133] Copulation is typically initiated by the female giving a soft dee-dee-dee call to the male. Birds of a pair copulate frequently until the female is laying eggs, and the male mounts the female repeatedly each time a pair mates.[131]

The house sparrow is monogamous, and typically mates for life. Birds from pairs often engage in extra-pair copulations, so about 15% of house sparrow fledglings are unrelated to their mother's mate.[134] Male house sparrows guard their mates carefully to avoid being cuckolded, and most extra-pair copulation occurs away from nest sites.[132][135] Males may sometimes have multiple mates, and bigamy is mostly limited by aggression between females.[136] Many birds do not find a nest and a mate, and instead may serve as helpers around the nest for mated pairs, a role which increases the chances of being chosen to replace a lost mate. Lost mates of both sexes can be replaced quickly during the breeding season.[132][137] The formation of a pair and the bond between the two birds is tied to the holding of a nest site, though paired house sparrows can recognise each other away from the nest.[131]


Female bringing food for young in a nest made in a tree hole in California

Nest sites are varied, though cavities are preferred. Nests are most frequently built in the eaves and other crevices of houses. Holes in cliffs and banks, or tree hollows, are also used.[138][139] A sparrow sometimes excavates its own nests in sandy banks or rotten branches, but more frequently uses the nests of other birds such as those of swallows in banks and cliffs, and old tree cavity nests.[138] It usually uses deserted nests, though sometimes it usurps active ones.[138][140] Tree hollows are more commonly used in North America than in Europe,[138] putting the sparrows in competition with bluebirds and other North American cavity nesters, and thereby contributing to their population declines.[77]

Especially in warmer areas, the house sparrow may build its nests in the open, on the branches of trees, especially evergreens and hawthorns, or in the nests of large birds such as storks or magpies.[131][138][141] In open nesting sites, breeding success tends to be lower, since breeding begins late and the nest can easily be destroyed or damaged by storms.[138][142] Less common nesting sites include street lights and neon signs, favoured for their warmth; and the old open-topped nests of other songbirds, which are then domed over.[138][139]

The nest is usually domed, though it may lack a roof in enclosed sites.[138] It has an outer layer of stems and roots, a middle layer of dead grass and leaves, and a lining of feathers, as well as of paper and other soft materials.[139] Nests typically have external dimensions of 20 × 30 cm (8 × 12 in),[131] but their size varies greatly.[139] The building of the nest is initiated by the unmated male while displaying to females. The female assists in building, but is less active than the male.[138] Some nest building occurs throughout the year, especially after moult in autumn. In colder areas house sparrows build specially created roost nests, or roost in street lights, to avoid losing heat during the winter.[138][143] House sparrows do not hold territories, but they defend their nests aggressively against intruders of the same sex.[138]

House sparrows' nests support a wide range of scavenging insects, including nest flies such as Neottiophilum praestum, Protocalliphora blowflies,[144][145] and over 1,400 species of beetle.[146]

Eggs and young

Eggs in a nest

Clutches usually comprise four or five eggs, though numbers from one to 10 have been recorded. At least two clutches are usually laid, and up to seven a year may be laid in the tropics or four a year in temperate latitudes. When fewer clutches are laid in a year, especially at higher latitudes, the number of eggs per clutch is greater. Central Asian house sparrows, which migrate and have only one clutch a year, average 6.5 eggs in a clutch. Clutch size is also affected by environmental and seasonal conditions, female age, and breeding density.[147][148]

Naked and blind chick
A hatchling

Some intraspecific brood parasitism occurs, and instances of unusually large numbers of eggs in a nest may be the result of females laying eggs in the nests of their neighbours. Such foreign eggs are sometimes recognised and ejected by females.[147][149] The house sparrow is a victim of interspecific brood parasites, but only rarely, since it usually uses nests in holes too small for parasites to enter, and it feeds its young foods unsuitable for young parasites.[150][151] In turn, the house sparrow has once been recorded as a brood parasite of the American cliff swallow.[149][152]

A juvenile, showing its pink bill and obvious nestling gape—the soft, swollen base, which becomes harder and less swollen as the bird matures

The eggs are white, bluish white, or greenish white, spotted with brown or grey.[107] Subelliptical in shape,[8] they range from 20 to 22 mm (0.79 to 0.87 in) in length and 14 to 16 mm (0.55 to 0.63 in) in width,[4] have an average mass of 2.9 g (0.10 oz),[153] and an average surface area of 9.18 cm2 (1.423 in2).[154] Eggs from the tropical subspecies are distinctly smaller.[155][156] Eggs begin to develop with the deposition of yolk in the ovary a few days before ovulation. In the day between ovulation and laying, egg white forms, followed by eggshell.[157] Eggs laid later in a clutch are larger, as are those laid by larger females, and egg size is hereditary. Eggs decrease slightly in size from laying to hatching.[158] The yolk comprises 25% of the egg, the egg white 68%, and the shell 7%. Eggs are watery, being 79% liquid, and otherwise mostly protein.[159]

The female develops a brood patch of bare skin and plays the main part in incubating the eggs. The male helps, but can only cover the eggs rather than truly incubate them. The female spends the night incubating during this period, while the male roosts near the nest.[147] Eggs hatch at the same time, after a short incubation period lasting 11–14 days, and exceptionally for as many as 17 or as few as 9.[8][131][160] The length of the incubation period decreases as ambient temperature increases later in the breeding season.[161]

A female feeding a fledgling

Young house sparrows remain in the nest for 11 to 23 days, normally 14 to 16 days.[107][161][162] During this time, they are fed by both parents. As newly hatched house sparrows do not have sufficient insulation, they are brooded for a few days, or longer in cold conditions.[161][163] The parents swallow the droppings produced by the hatchlings during the first few days; later, the droppings are moved up to 20 m (66 ft) away from the nest.[163][164]

The chicks' eyes open after about four days and, at an age of about eight days, the young birds get their first down.[107][162] If both parents perish, the ensuing intensive begging sounds of the young often attract replacement parents which feed them until they can sustain themselves.[163][165] All the young in the nest leave it during the same period of a few hours. At this stage, they are normally able to fly. They start feeding themselves partly after one or two days, and sustain themselves completely after 7 to 10 days, 14 at the latest.[166]


In adult house sparrows, annual survival is 45–65%.[167] After fledging and leaving the care of their parents, young sparrows have a high mortality rate, which lessens as they grow older and more experienced. Only about 20–25% of birds hatched survive to their first breeding season.[168] The oldest known wild house sparrow lived for nearly two decades; it was found dead 19 years and 9 months after it was ringed in Denmark.[169] The oldest recorded captive house sparrow lived for 23 years.[170] The typical ratio of males to females in a population is uncertain due to problems in collecting data, but a very slight preponderance of males at all ages is usual.[171]


A male being eaten by a cat: Domestic cats are one of the main predators of the house sparrow.

The house sparrow's main predators are cats and birds of prey, but many other animals prey on them, including corvids, squirrels,[172] and even humans—the house sparrow has been consumed in the past by people in many parts of the world, and it still is in parts of the Mediterranean.[173] Most species of birds of prey have been recorded preying on the house sparrow in places where records are extensive. Accipiters and the merlin in particular are major predators, though cats are likely to have a greater impact on house sparrow populations.[172] The house sparrow is also a common victim of roadkill; on European roads, it is the bird most frequently found dead.[174]

Parasites and disease

The house sparrow is host to a huge number of parasites and diseases, and the effect of most is unknown. Ornithologist Ted R. Anderson listed thousands, noting that his list was incomplete.[175] The commonly recorded bacterial pathogens of the house sparrow are often those common in humans, and include Salmonella and Escherichia coli.[176]Salmonella is common in the house sparrow, and a comprehensive study of house sparrow disease found it in 13% of sparrows tested. Salmonella epidemics in the spring and winter can kill large numbers of sparrows.[175] The house sparrow hosts avian pox and avian malaria, which it has spread to the native forest birds of Hawaii.[177] Many of the diseases hosted by the house sparrow are also present in humans and domestic animals, for which the house sparrow acts as a reservoir host.[178]Arboviruses such as the West Nile virus, which most commonly infect insects and mammals, survive winters in temperate areas by going dormant in birds such as the house sparrow.[175][179] A few records indicate disease extirpating house sparrow populations, especially from Scottish islands, but this seems to be rare.[180]

The house sparrow is infested by a number of external parasites, which usually cause little harm to adult sparrows. In Europe, the most common mite found on sparrows is Proctophyllodes, the most common ticks are Argas reflexus and Ixodes arboricola, and the most common flea on the house sparrow is Ceratophyllus gallinae. A number of chewing lice occupy different niches on the house sparrow's body. Menacanthus lice occur across the house sparrow's body, where they feed on blood and feathers, while Brueelia lice feed on feathers and Philopterus fringillae occurs on the head.[144]


House sparrows express strong circadian rhythms of activity in the laboratory. They were among the first bird species to be seriously studied in terms of their circadian activity and photoperiodism, in part because of their availability and adaptability in captivity, but also because they can "find their way" and remain rhythmic in constant darkness.[181][182] Such studies have found that the pineal gland is a central part of the house sparrow's circadian system: removal of the pineal eliminates the circadian rhythm of activity,[183] and transplant of the pineal into another individual confers to this individual the rhythm phase of the donor bird.[184] The suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus have also been shown to be an important component of the circadian system of house sparrows.[185] The photoreceptors involved in the synchronisation of the circadian clock to the external light-dark cycle are located in the brain and can be stimulated by light reaching them directly though the skull, as revealed by experiments in which blind sparrows, which normally can still synchronise to the light-dark cycle, failed to do so once India ink was injected as a screen under the skin on top of their skulls.[186]

Similarly, even when blind, house sparrows continue to be photoperiodic, i.e. show reproductive development when the days are long, but not when the days are short. This response is stronger when the feathers on top of the head are plucked, and is eliminated when India ink is injected under the skin at the top of the head, showing that the photoreceptors involved in the photoperiodic response to day length are located inside the brain.[187]

House sparrows have also been used in studies of nonphotic entrainment (i.e. synchronisation to an external cycle other than light and dark): for example, in constant darkness, a situation in which the birds would normally reveal their endogenous, non-24-hour, "free-running" rhythms of activity, they instead show 24-hour periodicity if they are exposed to two hours of chirp playbacks every 24 hours, matching their daily activity onsets with the daily playback onsets.[188] House sparrows in constant dim light can also be entrained to a daily cycle based on the presence of food.[189] Finally, house sparrows in constant darkness can be entrained to a cycle of high and low temperature, but only if the difference between the two temperatures is large (38 versus 6 °C); some of the tested sparrows matched their activity to the warm phase, and others to the cold phase.[190]

Relationships with humans

Flocking and chirping together beneath a fluorescent tube light in Germany

The house sparrow is closely associated with humans. They are believed to have become associated with humans around 10,000 years ago. Subspecies P. d. bactrianus is least associated with humans and considered to be evolutionarily closer to the ancestral noncommensal populations.[191] Usually, it is regarded as a pest, since it consumes agricultural products and spreads disease to humans and their domestic animals.[192] Even birdwatchers often hold it in little regard because of its molestation of other birds.[77] In most of the world, the house sparrow is not protected by law. Attempts to control house sparrows include the trapping, poisoning, or shooting of adults; the destruction of their nests and eggs; or less directly, blocking nest holes and scaring off sparrows with noise, glue, or porcupine wire.[193] However, the house sparrow can be beneficial to humans, as well, especially by eating insect pests, and attempts at the large-scale control of the house sparrow have failed.[39]

The house sparrow has long been used as a food item. From around 1560 to at least the 19th century in northern Europe, earthenware "sparrow pots" were hung from eaves to attract nesting birds so the young could be readily harvested. Wild birds were trapped in nets in large numbers, and sparrow pie was a traditional dish, thought, because of the association of sparrows with lechery, to have aphrodisiac properties. Sparrows were also trapped as food for falconers' birds and zoo animals. In the early part of the 20th century, sparrow clubs culled many millions of birds and eggs in an attempt to control numbers of this perceived pest, but with only a localised impact on numbers.[194] House sparrows have been kept as pets at many times in history, though they have no bright plumage or attractive songs, and raising them is difficult.[195]


The house sparrow has an extremely large range and population, and is not seriously threatened by human activities, so it is assessed as least concern for conservation on the IUCN Red List.[1] However, populations have been declining in many parts of the world.[196][197][198] These declines were first noticed in North America, where they were initially attributed to the spread of the house finch, but have been most severe in Western Europe.[199][200] Declines have not been universal, as no serious declines have been reported from Eastern Europe, but have even occurred in Australia, where the house sparrow was introduced recently.[201]

In Great Britain, populations peaked in the early 1970s,[202] but have since declined by 68% overall,[203] and about 90% in some regions.[204][205] In London, the house sparrow almost disappeared from the central city.[204] The numbers of house sparrows in the Netherlands have dropped in half since the 1980s,[94] so the house sparrow is even considered an endangered species.[206] This status came to widespread attention after a female house sparrow, referred to as the "Dominomus", was killed after knocking down dominoes arranged as part of an attempt to set a world record.[207] These declines are not unprecedented, as similar reductions in population occurred when the internal combustion engine replaced horses in the 1920s and a major source of food in the form of grain spillage was lost.[208][209]

Various causes for the dramatic decreases in population have been proposed, including predation, in particular by Eurasian sparrowhawks;[210][211][212] electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones;[213] and diseases.[214] A shortage of nesting sites caused by changes in urban building design is probably a factor, and conservation organisations have encouraged the use of special nest boxes for sparrows.[214][215][216][217] A primary cause of the decline seems to be an insufficient supply of insect food for nestling sparrows.[214][218] Declines in insect populations result from an increase of monoculture crops, the heavy use of pesticides,[219][220][221] the replacement of native plants in cities with introduced plants and parking areas,[222][223] and possibly the introduction of unleaded petrol, which produces toxic compounds such as methyl nitrite.[224]

Protecting insect habitats on farms,[225][226] and planting native plants in cities benefit the house sparrow, as does establishing urban green spaces.[227][228] To raise awareness of threats to the house sparrow, World Sparrow Day has been celebrated on 20 March across the world since 2010.[229] Over the recent years, the house sparrow population has been on the decline in many Asian countries, and this decline is quite evident in India. To promote the conservation of these birds, in 2012, the house sparrow was declared as the state bird of Delhi.[230]

Cultural associations

To many people across the world, the house sparrow is the most familiar wild animal and, because of its association with humans and familiarity, it is frequently used to represent the common and vulgar, or the lewd.[231] One of the reasons for the introduction of house sparrows throughout the world was their association with the European homeland of many immigrants.[81] Birds usually described later as sparrows are referred to in many works of ancient literature and religious texts in Europe and western Asia. These references may not always refer specifically to the house sparrow, or even to small, seed-eating birds, but later writers who were inspired by these texts often had the house sparrow in mind.[39][231][232] In particular, sparrows were associated by the ancient Greeks with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, due to their perceived lustfulness, an association echoed by later writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare.[39][195][231][233] Jesus's use of "sparrows" as an example of divine providence in the Gospel of Matthew[234] also inspired later references, such as that in Shakespeare's Hamlet[231] and the Gospel hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow.[235]

The house sparrow is represented in ancient Egyptian art very rarely, but an Egyptian hieroglyph is based on it. The sparrow hieroglyph had no phonetic value and was used as a determinative in words to indicate small, narrow, or bad.[236] An alternative view is that the hieroglyph meant "a prolific man" or "the revolution of a year".[237]

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Works cited

External links


Austin Art Board Submission

Would you like to see these inked animals on Billboards around Austin?

Urban Birds of Austin

Mexican Free-tailed Bat 1
Adam and I, coerced by our friend Hayley of the Biocreativity Blog, decided to enter into the Austin Art Board contest this year.  Only one submission per person, so Adam and I individually created a unique take on some of our prints.  I kept it simple, using the Mexican Freetail bat as my subject.  I thought it would be a nice specimen considering Austin’s love affair with this critter. Adam got a bit more creative, and did a  bit of a collage of a few birds, most of which we haven’t posted yet (we have tons of material coming soon).




White-tailed Deer Skull

White-tailed Deer Skull Print by Inked Animal

White-tailed Deer | Odocoileus virginianus

White-tailed Deer info via Wikipedia:

White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer.jpg
Male white-tailed deer (buck or stag)
Whitetail doe.jpg
Female white-tailed deer (doe)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Capreolinae
Genus: Odocoileus
Species: O. virginianus
Binomial name
Odocoileus virginianus
(Zimmermann, 1780)

38, see text

Odocoileus virginianus map.svg
White-tailed deer range map
  • Dama virginiana Zimmermann, 1780
  • Dama virginianus Zimmermann, 1780

The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), also known as the whitetail or Virginia deer, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America as far south as Peru and Bolivia.[2] It has also been introduced to New Zealand, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Lesser Antilles, and some countries in Europe, such as Finland, the Czech Republic, and Serbia.[3][4][5] In the Americas, it is the most widely distributed wild ungulate.

In North America, the species is widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains, but elsewhere, it is mostly replaced by the black-tailed or mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). In western North America, it is found in aspen parklands and deciduous river bottomlands within the central and northern Great Plains, and in mixed deciduous riparian corridors, river valley bottomlands, and lower foothills of the northern Rocky Mountain regions from South Dakota and Wyoming to northeastern British Columbia, including the Montana Valley and Foothill grasslands.

The conversion of land adjacent to the northern Rockies into agriculture use and partial clear-cutting of coniferous trees (resulting in widespread deciduous vegetation) has been favorable to the white-tailed deer and has pushed its distribution to as far north as Fort St. John, British Columbia. Populations of deer around the Great Lakes have also expanded their range northwards, due to conversion of land to agricultural uses favoring more deciduous vegetation, and local caribou and moose populations. The westernmost population of the species, known as the Columbian white-tailed deer, once was widespread in the mixed forests along the Willamette and Cowlitz River valleys of western Oregon and southwestern Washington, but today its numbers have been considerably reduced, and it is classified as near-threatened.


Fawn waving its white tail

Some taxonomists have attempted to separate white-tailed deer into a host of subspecies, based largely in morphological differences. Genetic studies,[clarification needed] however, suggest fewer subspecies within the animal's range, as compared to the 30 to 40 subspecies that some scientists described in the last century. The Florida Key deer, O. v. clavium, and the Columbian white-tailed deer, O. v. leucurus, are both listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In the United States, the Virginia white-tail, O. v. virginianus, is among the most widespread subspecies. The white-tailed deer species has tremendous genetic variation and is adaptable to several environments. Several local deer populations, especially in the southern states, are descended from white-tailed deer transplanted from various localities east of the Continental Divide. Some of these deer populations may have been from as far north as the Great Lakes region to as far west as Texas, yet are also quite at home in the Appalachian and Piedmont regions of the south. These deer, over time, have intermixed with the local indigenous deer (O. v. virginianus and/or O. v. macrourus) populations.

Male whitetail in Kansas

Central and South America have a complex number of white-tailed deer subspecies that range from Guatemala to as far south as Peru. This list of subspecies of deer is more exhaustive than the list of North American subspecies, and the number of subspecies is also questionable. However, the white-tailed deer populations in these areas are difficult to study, due to overhunting in many parts and a lack of protection. Some areas no longer carry deer, so assessing the genetic difference of these animals is difficult.


O. v. truei, female, Costa Rica
Three O. v. borealis, New Hampshire

Some subspecies names, ordered alphabetically:[6][7]

North America

  • O. v. acapulcensis – Acapulco white-tailed deer (southern Mexico)
  • O. v. borealis – northern (woodland) white-tailed deer (the largest and darkest white-tailed deer)
  • O. v. carminis – Carmen Mountains Jorge deer (Texas-Mexico border)
  • O. v. clavium – Key deer or Florida Keys white-tailed deer (found in the Florida Keys; an example of insular dwarfism)
  • O. v. chiriquensis – Chiriqui white-tailed deer (Panama)
  • O. v. couesi – Coues white-tailed deer, Arizona white-tailed deer, or fantail deer
  • O. v. dakotensis – Dakota white-tailed deer or Northern Plains white-tailed deer (most northerly distribution, rivals the northern white-tailed deer in size)
  • O. v. hiltonensis – Hilton Head Island white-tailed deer
  • O. v. idahoensis – white-tailed deer (western Canada, Idaho, eastern Washington)[8]
  • O. v. leucurus – Columbian white-tailed deer (Oregon and western coastal area)
  • O. v. macrourus – Kansas white-tailed deer
  • O. v. mcilhennyi – Avery Island white-tailed deer
  • O. v. mexicanus – Mexican white-tailed deer (central Mexico)
  • O. v. miquihuanensis – Miquihuan white-tailed deer (central Mexico)
  • O. v. nelsoni – Chiapas white-tailed deer (southern Mexico and Guatemala)
  • O. v. nemoralis – (Central America, round the Gulf of Mexico to Surinam in South America; further restricted to from Honduras to Panama)
  • O. v. nigribarbis – Blackbeard Island white-tailed deer
  • O. v. oaxacensis – Oaxaca white-tailed deer (southern Mexico)
  • O. v. ochrourus – (tawny) northwest white-tailed deer or northern Rocky Mountains white-tailed deer
  • O. v. osceola – Florida coastal white-tailed deer
  • O. v. rothschildi – Coiba Island white-tailed deer
  • O. v. seminolus – Florida white-tailed deer
  • O. v. sinaloae – Sinaloa white-tailed deer (mid-western Mexico)
  • O. v. taurinsulae – Bulls Island white-tailed deer (Bulls Island, South Carolina)
  • O. v. texanus – Texas white-tailed deer
  • O. v. thomasi – Mexican lowland white-tailed deer
  • O. v. toltecus – Rain Forest white-tailed deer (southern Mexico)
  • O. v. truei – Central American white-tailed deer (Costa Rica, Nicaragua and adjacent states)
  • O. v. venatorius – Hunting Island white-tailed deer (Hunting Island, South Carolina)
  • O. v. veraecrucis – northern Veracruz white-tailed deer
  • O. v. virginianus – Virginia white-tailed deer or southern white-tailed deer
  • O. v. yucatanensis – Yucatán white-tailed deer

South America

  • O. v. cariacou – (French Guiana and north Brazil)
  • O. v. curassavicus – (Curaçao)
  • O. v. goudotii – (Colombia (Andes) and west Venezuela)
  • O. v. gymnotis – South American white-tailed deer (northern half of Venezuela, including Venezuela's Llanos region)
  • O. v. margaritae – (Margarita Island)
  • O. v. nemoralis – (Central America, round the Gulf of Mexico to Surinam in South America; further restricted to from Honduras to Panama)
  • O. v. peruvianus – South American white-tailed deer or Andean white-tailed deer (most southerly distribution in Peru and possibly, Bolivia)
  • O. v. tropicalis – Peru and Ecuador (possibly Colombia)
  • O. v. ustus – Ecuador (possibly southern of Colombia and northern of Peru)
Range map of subspecies
North America
Central and South America
White-tailed deer buck seen in Missoula, Montana


Female with tail in alarm posture

The deer's coat is a reddish-brown in the spring and summer and turns to a grey-brown throughout the fall and winter. The deer can be recognized by the characteristic white underside to its tail. It raises its tail when it is alarmed to warn the predator that it has been detected.[9] A population of white-tailed deer in New York is entirely white (except for areas like their noses and toes)—not albino—in color. The former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, New York, has the largest known concentration of white deer. Strong conservation efforts have allowed white deer to thrive within the confines of the depot. White-tailed deer's horizontally slit pupils allow for good night vision and color vision during the day.

Size and weight

Close up of female's head

The white-tailed deer is highly variable in size, generally following Bergmann's rule that the average size is larger farther away from the Equator. North American male deer (also known as a buck) usually weigh 45 kg (100 lb), but in rare cases, bucks in excess of 125 kg (275 lb) have been recorded. Mature bucks over 180 kg (400 lb) have been recorded in the northernmost reaches of their native range, specifically, Minnesota and Ontario. In 1926, Carl J. Lenander, Jr., took a white-tailed buck near Tofte, MN, that weighed 183 kg (403 lb) after it was field-dressed (internal organs and blood removed) and was estimated at 232 kg (511 lb) when alive.[10] The female (doe) in North America usually weighs from 40 to 90 kg (88 to 198 lb). White-tailed deer from the tropics and the Florida Keys are markedly smaller-bodied than temperate populations, averaging 35 to 50 kg (77 to 110 lb), with an occasional adult female as small as 25 kg (55 lb).[11] White-tailed deer from the Andes are larger than other tropical deer of this species, and have thick, slightly woolly looking fur. Length ranges from 95 to 220 cm (37 to 87 in), including a tail of 10 to 37 cm (3.9 to 14.6 in), and the shoulder height is 53 to 120 cm (21 to 47 in).[12][13] Including all races, the average summer weight of adult males is 68 kg (150 lb) and is 45.3 kg (100 lb) in adult females.[14]

Deer have dichromatic (two-color) vision with blue and yellow primaries;[15] humans normally have trichromatic vision. Thus, deer poorly distinguish the oranges and reds that stand out so well to humans.[16] This makes it very convenient to use deer-hunter orange as a safety color on caps and clothing to avoid accidental shootings during hunting seasons.


Male white-tailed deer

Males regrow their antlers every year. About one in 10,000 females also has antlers, although this is usually associated with freemartinism.[17] Bucks without branching antlers are often termed "spikehorn", "spiked bucks", "spike bucks", or simply "spikes/spikers". The spikes can be quite long or very short. Length and branching of antlers are determined by nutrition, age, and genetics. Rack growth tends to be very important from late spring until about a month before velvet sheds. Healthy deer in some areas that are well-fed can have eight-point branching antlers as yearlings (1.5 years old).[18] The number of points, the length, or thickness of the antlers is a general indication of age, but cannot be relied upon for positive aging. A better indication of age is the length of the snout and the color of the coat, with older deer tending to have longer snouts and grayer coats. Some say spiked-antler deer should be culled from the population to produce larger branching antler genetics (antler size does not indicate overall health), and some bucks' antlers never will be wall trophies. Good antler-growth nutritional needs (calcium) and good genetics combine to produce wall trophies in some of their range.[19] Spiked bucks are different from "button bucks" or "nubbin' bucks", that are male fawns and are generally about six to nine months of age during their first winter. They have skin-covered nobs on their heads. They can have bony protrusions up to a half inch in length, but that is very rare, and they are not the same as spikes.

White-tailed bucks with antlers still in velvet, August 2011

Antlers begin to grow in late spring, covered with a highly vascularised tissue known as velvet. Bucks either have a typical or atypical antler arrangement. Typical antlers are symmetrical and the points grow straight up off the main beam. Atypical antlers are asymmetrical and the points may project at any angle from the main beam. These descriptions are not the only limitations for typical and atypical antler arrangement. The Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young scoring systems also define relative degrees of typicality and atypicality by procedures to measure what proportion of the antlers is asymmetrical. Therefore, bucks with only slight asymmetry are scored as "typical". A buck's inside spread can be from 3 to 25 in (8–64 cm). Bucks shed their antlers when all females have been bred, from late December to February.


White-tailed deer are generalists and can adapt to a wide variety of habitats.[20] The largest deer occur in the temperate regions of Canada and United States. The northern white-tailed deer (O. v. borealis), Dakota white-tailed deer (O. v. dacotensis), and northwest white-tailed deer (O. v. ochrourus) are some of the largest animals, with large antlers. The smallest deer occur in the Florida Keys and in partially wooded lowlands in the neotropics.

Although most often thought of as forest animals depending on relatively small openings and edges, white-tailed deer can equally adapt themselves to life in more open prairie, savanna woodlands, and sage communities as in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico. These savanna-adapted deer have relatively large antlers in proportion to their body size and large tails. Also, a noticeable difference exists in size between male and female deer of the savannas. The Texas white-tailed deer (O. v. texanus), of the prairies and oak savannas of Texas and parts of Mexico, are the largest savanna-adapted deer in the Southwest, with impressive antlers that might rival deer found in Canada and the northern United States. Populations of Arizona (O. v. couesi) and Carmen Mountains (O. v. carminis) white-tailed deer inhabit montane mixed oak and pine woodland communities.[21] The Arizona and Carmen Mountains deer are smaller, but may also have impressive antlers, considering their size. The white-tailed deer of the Llanos region of Colombia and Venezuela (O. v. apurensis and O. v. gymnotis) have antler dimensions similar to the Arizona white-tailed deer.

White-tailed deer during late winter

In western regions of the United States and Canada, the white-tailed deer range overlaps with those of the mule deer. White-tail incursions in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas have resulted in some hybrids. In the extreme north of the range, their habitat is also used by moose in some areas. White-tailed deer may occur in areas that are also exploited by elk (wapiti) such as in mixed deciduous river valley bottomlands and formerly in the mixed deciduous forest of eastern United States. In places such as Glacier National Park in Montana and several national parks in the Columbian Mountains (Mount Revelstoke National Park) and Canadian Rocky Mountains, as well as in the Yukon Territory ( Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park), white-tailed deer are shy and more reclusive than the coexisting mule deer, elk, and moose.

Central American white-tailed deer prefer tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests, seasonal mixed deciduous forests, savanna, and adjacent wetland habitats over dense tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. South American subspecies of white-tailed deer live in two types of environments. The first type, similar to the Central American deer, consists of savannas, dry deciduous forests, and riparian corridors that cover much of Venezuela and eastern Colombia.[22] The other type is the higher elevation mountain grassland/mixed forest ecozones in the Andes Mountains, from Venezuela to Peru. The Andean white-tailed deer seem to retain gray coats due to the colder weather at high altitudes, whereas the lowland savanna forms retain the reddish brown coats. South American white-tailed deer, like those in Central America, also generally avoid dense moist broadleaf forests.

Since the second half of the 19th century, white-tailed deer have been introduced to Europe.[23] A population in the Brdy area remains stable today.[24] In 1935, white-tailed deer were introduced to Finland. The introduction was successful, and the deer have recently begun spreading through northern Scandinavia and southern Karelia, competing with, and sometimes displacing, native species. The current population of some 30,000 deer originated from four animals provided by Finnish Americans from Minnesota.


White-tailed deer eat large amounts of food, commonly eating legumes and foraging on other plants, including shoots, leaves, cacti (in deserts), prairie forbs,[25] and grasses. They also eat acorns, fruit, and corn. Their special stomachs allow them to eat some things humans cannot, such as mushrooms and poison ivy. Their diets vary by season according to availability of food sources. They also eat hay, grass, white clover, and other foods they can find in a farm yard. Though almost entirely herbivorous, white-tailed deer have been known to opportunistically feed on nesting songbirds, field mice, and birds trapped in mist nets, if the need arises.[26] A grown deer can eat around 2,000 lb (910 kg) of vegetable matter annually. A foraging area around 20 deer per square mile can start to destroy the forest environment.[27]

The white-tailed deer is a ruminant, which means it has a four-chambered stomach. Each chamber has a different and specific function that allows the deer to eat a variety of different foods, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover. The stomach hosts a complex set of microbes that change as the deer's diet changes through the seasons. If the microbes necessary for digestion of a particular food (e.g., hay) are absent, it will not be digested.[28]


Several natural predators of white-tailed deer occur. Wolves, cougars, American alligators, jaguars (in the tropics), and humans are the most effective natural predators of white-tailed deer. These predators frequently pick out easily caught young or infirm deer (which is believed to improve the genetic stock of a population), but can and do take healthy adults of any size. Bobcats, Canada lynx, bears, wolverines, and packs of coyotes usually prey mainly on fawns. Bears may sometimes attack adult deer, while lynxes, coyotes, and wolverines are most likely to take adult deer when the ungulates are weakened by harsh winter weather.[12] Many scavengers rely on deer as carrion, including New World vultures, raptors, foxes, and corvids. Few wild predators can afford to be picky and any will readily consume deer as carrion. Records exist of American crows attempting to prey on white-tailed deer fawns by pecking around their face and eyes, though no accounts of success are given.[29] Occasionally, both golden and bald eagles may capture deer fawns with their talons.[30] In one case, a golden eagle was filmed in Illinois unsuccessfully trying to prey on a large mature white-tailed deer.[31]

White-tailed deer typically respond to the presence of potential predators by breathing very heavily (also called blowing) and fleeing. When they blow, the sound alerts other deer in the area. As they run, the flash of their white tails warns other deer. This especially serves to warn fawns when their mother is alarmed.[32] Most natural predators of white-tailed deer hunt by ambush, although canids may engage in an extended chase, hoping to exhaust the prey. Felids typically try to suffocate the deer by biting the throat. Cougars and jaguars will initially knock the deer off balance with their powerful forelegs, whereas the smaller bobcats and lynxes will jump astride the deer to deliver a killing bite. In the case of canids and wolverines, the predators bite at the limbs and flanks, hobbling the deer, until they can reach vital organs and kill it through loss of blood. Bears, which usually target fawns, often simply knock down the prey and then start eating it while it is still alive.[33][34] Alligators snatch deer as they try to drink from or cross bodies of water, grabbing them with their powerful jaws and dragging them into the water to drown.[35]

Most primary natural predators of white-tailed deer have been basically extirpated in eastern North America, with a very small number of reintroduced red wolves, which are nearly extinct, around North Carolina and a small remnant population of Florida panthers, a subspecies of the cougar. Gray wolves, the leading cause of deer mortality where they overlap, co-occur with whitetails in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and parts of Canada.[32] This almost certainly plays a factor in the overpopulation issues with this species.[32] Coyotes, widespread and with a rapidly expanding population, are often the only major nonhuman predator of the species, besides an occasional domestic dog.[32] In some areas, American black bears are also significant predators.[33][34] In northcentral Pennsylvania, black bears were found to be nearly as common predators of fawns as coyotes.[36] Bobcats, still fairly widespread, usually only exploit deer as prey when smaller prey is scarce.[37] Discussions have occurred regarding the possible reintroduction of gray wolves and cougars to sections of the eastern United States, largely because of the apparent controlling effect they have through deer predation on local ecosystems, as has been illustrated in the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and their controlling effect on previously overpopulated elk.[38] However, due to the heavy urban development in much of the East and fear for livestock and human lives, such ideas have ultimately been rejected by local communities and/or by government services and have not been carried through.[39][40][41]

In areas where they are heavily hunted by humans, deer run almost immediately from people and are quite wary even where not heavily hunted. In most areas where hunting may occur deer seem to develop an acute sense of time and a fondness for metro parks and golf courses. This rather odd occurrence is best noted in Michigan, where in the lower peninsula around late August early September they begin to move out of less developed areas in favor of living near human settlements.

The deer of Virginia can run faster than their predators and have been recorded at speeds of 75 km (47 mi) per hour;[42] this ranks them amongst the fastest of all cervids, alongside the Eurasian roe deer. They can also jump 2.7 m (8.9 ft) high and up to 10 m (33 ft) in length. When shot at, the white-tailed deer will run at high speeds with its tail down. If frightened, the deer will hop in a zig-zag with its tail straight up. If the deer feels extremely threatened, however, it may charge the person or predator causing the threat, using its antlers or, if none are present, its head to fight off the threat.

Forest alteration

In certain parts of the eastern United States, high deer densities have caused large reductions in plant biomass, including the density and heights of certain forest wildflowers, tree seedlings, and shrubs. Although they can be seen as a nuisance species, white tail deer also play an important role in biodiversity.[43][44] At the same time, increases in browse-tolerant grasses and sedges and unpalatable ferns have often accompanied intensive deer herbivory.[45] Changes to the structure of forest understories have, in turn, altered the composition and abundance of forest bird communities in some areas.[46] Deer activity has also been shown to increase herbaceous plant diversity, particularly in disturbed areas, by reducing competitively dominant plants;[47] and to increase the growth rates of important canopy trees, perhaps by increased nutrient inputs into the soil.[48] In northeastern hardwood forests, high-density deer populations affect plant succession, particularly following clear-cuts and patch cuts. In succession without deer, annual herbs and woody plants are followed by commercially valuable, shade-tolerant oak and maple. The shade-tolerant trees prevent the invasion of less commercial cherry and American beech, which are stronger nutrient competitors, but not as shade tolerant. Although deer eat shade-tolerant plants and acorns, this is not the only way deer can shift the balance in favor of nutrient competitors. Deer consuming earlier-succession plants allows in enough light for nutrient competitors to invade. Since slow-growing oaks need several decades to develop root systems sufficient to compete with faster-growing species, removal of the canopy prior to that point amplifies the effect of deer on succession. High-density deer populations possibly could browse eastern hemlock seedlings out of existence in northern hardwood forests;[49] however, this scenario seems unlikely, given that deer browsing is not considered the critical factor preventing hemlock re-establishment at large scales.[50]

Ecologists have also expressed concern over the facilitative effect high deer populations have on invasions of exotic plant species. In a study of eastern hemlock forests, browsing by white-tailed deer caused populations of three exotic plants to rise faster than they do in the areas which are absent of deer. Seedlings of the three invading species rose exponentially with deer density, while the most common native species fell exponentially with deer density, because deer were preferentially eating the native species. The effects of deer on the invasive and native plants were magnified in cases of canopy disturbance.[51]

Methods for controlling deer populations

Several methods have been developed in attempts to curb the population of white-tailed deer, and these can be separated into lethal and nonlethal strategies. Most common in the U.S is the use of extended hunting as population control.[52] In Maryland and many other states, a state agency sets regulations on bag limits and hunting in the area depending on the deer population levels assessed.[53] Hunting seasons may fluctuate in duration, or restrictions may be set to affect how many deer or what type of deer can be hunted in certain regions. For the 2015–2016 white-tailed deer-hunting season, some areas only allow for the hunting of antlerless white-tailed deer. These would include young bucks and females, encouraging the culling of does which would otherwise contribute to increasing populations via offspring production.[52]

More refined than public hunting is a method referred to as sharpshooting by the Deer Task Force in the city of Bloomington, Indiana. Sharpshooting can be an option when the area inhabited by the deer is unfit for public hunting. This strategy may work in areas close to human populations, since it is done by professional marksmen, and requires a submitted plan of action to the city with details on the time and location of the event, as well as number of deer to be culled.[54]

Another controversial method involves trapping the deer in a net or other trap, and then administering a chemical euthanizing agent or extermination by firearm. A main issue in questioning the humaneness of this method is the stress that the deer endure while trapped and awaiting extermination.[55]

Nonlethal methods include contraceptive injections, sterilization, and translocation of deer.[56] While lethal methods have municipal support as being the most effective in the short term, some opponents to this view suggest no significant impacts of deer extermination on the populations occur.[57] Opponents of contraceptive methods point out that fertility control proves ineffective over time as populations in open-field systems move about. Concerns are voiced that the contraceptives have not been adequately researched for the effect they could have on humans who consume the treated venison. Fertility control also does nothing to affect the current population and the effects their grazing may be having on the forest plant make-up.[58]

Translocation has been considered overly costly for the little benefit it provides. Deer experience high stress and are at high risk of dying in the process, putting into question its humaneness.[59] Another concern in using this method is the possible spread of chronic wasting disease found in the deer family and the lack of research on its effect on human populations.


These bucks were pursuing a pair of does across the Loxahatchee River in Florida—the does lost them by entering a mangrove thicket too dense for the bucks' antlers.

Males compete for the opportunity of breeding females. Sparring among males determines a dominance hierarchy.[60] Bucks attempt to copulate with as many females as possible, losing physical condition, since they rarely eat or rest during the rut. The general geographical trend is for the rut to be shorter in duration at increased latitude. Many factors determine how intense the "rutting season" will be; air temperature is a major one. Any time the temperature rises above 40 °F (4 °C), the males do much less traveling looking for females, else they will be subject to overheating or dehydrating. Another factor for the strength in rutting activity is competition. If numerous males are in a particular area, then they compete more for the females. If fewer males or more females are present, then the selection process will not need to be as competitive.


Fawn lying on grass

Females enter estrus, colloquially called the rut, in the autumn, normally in late October or early November,[61] triggered mainly by the declining photoperiod. Sexual maturation of females depends on population density, as well as availability of food.[62] Young females often flee from an area heavily populated with males. Some does may be as young as six months when they reach sexual maturity, but the average age of maturity is 18 months.[63] Copulation consists of a brief copulatory jump.[64][65]

Females give birth to one to three spotted young, known as fawns, in mid- to late spring, generally in May or June. Fawns lose their spots during the first summer and weigh from 44 to 77 lb (20 to 35 kg) by the first winter. Male fawns tend to be slightly larger and heavier than females. For the first four weeks, fawns are hidden in vegetation by their mothers, who nurse them four to five times a day. This strategy keeps scent levels low to avoid predators. After about a month, the fawns [66] are then able to follow their mothers on foraging trips. They are usually weaned after 8–10 weeks, but cases have been seen where mothers have continued to allow nursing long after the fawns have lost their spots (for several months, or until the end of fall) as seen by rehabilitators and other studies. Males leave their mothers after a year and females leave after two.

Bucks are generally sexually mature at 1.5 years old and begin to breed even in populations stacked with older bucks.


Two white-tailed deer nuzzling in Cayuga Heights, New York

White-tailed deer have many forms of communication involving sounds, scent, body language, and marking. In addition to the aforementioned blowing in the presence of danger, all white-tailed deer are capable of producing audible noises unique to each animal. Fawns release a high-pitched squeal, known as a bleat, to call out to their mothers.[67] This bleat deepens as the fawn grows until it becomes the grunt of the mature deer, a guttural sound that attracts the attention of any other deer in the area. A doe makes maternal grunts when searching for her bedded fawns.[67] Bucks also grunt, at a pitch lower than that of the doe; this grunt deepens as the buck matures. In addition to grunting, both does and bucks also snort, a sound that often signals an imminent threat. Mature bucks also produce a grunt-snort-wheeze pattern, unique to each animal, that asserts its dominance, aggression, and hostility.[67] Another way white-tailed deer communicate is through the use of their white tail. When spooked, it will raise its tail to warn the other deer in the immediate area.


White-tailed deer possess many glands that allow them to produce scents, some of which are so potent they can be detected by the human nose. Four major glands are the preorbital, forehead, tarsal, and metatarsal glands. Secretions from the preorbital glands (in front of the eye) were thought to be rubbed on tree branches, but research suggests this is not so. Scent from the forehead or sudoriferous glands (found on the head, between the antlers and eyes) is used to deposit scent on branches that overhang "scrapes" (areas scraped by the deer's front hooves prior to rub-urination). The tarsal glands are found on the upper inside of the hock (middle joint) on each hind leg. Scent is deposited from these glands when deer walk through and rub against vegetation. These scrapes are used by bucks as a sort of "sign-post" by which bucks know which other bucks are in the area, and to let does know a buck is regularly passing through the area—for breeding purposes. The scent from the metatarsal glands, found on the outside of each hind leg, between the ankle and hooves, may be used as an alarm scent. The scent from the interdigital glands, which are located between the hooves of each foot, emit a yellow waxy substance with an offensive odor. Deer can be seen stomping their hooves if they sense danger through sight, sound, or smell; this action leaves an excessive amount of odor for the purpose of warning other deer of possible danger.[citation needed]

Throughout the year, deer rub-urinate, a process during which a deer squats while urinating so urine will run down the insides of the deer's legs, over the tarsal glands, and onto the hair covering these glands. Bucks rub-urinate more frequently during the breeding season.[68] Secretions from the tarsal gland mix with the urine and bacteria to produce a strong-smelling odor. During the breeding season, does release hormones and pheromones that tell bucks a doe is in heat and able to breed. Bucks also rub trees and shrubs with their antlers and heads during the breeding season, possibly transferring scent from the forehead glands to the tree, leaving a scent other deer can detect.[69]

Sign-post marking (scrapes and rubs) is a very obvious way white-tailed deer communicate.[69] Although bucks do most of the marking, does visit these locations often. To make a rub, a buck uses his antlers to strip the bark off small-diameter trees, helping to mark his territory and polish his antlers. To mark areas they regularly pass through, bucks make scrapes. Often occurring in patterns known as scrape lines, scrapes are areas where a buck has used his front hooves to expose bare earth. They often rub-urinate into these scrapes, which are often found under twigs that have been marked with scent from the forehead glands.[citation needed]

Human interactions

Rescued fawn being kept as a pet in a farm near Cumaral, Colombia
Three white-tailed deer spotted in Buena Vista, Virginia

By the early 20th century, commercial exploitation and unregulated hunting had severely depressed deer populations in much of their range.[70] For example, by about 1930, the U.S. population was thought to number about 300,000.[71] After an outcry by hunters and other conservation ecologists, commercial exploitation of deer became illegal and conservation programs along with regulated hunting were introduced. In 2005, estimates put the deer population in the United States at around 30 million.[72] Conservation practices have proved so successful, in parts of their range, the white-tailed deer populations currently far exceed their cultural carrying capacity and the animal may be considered a nuisance.[73][74] A reduction in natural predators (which normally cull young, sick, or infirm specimens) has undoubtedly contributed to locally abundant populations.

At high population densities, farmers can suffer economic damage by deer feeding on cash crops, especially in corn and orchards. It has become nearly impossible to grow some crops in some areas unless very burdensome deer-deterring measures are taken. Deer are excellent fence-jumpers, and their fear of motion and sounds meant to scare them away is soon dulled. Timber harvesting and forest clearance have historically resulted in increased deer population densities,[75][76] which in turn have slowed the rate of reforestation following logging in some areas. High densities of deer can have severe impacts on native plants and animals in parks and natural areas; however, deer browsing can also promote plant and animal diversity in some areas.[77][78] Deer can also cause substantial damage to landscape plants in suburban areas, leading to limited hunting or trapping to relocate or sterilize them. In parts of the Eastern US with high deer populations and fragmented woodlands, deer often wander into suburban and urban habitats that are less than ideal for the species.


Deer have long been hunted as game, for pure sport and for their commodities. In some areas where their populations are very high, they are considered a pest, and hunting is used as a method to control it.


In New Zealand, America, and Canada, white-tailed deer are kept as livestock, and are extensively as well as intensively farmed for their meat, antlers, and pelts.

As pets

Many keep white-tailed deer as pets. They are very smart, affectionate, curious and playful. However, on multiple occasions, during mating season, bucks kept as pets were very aggressive and resulted in severe injuries in their owners. Some areas ban the keeping of white-tailed deer in captivity, while others advocate the trapping and keeping of wild deer as an alternative to hunting due to high populations. While many people find deer to be interesting and great looking animals that they would like to capture and domesticate, this is both dangerous and illegal across the U.S. White Tail deer's large antlers can impale and kill if that is what the deer intends. Any deer found being held captive will be killed by law enforcement officers in order to prevent the spread of any diseases the deer may have obtained. Domesticated deer are dangerous to people and other deer after domestication.[79]

Deer–vehicle collisions

Car that suffered major damage after striking a white-tailed deer in Wisconsin

Motor vehicle collisions with deer are a serious problem in many parts of the animal's range, especially at night and during rutting season, causing injuries and fatalities among both deer and humans. Vehicular damage can be substantial in some cases.[80] In the United States, such collisions increased from 200,000 in 1980 to 500,000 in 1991.[81] By 2009, the insurance industry estimated 2.4 million deer–vehicle collisions had occurred over the past two years, estimating damage cost to be over 7 billion dollars and 300 human deaths. Despite the alarming high rate of these accidents, the effect on deer density is still quite low. Vehicle collisions of deer were monitored for two years in Virginia, and the collective annual mortality did not surpass 20% of the estimated deer population.[82]

Many techniques have been investigated to prevent road-side mortality. Fences or road under- or over- passes have been shown to decrease deer-vehicle collisions, but are expensive and difficult to implement on a large scale.[83][84] Roadside habitat modifications could also successfully decrease the number of collisions along roadways.[84] An essential procedure in understanding factors resulting in accidents is to quantify risks, which involves the driver's behavior in terms of safe speed and ability to observe the deer. They suggest reducing speed limits during the winter months when deer density is exceptionally high would likely reduce deer-vehicle collisions, but this may be an impractical solution.[83]


Another issue that exists with high deer density is the spreading of infectious diseases. Increased deer populations lead to increased transmission of tick-borne diseases, which pose a threat to human health, to livestock, and to other deer. Deer are the primary host and vector for the adult black-legged tick, which transmits the Lyme disease bacterium to humans.[85] Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the country and is found in twelve states in Eastern America. In 2009, it affected more than 38,000 people. Furthermore, the incidence of Lyme disease seems to reflect deer density in the eastern United States, which suggests a strong correlation. White-tailed deer also serve as intermediate hosts for many diseases that infect humans through ticks, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.[81][82]

Cultural significance

Odocoileus virginianus skull, part of an exhibition on the cultural artifacts of the Cora people of Western Mexico.

In the U.S., the species is the state animal of Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, the wildlife symbol of Wisconsin, and game animal of Oklahoma. The profile of a white-tailed deer buck caps the coat of arms of Vermont and can be seen in the flag of Vermont and in stained glass at the Vermont State House. It is the national animal of Honduras and Costa Rica and the provincial animal of Canadian Saskatchewan and Finnish Pirkanmaa. Texas is home to the most white-tailed deer of any U.S. state or Canadian province, with an estimated population of over four million. Notably high populations of white-tailed deer occur in the Edwards Plateau of Central Texas. Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Indiana also boast high deer densities. In 1884, one of the first hunts of white-tailed deer in Europe was conducted in Opočno and Dobříš (Brdy Mountains area), in what is now the Czech Republic.


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  45. ^ Rooney, T.P. (2009). "High white-tailed deer densities benefit graminoids and contribute to biotic homogenization of forest ground-layer vegetation". Plant Ecology. 202: 103–111. doi:10.1007/s11258-008-9489-8. 
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  85. ^ Tackling Ticks That Spread Lyme Disease, Agricultural Research magazine, March 1998

Further reading

External links


Mexican Free-tailed Bat 1

Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Tadarida brasiliensis by Inked Animal

Mexican Free-tailed Bat  | Tadarida brasiliensis

We found this Mexican Free-tailed bat, aka Brazilian Free-tailed bat, in Austin, Texas.  There are tons of these in the city under bridges and roof eves, Austin is known for the colony under the Congress bridge, which is apparently one of the biggest, if not the biggest, urban bat colonies in the world.  They are pretty impressive.


Mexican Free-tailed Bat info via Wikipedia:

Mexican free-tailed bat
Tadarida brasiliensis
Tadarida brasiliensis.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera
Family: Molossidae
Genus: Tadarida
Species: T. brasiliensis
Binomial name
Tadarida brasiliensis
(I. Geoffroy, 1824)
  • T. b. antillularum
  • T. b. bahamensis
  • T. b. brasiliensis
  • T. b. constanzae
  • T. b. cynocephali
  • T. b. intermedia
  • T. b. mexicana
  • T. b. murina
  • T. b. muscula
Tadarida brasiliensis Range.png
Range of the Mexican free-tailed bat

The Mexican free-tailed bat or Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) is a medium-sized bat that is native to the Americas, regarded as one of the most abundant mammals in North America. Its proclivity towards roosting in huge numbers at relatively few locations makes it vulnerable to habitat destruction in spite of its abundance. The bat is considered a species of special concern in California as a result of declining populations. It has been claimed to have the fastest horizontal speed (as opposed to stoop diving speed) of any animal, reaching top ground speeds of over 160 km/h; its actual air speed has not been measured.


Molecular sequence data indicates T. brasiliensis's closest relatives are the sister species Sauromys petrophilus of South Africa and Tadarida aegyptiaca of Africa and south Asia. These three species form a clade believed to be about 6.5 million years old.[2]

Physical description

Mexican free-tailed bats are on average 9 cm (3.5 in) in length and weigh approximately 7–12 g (0.25–0.42 oz) with females tending to be slightly heavier than males by one or two grams for increased fat storage to use during gestation and nursing.[3] Their tail is almost half their total length and stretches beyond the uropatagium, giving them the name "free-tailed" bats. Their ears are wide, rounded, and large compared to their head, nearly meeting at the front of the face but distinctly not joined at the midline and projecting anterodorsally from just before the muzzle to the back of the head. They use their large ears to help them find prey using echolocation. T. brasiliensis is distinguished among North American Tadarida bats in possessing deep wrinkles on the upper lip and in having a Z-shaped upper third molar which is used for grinding insects. These individuals possess canines which are larger in males than in females.[3] The wings are elongated and narrow with pointed tips, making them well-equipped for quick, straight flight patterns. Their fur color ranges from dark brown to gray. The Mexican free-tailed bat's large feet have distinct long, white bristles.[4][5] The dental formula of Tadarida brasiliensis is[6]

Range and ecology

Bats flying near Frio Cave in Concan, Texas

The Mexican free-tailed bat ranges from the southern half of the continental United States through most of Mexico, and through most of Central America into South America. The range of the Mexican free-tailed bat in South America is less understood where it lives in the eastern Brazilian highlands and coast, the northeastern Andes and the coast of Peru and northern Chile.[3] It is absent in much of the Amazon rainforest. The bat is also found in the Caribbean, and is native to all of the Greater Antilles and 11 of the Lesser Antilles.[7] The largest known colony is found at Bracken Cave, north of San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 20 million bats; research indicates the bats from this colony congregate in huge numbers at altitudes between 180 and 1,000 m (590 and 3,280 ft), and even as high as 3,000 m (9,800 ft).


Mexican free-tailed bats roost primarily in caves. However, they will also roost in buildings of any type as long as they have access to openings and dark recesses in ceilings or walls.[3] The bats can make roosting sites of buildings regardless of "age, height, architecture, construction materials, occupancy by humans and compass orientation".[3] Caves, on the other hand, need to have enough wall and ceiling space to fit millions of bats.[3] Before buildings, free-tailed bats in the southeastern United States probably roosted in the hollows of trees such as red mangrove, black mangrove, white mangrove and cypress. However, most bats in Florida seem to prefer buildings and other man-made structures over natural roosts.[3] Caves in Florida tend to be occupied mostly by the southeastern myotis. Caves in Florida tend to have pools of water on the floor and the free-tailed bats do not need as much relative humidity as the southeastern myotis.[3]


Mexican free-tailed bats, emerging from Carlsbad Caverns, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Mexican free-tailed bats in southeastern Nevada, southwestern Utah, western Arizona and southeastern California come together to migrate southwest to southern California and Baja California.[3] Bats in southeastern Utah, southwestern Colorado, western New Mexico and eastern Arizona travel though western edge of the Sierra Madre Oriental into Jalisco, Sinaloa and Sonora. Some bats that summer in Kansas, Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico and Texas will migrate southward to southern Texas[8] and Mexico.[3] Some bat populations in other areas of North America do not migrate, but are residents and may make seasonal changes in roost sites.[3] While this migration is extremely extensive, there has to be a way that these bats continuously congregate in the same roosts every year. Tadarida brasiliensis have copious amounts of sebaceous glands covering their entire bodies. These glands leave a trace of a lasting scent that other bats are sensitive to. This odor that is left is crucial to marking habitual roosts. [9]

Dusk emergence of bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, U.S.

In Austin, Texas, a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats summers (they winter in Mexico) under the Congress Avenue Bridge ten blocks south of the Texas State Capitol. It is the largest urban colony in North America, with an estimated 1,500,000 bats.[10] Each night they eat 10,000 to 30,000 lb (4,500 to 13,600 kg) of insects. Each year they attract 100,000 tourists who come to watch them. In Houston, Texas, a colony is living under the Waugh Street Bridge over Buffalo Bayou. It is the home to 250,000 bats and also attracts viewers. The Mexican free-tailed bat is the official flying mammal of the state of Texas.[11]

Bats ranging eastward from East Texas do not migrate, but local shifts in roost usage often occur seasonally.[3] Also, a regional population that ranges from Oregon to California, has a year-round residence.


Mexican free-tailed bats are primarily insectivores. They hunt their prey using echolocation. The bats eat moths, beetles, dragonflies, flies, true bugs, wasps, and ants. Bats usually catch flying prey in flight.[12] Large numbers of Mexican free-tailed bats fly hundreds of meters above the ground in Texas to feed on migrating insects.[13] The consumption of insects by these bats can be quite significant.[14][15]

The onset of evening emergence from caves and the end of returns at dawn tend to correlate with sunset and sunrise, respectively, with dawn returns ending increasingly later in correlation to sunrise throughout the summer season. Reproductive females tended to emerge earlier in the evening and return later at dawn in order to gather the extra nutrients they require for reproduction and offspring care.[16]T. brasiliensis bats spend around 60% of their active time foraging while aerial, mostly hunting at heights of 6–15 m (20–49 ft).[3] Individuals will fly 50 km (31 mi) in one night to reach foraging areas. The loose, wrinkled skin around the mouth is thought to aid in expanding the mouth during flight to catch insects. T. brasiliensis requires free water sources to maintain water balance: individuals from the arid environment of New Mexico tend to have thicker renal tissue layers compared to T. brasiliensis from the less arid California, revealing that urine concentrating abilities and water use varies geographically with aridity.[17]

Health and mortality

One individual bat was recorded to have lived eight years, based on dentition.[18] Predators of the bat include large birds such as red-tailed hawk, American kestrels, great horned owls, barn owls, and Mississippi kites.[3][19] Mammal predators include Virginia opossums, striped skunks, and raccoons.[3] Snakes such as eastern coachwhips and eastern coral snakes may also prey on them, but at a lesser extent. Certain types of beetles prey on neonate and juvenile bats that have fallen to the ground.[3] This species seems to have a low incidence of rabies, at least in the United States.[3] They do, however, contain certain pesticides.[3]

White-nose syndrome (WNS) caused by infection by the fungus P. destructans has increased in prevalence since 2006, mostly affecting species of bats that roost underground such as the little brown bat. The fungus, now suspected to have spread from accidental transportation by human cave workers, is thought to cause frequent arousals during bat hibernation, causing an individual to use fat stores much more quickly and die of starvation before the end of winter. WNS can affect T. brasiliensis, but has yet to be greatly introduced to their habitat due to their preference for more arid caves. WNS has low prevalence in the sub-tropic and tropic regions where T. brasiliensis resides.[20]


A male displays and sings in the presence of females (watch in slow motion).

Mexican free-tailed bats are nocturnal foragers and begin feeding after dusk. They travel 50 km in a quick, direct flight pattern to feed. This species flies the highest among bats, at altitudes around 3300 m.[21] Bats appear to be most active in late morning and afternoon between June and September.[22] Free-tailed bats are more active in warm weather.[23]

The species has been measured at a ground speed of 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph), measured by an aircraft tracking device.[24] The measurement methodology did not simultaneously record wind speed and ground speed, so the observations could have been affected by strong local gusts, and the bat's maximum air speed remains uncertain.[25]

Guano and ammonia

Among bats that roost in great, concentrated numbers, T. brasiliensis roosts produce large quantities of urine and guano: anywhere from 22 to 99 metric tons per cave and over 18,700 metric tons produced annually. The concentrated large amounts of waste generate high levels of toxic ammonia in the air of a cave. T. brasiliensis individuals have genetic adaptation for withstanding or countering these high levels of ammonia. The bats’ content of CO2 and protein in respiratory mucous and CO2 dissolved in blood plasma increase with increasing levels of dissolved ammonia, providing the bats with a buffer against pH change. This allows the bats to filter out a large majority of inhaled ammonia before it reaches toxic levels in the blood. T. brasiliensis bats are thought to swarm in spiraling motions within caves to ventilate ammonia and renew the air.[3]


Mexican free-tailed bats use echolocation for navigation and detecting prey. Traveling calls are of a brief but constant frequency. However, they switch modulated frequency calls between 40 and 75 kHz if they detect something.[26] Typically, the frequency range of their echolocation is between 49 and 70 kHz, but can be between 25 and 40 kHz if something crosses their path while in flight.[26]

On 6 November 2014, Aaron Corcoran, a biologist at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, reported online in Science that he and his team had detected Mexican free-tailed bats emitting ultrasonic vocalizations which had the effect of jamming the echolocation calls of a rival bat species hunting moths. The ‘jamming’ call led to an increased chance of the rival missing its prey, which the Mexican free-tailed bat was then able to eat itself. Earlier researchers had discovered some 15 types of social calls made by Mexican free-tailed bats and reported that they could adjust their calls to avoid interfering with others in range of their calls.[27][28]

Mating and reproduction

Free-tailed bats roosting at a cave in the Bahamas

During the breeding season, females aggregate into maternity roosts. The size of these roosts depends on the environment, with caves having the larger roosts. Mating can occur in an aggressive or passive form. In the aggressive form, the male controls the female's movements, keeping her away from the other bats in the roost.[29] He also tends to vocalize when mating. During passive copulation, the males simply flies to a female in her roost and quietly mounts her with no resistance. This species is a promiscuous breeder and both sexes copulate with multiple partners.[29] Females become sexually mature at about 9 months, while males take even longer, at two years. Females enter estrus once a year, which typically lasts five weeks in the spring. The gestation period of the bat lasts 11–12 weeks, with only one young being born. A number of pups are left in "creches", while their mothers roost elsewhere. The female uses vocalizations and scent to identify her pup. The mother imprints her scent on the young early on.[30] However, young try to steal a suckle from any female that passes through the cluster. A mother will nurse her young daily, and by 4–7 weeks old they are full grown, fully weaned, and independent.[31]


Though abundant and widespread, some local populations have prompted protection and conservation efforts. For instance, during the spring and summer, one of the largest Mexican free-tailed bat populations inhabits Cueva de la Boca, a cave near Monterrey, Mexico. In 2006, the Mexican environmental conservation NGO, Pronatura Noreste, purchased the property. Because of a reduction of more than 95% of the original 20 million bat population, as a result of vandalism, pollution, and uncontrolled tourism, the organization decided to buy the property to place it under conservation. Other species of high ecological value that inhabit the cavern are also being protected.

See also

  • Bat bomb, an experimental incendiary weapon that used Mexican free-tailed bats as a dispersal mechanism


  1. ^ Barquez, R., Diaz, M., Gonzalez, E., Rodriguez, A., Incháustegui, S. & Arroyo-Cabrales, J. (2015). Tadarida brasiliensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T21314A22121621.en
  2. ^ Ammerman, LK; Lee, DN; Tipps, T (2012). "First molecular insights into the evolution of free-tailed bats in the subfamily Molossinae (Molossidae, Chiroptera)". Journal of Mammalogy. 93 (1): 12–28. doi:10.1644/11-mamm-a-103.1. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Wilkins, K. (1989). "Tadarida brasiliensis" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 331: 1–10. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Reid, F. (2006). A field guide to mammals of North America, north of Mexico. 4. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 136. 
  7. ^ Baker, R. J., Genoways, H. H. (1978). "Zoogeography of Antillean bats", pp. 53–97 in Zoogeography in the Caribbean, F. B. Gill (ed.). Philadelphia: Acad
  8. ^ Glass BP (1982). "Seasonal movements of Mexican free-tail bats Tadarida brasiliensis mextcana banded in the Great Plains". Southwestern Nat. 27: 127–133. doi:10.2307/3671136. 
  9. ^ Glass, Bryan P. (1982). "Seasonal Movements of Mexican Freetail Bats Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana Banded in the Great Plains". The Southwestern Naturalist. 27 (2): 127–133. doi:10.2307/3671136. JSTOR 3671136. 
  10. ^ "Congress Avenue Bridge". Congress Avenue Bridge Bat Colony. Archived from the original on 12 November 2008. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  11. ^ "Texas State Symbols". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. 
  12. ^ McWilliams, Lisa A. (2005). "Variation in Diet of the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana)". Journal of Mammalogy. 86 (3): 599. doi:10.1644/1545-1542(2005)86[599:VIDOTM]2.0.CO;2. 
  13. ^ McCracken, G. F.; Gillam, E. H.; Westbrook, J. K.; Lee, Y. F.; Jensen, M. L.; Balsley, B. B. (2008). "Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis: Molossidae, Chiroptera) at high altitude: Links to migratory insect populations". Integrative and Comparative Biology. 48 (1): 107–18. doi:10.1093/icb/icn033. PMID 21669777. 
  14. ^ Corrigan, Robert. Do Bats Control Mosquitoes?
  15. ^ Animal Fact Sheet: Mexican Free-Tailed Bat. Desert Museum
  16. ^ Lee, Y. F.; McCracken, G. F. (2001). "Timing and variation in the emergence and return of Mexican free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana" (PDF). Zoological Studies. 40 (4): 309–316. 
  17. ^ Bassett, JE (1982). "Habitat aridity and intraspecific differences in the urine concentrating ability of insectivorous bats". Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 72 (4): 703–708. doi:10.1016/0300-9629(82)90152-9. 
  18. ^ Gannon, M., A. Kurta, A. Rodriquez-Duran, M. Willig. (2005). Bats of Puerto Rico. Jamaica. The University of the West Indies Press.
  19. ^ Mikula, P.; Morelli, F.; Lučan, R. K.; Jones, D. N.; Tryjanowski, P. (2016). "Bats as prey of diurnal birds: a global perspective". Mammal Review. 46 (3): 160. doi:10.1111/mam.12060. 
  20. ^ Fenton, B (2012). "Bats and white-nose syndrome". PNAS. 109 (18): 6794–6795. doi:10.1073/pnas.1204793109. 
  21. ^ Williams, T. C.; Ireland, L. C.; Williams, J. M. (1973). "High Altitude Flights of the Free-Tailed Bat, Tadarida brasiliensis, Observed with Radar". Journal of Mammalogy. 54 (4): 807. doi:10.2307/1379076. JSTOR 1379076. 
  22. ^ Svoboda, P. L.; Choate, J. R. (1987). "Natural History of the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat in the San Luis Valley of Colorado". Journal of Mammalogy. 68 (2): 224. doi:10.2307/1381461. JSTOR 1381461. 
  23. ^ Allen, L. C.; Turmelle, A. S.; Mendonça, M. T.; Navara, K. J.; Kunz, T. H.; McCracken, G. F. (2009). "Roosting ecology and variation in adaptive and innate immune system function in the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)" (PDF). Journal of comparative physiology. B, Biochemical, systemic, and environmental physiology. 179 (3): 315–23. doi:10.1007/s00360-008-0315-3. PMID 19002470. 
  24. ^ McCracken, Gary F.; Safi, Kamran; Kunz, Thomas H.; Dechmann, Dina K. N.; Swartz, Sharon M.; Wikelski, Martin (9 November 2016). "Airplane tracking documents the fastest flight speeds recorded for bats". Royal Society Open Science. 3 (11): 160398. doi:10.1098/rsos.160398. 
  25. ^ Photopoulos, Julianna (9 November 2016). "Speedy bat flies at 160km/h, smashing bird speed record". New Scientist. Retrieved 11 November 2016. But not everyone is convinced. Graham Taylor at the University of Oxford says that errors in estimating bat speed by measuring the distance moved between successive positions could be huge. “So I think it would be premature to knock birds off their pedestal as nature's fastest fliers just yet,” he says."These bats are indeed flying very fast at times, but this is based on their ground speed," says Anders Hedenström at the University of Lund in Sweden. "Since they did not measure winds at the place and time where the bats are flying, one can therefore not exclude that the top speeds are not bats flying in a gust." 
  26. ^ a b Gillam, Erin H.; McCracken, Gary F. (2007). "Variability in the echolocation of Tadarida brasiliensis: Effects of geography and local acoustic environment". Animal Behaviour. 74 (2): 277. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2006.12.006. 
  27. ^ Morell, Virginia (6 November 2014). "Holy blocked bat signal! Bats jam each other's calls". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  28. ^ Hogenboom, Melissa (7 November 2014). "Bats sabotage rivals' senses with sound in food race". BBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  29. ^ a b Keeley, Annika T. H.; Keeley, Brian W. (2004). "The Mating System of Tadarida brasiliensis (Chiroptera: Molossidae) in a Large Highway Bridge Colony". Journal of Mammalogy. 85: 113. doi:10.1644/BME-004. 
  30. ^ Loughry, W. J.; McCracken, G. F. (1991). "Factors Influencing Female-Pup Scent Recognition in Mexican Free-Tailed Bats". Journal of Mammalogy. 72 (3): 624. doi:10.2307/1382150. JSTOR 1382150. 
  31. ^ Kunz, Thomas H.; Robson, Simon K. (1995). "Postnatal Growth and Development in the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana): Birth Size, Growth Rates, and Age Estimation" (PDF). Journal of Mammalogy. 76 (3): 769. doi:10.2307/1382746. JSTOR 1382746. 

Spotted Sea Trout

Spotted Sea Trout (aka Speckled Trout) by Inked Animal

 Spotted Sea Trout | Cynoscion nebulosus


Spotted Sea Trout info via Wikipedia:

Cynoscion nebulosus
Spotted seatrout fish cynoscion nebulosus.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sciaenidae
Genus: Cynoscion
Species: C. nebulosus
Binomial name
Cynoscion nebulosus
(Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1830)

Cynoscion nebulosus, the spotted seatrout, also known as speckled trout, is a common estuarine fish found in the southern United States along coasts of Gulf of Mexico and the coastal Atlantic Ocean from Maryland to Florida. These fish are also found in estuarine locations around Cape Breton Island of Nova Scotia, Canada. While most of these fish are caught on shallow, grassy flats, spotted seatrout reside in virtually any inshore waters, from the surf of outside islands to far up coastal rivers, where they often come for shelter during cold weather. Contrary to its name, the spotted seatrout is not a member of the trout family (Salmonidae), but of the drum family (Sciaenidae). It is popular for commercial and especially recreational fishing in coastal waters of the southeastern United States. Adults reach 19-32 inches in length and 3-15 pounds in weight.


Spotted seatrout live in the top of the water column and are most numerous along the coasts of the southeastern states, such as Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. They are also common along the coasts of North and South Carolina and Virginia. Estuarine coasts are prime settlement areas. They are uncommonly seen north of Delaware Bay and along the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.


Spotted seatrout is the common name endorsed by the American Fisheries Society. However, this fish has many other common names, including speckled trout, speck, speckles, spec, truite gris (Louisiana French), trucha de mar (Mexican Spanish), spotted weakfish, spotted seateague, southern seateague, salmon, salmon trout, simon trout, winter trout, seatrout, Nosferatu fish, and black trout. Particularly large ones are nicknamed gator trout.[1]

The spotted seatrout has prominent canine teeth. Like other fish of the family Sciaenidae, it has an elongated, soft dorsal fin witn scales; it is separated from the spinous dorsal fin by a deep notch. It usually has two anal spines and the lateral line extends to the tip of the caudal fin. The back has distinct spots scattered on it, including on the dorsal and caudal fins. Unlike some other members of the family Sciaenidae, the spotted seatrout does not have any chin barbels. In stained water, this fish's background may take on a golden hue. Its shape and coloration is reminiscent of a brown trout. This fish is closely related to the weakfish, Cynoscion regalis.

The average size of spotted seatrout is 0.5-1.0 kg (1-2 lb), but in most areas fish up to 2.5 kg (5 lb) are fairly common. Fish weighing 3.5-4.5 kg (8-10 lb) are rare. The world record is 7.9 kg (17 lb 7 oz).


Small trout eat large amounts of shrimp and other crustaceans. As they grow larger, their diets shift toward fish, the larger, the better. Studies in Texas and Mississippi show that really big trout strongly prefer to feed on mullet; a large trout will find the largest mullet it can handle and try to swallow it. Often the mullet is half or two-thirds as large as the trout.[2]

Reproduction and growth

Like all members of the drum family, mature males make a "drumming" sound to attract females during the spawning season. Spotted seatrout have a long spawning season from spring through summer.

Larval seatrout reach 5–7 mm in length about two weeks after hatching, and 170–200 mm within about seven months. It takes between one and two years for seatrout to reach 300 mm (about 12 inches) and between two and three years to reach 400 mm in length (about 16 inches). The maximum age of spotted seatrout that have been caught is estimated to be 12 years old, though that is rare, and the oldest fish caught on a regular basis are closer to four or five years old.[3]

By the end of the first year, spotted seatrout are about 250 mm long and about half of them are mature enough to reproduce.[3][4] They reproduce in shallow, grassy areas of estuaries.

As spotted seatrout grow longer, they increase in weight. The relationship between weight and length is not linear. The relationship between total length (in millimeters) and weight (in grams) can be expressed by an equation of the form:

W = c L b {\displaystyle W=cL^{b}\!\,} W=cL^{b}\!\,

Spotted seatrout weight vs. length[5]

Invariably, b is close to 3.0 for all species, and c is a constant that varies among species.[6] The coefficient c and the exponent b are found by fitting an equation of this form to measured weight-length data. For some fish, including spotted seatrout, the weight-length relationships vary with the seasons and with gender.[3] Jenkins[5] reported slightly different relationships for male and female spotted seatrout, and for fall and spring:

Fall/male: W = 0.00000534L3.093

Spring/male: W = 0.000011535L2.989

Fall/female: W = 0.000006252L3.066

Spring/female: W = 0.000007834L3.035

Only the relationship for male spotted seatrout in the spring appears noticeably different from the others on a graph.


While spotted seatrout are caught by both commercial and recreational fishermen, recreational fishing represents the vast majority of the catch. Almost all spotted seatrout are caught with hook and line, as many places have banned fishing for them with gillnets.

Speckled trout are among the top ten species for recreational fishing in the United States.

According to the NOAA, spotted seatrout are in the top ten species for recreational fishing in the United States.[7] From 1993 – 2003, recreational fishermen in Louisiana harvested more than 6 million spotted seatrout each year.[2] Along the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia, more than half a million speckled trout were caught by recreational fishermen each year between 2005 and 2008.[8] Nevertheless, because they reproduce so well, spotted seatrout is listed as a “best choice” for sustainable seafood in Louisiana and Florida by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.


The management of the species is limited to size and possession limits, but programs have been initiated to gather more information on their overall health and abundance.[9]

External links


  1. ^ Ford, F., D.T., Clarke, P. Kaminsky. Fish: 77 Great Fish of North America. The Greenwich Workshop Press, Seymour, Connecticut, pp:76-77
  2. ^ a b Horst, J. Speckled Trout Fact Sheet SeaGrant Louisiana. 2005 p. 1-2
  3. ^ a b c Murphy, MD and McMichael, RH. Age determination and growth of spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus (Pisces: Sciaenidae). In Bortone, S.A., ed., Biology of the Spotted Seatrout. CRC Press, 2003
  4. ^ DeVries, DA et al. The demographics and reproductive biology of spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, in six northwest Florida estuaries.In Bortone, S.A., ed., Biology of the Spotted Seatrout. CRC Press, 2003
  5. ^ a b Jenkins, J.A. Fish Bioindicators of Ecosystem Condition at the Calcasieu Estuary, Louisiana. USGS National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette, LA. Open-File Report 2004-1323
  6. ^ R. O. Anderson and R. M. Neumann, Length, Weight, and Associated Structural Indices, in Fisheries Techniques, second edition, B.E. Murphy and D.W. Willis, eds., American Fisheries Society, 1996.
  7. ^ Monterey Bay Aquarium sustainable seafood report for Spotted Seatrout, October, 2011
  8. ^ North Carolina Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan. North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. March, 2010
  9. ^ "Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission: Spotted Seatrout". Archived from the original on 2004-04-27. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 


Atlantic Croaker

Atlantic Croaker by Inked Animal

Atlantic Croaker | Micropogon undulatus 



Atlantic Croaker info via Wikipedia:

Atlantic croaker
Micropogonias undulatus (line art).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sciaenidae
Genus: Micropogonias
Species: M. undulatus
Binomial name
Micropogonias undulatus
(Linnaeus, 1766)

The Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) is a species of marine ray-finned fish belonging to the family Sciaenidae and is closely related to the black drum (Pogonias cromis), the silver perch (Bairdiella chrysoura), the spot croaker (Leiostomus xanthurus), the red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), the spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), and the weakfish (Cynoscion regalis). This fish is commonly found in sounds and estuaries from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico.


Atlantic croaker in Pass Christian, Mississippi

The name croaker is descriptive of the noise the fish makes by vibrating strong muscles against its swim bladder, which acts as a resonating chamber much like a ball. The Atlantic croaker is the loudest of the drum family. The fish is also referred to as a hardhead, with smaller ones called pin heads. During spawning season (August to October), croakers turn a deep golden color, from this comes the name golden croaker. Beginning in August, tiny young enter the Chesapeake Bay and travel to low-salinity and freshwater creeks. They move to deeper parts of tidal rivers for the winter. Juveniles leave the bay with the adults the following autumn.[1] When full-grown at 2 to 3 years old, croakers reach between 18 and 20 inches in length long and 4 to 5 pounds, but on average are 1/2-2 pounds. The fish's lifespan can reach up to 8 years.[2] The Chesapeake Bay record Atlantic croaker, caught in August 2007 off New Point Comfort Lighthouse in Virginia, weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces and measured 27 inches long. They have traditionally been used for food by Native Americans, and their remains are found in shell middens.[3] These fish are popular catches among recreational anglers.

Distribution and habitat

The Atlantic croaker is native to coastal waters in the western Atlantic Ocean. Its range extends from Massachusetts to Mexico and includes the northern half of the Caribbean Sea but possibly not the southern Gulf of Mexico or the Antilles. It is also thought to live on the coasts of southern Brazil and Argentina. It is usually found in bays and estuaries over sandy or muddy bottoms where it feeds on polychaete worms, crustaceans and small fish.[4] The croaker visits the Chesapeake Bay from March through October and is found throughout the Bay as far north as the Susquehanna Flats.[5]


Croaker populations greatly vary from year to year, and can be dependent on the conditions of their habitats. Their management is challenging due to the variability in their numbers.<Linnaeus, 1758ref name=FishBase/>

Importance in scientific research

In 1999, an androgen receptor protein called ZIP9 Protein was discovered in the brain, ovary and testicular tissues of Atlantic Croaker.[6]


  1. ^ Program, Chesapeake Bay. "Atlantic Croaker - Chesapeake Bay Program". 
  2. ^ "Atlantic Croaker". Retrieved 2017-09-03. 
  3. ^ "Atlantic Croaker_ Taxonomy and Basic Description" (PDF). 
  4. ^ " Micropogonias undulatus (Linnaeus, 1766): Atlantic croaker". FishBase. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  5. ^ "Atlantic Croaker". Chesapeake Bay Program. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Sperry, Todd S.; Thomas, Peter (1999-04-01). "Characterization of Two Nuclear Androgen Receptors in Atlantic Croaker: Comparison of Their Biochemical Properties and Binding Specificities". Endocrinology. 140 (4): 1602–1611. doi:10.1210/endo.140.4.6631. ISSN 0013-7227. 
  • Robins, C. Richard, G. Carleton Ray, and John Douglass. A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes-North America. Houghton Mifflin Company. New York. 1986. 184-188.


Dusky Darter

Dusky Darter by Inked Animal
Dusky Darter | Percina sciera




Dusky Darter info:

Dusky darter
Dusky darter (Percina sciera).jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Percidae
Genus: Percina
Species: P. sciera
Binomial name
Percina sciera
(Swain, 1883)

The dusky darter (Percina sciera) is a species of ray-finned fish in the genus Percina, found, but not confined to, both large and small rivers, and shallow creeks (1-3rd order), in the eastern, southern, and southeastern United States,[2] particularly the Mississippi River drainage system.

Percina are benthic and benthic-associated fishes. Percina sciera belongs to the family Percidae, which along with Etheostomatinae comprise approximately 20-percent of the recognized diversity in North American freshwater fish.[2] Land development may threaten P. sciera habitat.[3]Percina prefer low water velocity in riffle/pool transition areas primarily on top of woody debris in a sandy/boulder substrate.[4]

Geographic distribution

Percina sciera is considered both a wide-ranging and geographically restricted species that inhabits a variety of freshwater habitats including creeks, streams, rivers as well as lakes and reservoirs in the Mississippi River drainage.[5]P. sciera is found in the eastern United States in areas ranging from the Tennessee Tombigbee waterway,[6] to the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau section of Southern Ohio,[7] to the second and fourth order streams within the Pine Hills of the Mississippi coastal plain.[8]P. sciera has also been studied and monitored in lower Tallahala Creek near its confluence with the Leaf River, which is within the Pascagoula River drainage.[8]Sympatric darter species, including P. sciera, segregate along several resource axes in the Appalachians such as the Elk River, West Virginia, one of several “islands” of fish diversity in the Eastern Highlands of the Mississippi River drainage system.[4]



Percina sciera microhabitats range from shallow riffles to deep runs and slow pools, with a wide variety of substrates from large boulders to mixtures of sand and gravel.[5] Interspecies interaction, such as with the black-banded darter, Percina nigrofasciata, occurs most often in either the same or adjacent microhabitats; microhabitat displacement is a common outcome of competition.[5] In the Elk River, West Virginia, P. sciera inhabit microhabitats with a low water velocity in the riffle/pool transition areas (mean flow rate of 5.0 cubic centimeters per second at a mean depth of 45.4 cm.) primarily on top of small woody debris and sand/boulder substrates, a water velocity typically slower than for Etheostoma.[4]

Temperature and pH requirements are moderate and midrange, respectively, for P. sciera.[9]


All species of Percina are carnivorous,[5] most species feeding on aquatic insect larvae[2] such as chironomids (midges), black flies, ephemeropterans (mayflies), and hydropsychids (caddisflies).[5]

In the first few days of feeding, the larval form, referred to as the first-feeding stage, has slow growth due to poorly developed digestive systems, poor nutrient uptake, and lack of predator skills.[10] Small (<.3mm) cladocerans such as Ceriodaphnia and Bosmina are a suitable food source for first-feeding dusky darters, althoigh the quick, erratic movement of calanoid copepods and their long antennae limit the ingestion of first-feeding P. sciera.[10] In laboratory settings, researchers found the dominant prey item for larvalP. sciera was Ceriodaphnia; as many as 20 specimens were found in one larval darter.[10] The maximum diameter of prey ingested by larvae was 0.27 to 0.37 mm, which is 70 to 90-percent of the P. sciera larval gape width.[10]

Gut contents of adult P. sciera indicate diets of small, benthic, macroinvertebrates, typically less than five millimeters in length.[8] Compared with other competing species, P. sciera eats more but smaller prey to maintain its metabolism.[8] In the Pascagoula River drainage, P. sciera consume more than three times the volume of small and medium-sized baetid nymphs and small simuliid larvae than similar species such as P. nigrofasciata.[8]

Larger stream fish are more likely to inhabit areas that either maximize energy gain or minimize energy expenditure.[3] Similarly, darter body size is positively correlated with prey size and diet breadth.[8] Adult dusky darters prey on ephemeropteran, plecopteran and odonate nymphs, as well as trichopteran and dipteran larvae.[8] Generally, prey size increases when darter size increases, but small darters tend to have better diets than large darters because of better positioning in relation to the prey-size spectrum.[8]

Feeding ecology and habitat use are the two axes along which Percina exhibit the greatest ecological divergence.[8]


P. sciera larvae are vulnerable to predation from cyclopoid copepod.[9] Watersnake predation is a frequent, but relatively poorly known, source of mortality for darters belonging to both Etheostoma and Percina.[11]

Life history

The spawning habits of P. sciera have been studied and propagated in a laboratory setting.[9]P. sciera were reared from eggs to first spawn sexual maturity in a one-year period.[9][10]

At age-1, P. sciera males averaged a total length of 94mm and weighed 7.5 grams, while females averaged 83mm and weighed 4.9g.[9] Age-1 fish can spawn with the same success as age-2 fish.[9]P. sciera spawn over fine gravel (1-5mm in diameter) during a photothermal day length of 13-hours and water temperatures approaching 19 °C.[9] Breeding females carry as many as 184 eggs ranging in diameter from 1.65-1.78mm.[9] In one laboratory experiment, 6,372 eggs yielded only 720 Percina sciera larvae.[9] Some darters in the family Percidae have been collected at ages up to four-years.[12]

Current management

Nineteen darter species are federally listed as endangered and threatened in the U.S.[10] For example, a related species, the Amber darter (Percina antesella) has struggled due to changes in habitat.[13] Additional darter species are listed by states.[10] P. sciera itself is not federally listed as endangered,[10] despite being extirpated from North Carolina.[11][14]

The biggest threat to P. sciera involves in-stream physical habitat alterations influenced by human activities, including non-forested land use (agriculture, residential and industrial development), effluent discharge, and water withdrawal.[15] These human activities in the watershed alter stream morphology and increase sediment buildup and temperature, which disrupt the substrate composition in the streambed and can lead to reduced feeding, growth, and reproductive success for P. sciera.[15] Another important stressor is the mixture of roadway surface contaminants that may be toxic to endemic darters and other stream fishes.[13] The United States Environmental Protection Agency concluded that physical habitat alteration represents the greatest potential stressor to fish communities in more than half the streams in the mid-Atlantic Highlands, where some fish communities are in fair or poor condition.[15]

Protecting or conserving critical habitat requires mitigation of anthropogenic effects.[10] For most stream-dwelling fishes, altered stream flood hydrology from increased stormflow runoff is a major source of disturbance.[16] While some flooding is natural, both the frequency and severity of damage may be exacerbated in areas with numerous impervious surfaces (roadways, parking lots, etc.). Surface runoff during storm events can significantly increase stream velocity and alter stream hydrology with channelization and excessive sediment deposits.[13] Stormwater performance standards can set limits on the amount of precipitation that can leave a site as surface runoff, by infiltrating runoff into the soil.[13]

Artificial propagation, although not always effective, may help recovery efforts. A network of pipes, wells, and collection trays (which contain gravel for larvae) has been used as a rearing and spawning area, the photoperiod breeding requirements of darters mimicked with controlled ambient light timer settings, and temperature and pH kept similar to those in the wild.[10]

Population monitoring

P. sciera sampling sites are determined by identifying areas that fit the geomorphology of the species, looking for suitable gradient, substrate, flow and sediment transport, depth, and width.[16]P. sciera populations can be monitored by seining and electrofishing (used to capture the fish for length and weight measurements) and snorkeling (to locate P. sciera). Electroshocking provides one of the best alternatives for obtaining abundance estimates for small nongame fishes, which are not well-suited to mark-recapture techniques.[17]

Gasoline-powered AC electrofishing units consisting of two hand-held electrodes can be used for fish capture.[17] The units typically have one of the two electrodes fitted with a 4-mm mesh/nylon net to enable the operator to capture fish, which is usually done in an upstream manner.[17] Sites sampled should be divided into 100 m sections that have block nets placed at the upper and lower ends of the site to restrict immigration and emigration. A stationary seine (4.6 m wide and 1.2 m tall) can be used in conjunction with the electroshocking technique when kept downstream of the individual(s) shocking.[12]

A typical sampling crew consists of four people: two seine holders, an electroshocking operator, and a person either kicking into the seine or assisting with the seine in strong flow.[12] When searching for P. sciera, snorkelers, who should never be in the water while electrofishing is underway, begin at the downstream end of the site and slowly proceeded upstream in a random zig-zag direction to observe as much area as possible in expansive shoals, riffles, and runs.[12]


  1. ^ NatureServe (2013). "Percina sciera". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2013: e.T202592A18231811. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T202592A18231811.en. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c Carlson, R.L., and P.C. Wainwright. 2010. The ecological morphology of darter fishes (Percidae: Etheostomatinae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 100:30-45.
  3. ^ a b Skyfield, J.P., and G.D. Grossman. 2008. Microhabitat use, movements and abundance of gilt darters ("Percina evides") in southern Appalachian (USA) streams. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 17:219-230.
  4. ^ a b c Welsh, S.A., and S.A. Perry. 1998. Habitat partitioning in a community of darters in the Elk River, West Virginia. Environmental Biology of Fishes 51:411-419.
  5. ^ a b c d e Carlson, R.L., P.C. Wainwright, and T.J. Near. 2010. Relationship between species co-occurrence and rate of morphological change in Percina darters (Percidae: Etheostomatinae). Evolution 63:767-778.
  6. ^ Miller, G.L. 1983. Trophic Resource Allocation between Percina sciera and P. ouachitae in the Tombigbee River, MississRippi. American Midland Naturalist 110:299-313.
  7. ^ Cavender, T.M., and D.L. Rice. 1997. Survey and analysis of the Scioto Brush Creek drainage fish fauana of Southern Ohio. Ohio Journal of Science 97:78-85.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rakocinski, C. 1991. Prey-size relationships and feeding tactics of primitive stream-dwelling darters. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 48:681-693.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Labay, A.A., R.W. Standage, and T.M. Brandt. 2004. Selected methods for dusky darter captive propagation. North American Journal of Aquaculture 66:146-152.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Labay, A.A., K. Collins, R.W. Standange, and T.M. Brandt. 2004. Gut Content of First-Feeding Wild Darters and Captive-Reared Dusky Darters. North American Journal of Aquaculture 66:153-157.
  11. ^ a b Warren, M.L., Jr; W.R. Haag, and A.M. Commens. 2004. Observations of watersnake (Nerodia Colubridae) predation on darters (Percidae). Southeastern Fishes Council Proceedings 47:1-3.
  12. ^ a b c d Ashton, M.J., and J.B. Layzer. 2008. Distribution of the threatened Snail Darter (Percina tanasi) in the upper Tennessee River Drainage. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science 83:52-56.
  13. ^ a b c d Wenger, S.J., M.C. Freeman, L.A. Fowler, B.J. Freeman, and J.T. Peterson. 2010. Conservation planning for imperiled aquatic species in an urbanizing environment. Landscape and Urban Planning 97:11-21.
  14. ^ Rhode, F.C., M.L. Miller, and R.G. Arndt. 1998. Distribution and status of selected fishes in North Carolina, with a new state record. Brimleyana 25:43-68.
  15. ^ a b c Rashleigh, B., R. Parmar, J.M. Johnston, and M.C. Barber. 2005. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 25:1353-1366.
  16. ^ a b Walters, D.M., D.S. Leigh, M.C. Freeman, B.J. Freeman, and C.M. Pringle. 2003. Geomorphology and fish assemblages in a Piedmont river basin, U.S.A. Freshwater Biology 48:1950-1970.
  17. ^ a b c Habera, J.W., M.A. Kulp, S.E. Moore, and T.B. Henry. 2010. Three-Pass Depletion Sampling Accuracy of Two Electric Fields for Estimating Trout Abundance in a Low-Conductivity Stream with Limited Habitat Complexity. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 30:757-766.

Additional sources

Cavender, T.M., and Rice, D.L. 1997. Survey and analysis of the Scioto Brush Creek drainage fish fauna of Southern Ohio. Ohio Journal of Science 97:78-85.

Labay, A.A., Collins, K., Standage, R.W., and Brandt, T.M. 2004. Gut content of first-feeding wild darters and captive-reared dusky darters. North American Journal of Aquaculture 66:153-157.

Labay, A.A., Standage, R.W., and Brandt, T.M. 2004. Selected methods for dusky darter captive propagation. North American Journal of Aquaculture 66:146-152.

Miller, G.L. 1983. Trophic Resource-allocation between Percina sciera and Percina-ouachitae in the Tombigbee River, Mississippi. American Midland Naturalist 110:299-313.

Rakocinski, C. 1991. Prey-size relationships and feeding tactics of primitive stream-dwelling darters. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 48:681-693.

External links




 Sheepshead 1 | Archosargus probatocephalus

 Sheepshead 1 | Archosargus probatocephalus


Sheepshead info via Wikipedia:

Archosargus probatocephalus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Sparidae
Genus: Archosargus
Species: A. probatocephalus
Binomial name
Archosargus probatocephalus
(Walbaum, 1792)

Archosargus probatocephalus, the sheepshead, is a marine fish that grows to 76 cm (30 in), but commonly reaches 30 to 50 cm (10 to 20 in). It is deep and compressed in body shape, with five or six dark bars on the side of the body over a gray background. It has sharp dorsal spines. Its diet consists of oysters, clams, and other bivalves, and barnacles, fiddler crabs, and other crustaceans.[1] It has a hard mouth, with several rows of stubby teeth – the frontal ones roughly resembling human teeth – which help crush the shells of prey.[2]


The sheepshead is found in coastal waters along the western Atlantic, from Nova Scotia to Brazil, but the greatest concentration is around southwest Florida.[3] Although the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, in New York City, was named after the fish,[4] it is now rarely found that far north.


As sheepshead feed on bivalves and crustaceans,[1] successful baits include shrimp, sand fleas (mole crabs), clams, fiddler crabs, and mussels.[5] Sheepshead have a knack for stealing bait, so a small hook is necessary.[5] Locating sheepshead with a boat is not difficult: Fishermen look for rocky bottoms or places with obstructions, jetties, and the pilings of bridges and piers.[5] The average weight of a sheepshead is 1.4 to 1.8 kg (3 to 4 lb), but some individuals reach the range of 4.5 to 6.8 kg (10 to 15 lb).[5]


  1. ^ a b "Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus)". Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "No Braces Necessary for the Sheepshead Fish With Human-like Teeth". Archived from the original on 5 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Florida Museum of Natural History". 
  4. ^ "The Naming of Sheepshead Bay". Brooklyn Based. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Gillis, Chad (6 March 2008). "Fishing 101: Sheepshead Porgy". 


Gafftopsail Catfish

Gafftopsail Catfish by Inked Animal

Gafftopsail Catfish | Bagre marinus

This gyotaku reminds Adam of a ballet dancer. I agree.  And just like Gafftop Catfish 2, I think this deserves to be on an Asian restaurant’s wall as decoration.  This one probably more so than any other print we have…..maybe. This print is a simple one, just india ink with little post processing. I think it also would make a nice t-shirt.  The simplicity does a lot.  If you like the cats, make sure you check out Gafftop Catfish 2Hardhead Catfish, and Hardhead Catfish – head.









Gafftopsail Catfish info via wikipedia:

Gafftopsail catfish
Bagre marinus (line art).jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Ariidae
Genus: Bagre
Species: B. marinus
Binomial name
Bagre marinus
(Mitchill, 1815)
  • Silurus marinus Mitchill, 1815
  • Felichthys marinus (Mitchill, 1815)
  • Galeichthys blochii Valenciennes, 1840
  • Galeichthys parrae Valenciennes, 1840
  • Galeichthys bahiensis Castelnau, 1855
  • Aelurichthys longispinis Günther, 1864

The gafftopsail catfish (Bagre marinus) is found in the waters of the western central Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It has long venomous spines which can cause painful wounds. It feeds on crustaceans and other fish. The male of the species fertilizes the eggs of the female, and broods them in his mouth until they hatch. The gafftopsail feeds throughout the water column. This fish is a common catch in the Southeastern US, although it may be found as far north as New York. In fishing, they are considered strong fighters. They are taken from piers, jetties, reefs, and the surf, as well as bottom fishing or flats fishing. They are caught with lures, cut bait, and shrimp, as well as soft plastics. Some fishermen use traps for catfish, which is regulated by some states.


It lives on the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico coastlines from Cape Cod to Brazil.[1] It is also found in brackish waters, including estuaries, lagoons, brackish seas, and mangroves. It is generally common to abundant in its range.[1]


The gafftopsail catfish is blue-grey to dark brown with a light grey belly. Its appearance is typical for a catfish except for the deeply forked tail and the venomous, serrated spines. It also has a little hump that looks somewhat like a wave. The typical length of a mature gafftopsail catfish is about 17 in (43 cm). The anal fin is a few inches anterior to the tail and is white or pale blue, with 22-28 rays on it and a high, anterior lobe.[3] The pelvic fin is 6–12 in (15–30 cm) anterior to the tail fin. The gafftopsail catfish has maxillary barbels and one pair of barbels on the chin. It resembles the hardhead catfish, but its dorsal spine has a distinctive fleshy extension (like the fore-and-aft topsail of a ship).

The primary food of juveniles is unidentifiable organic matter; the secondary food is fish, with smaller amounts from other trophic groups. Unlike many other catfish, which are primarily bottom feeders, the gafftopsail catfish feeds throughout the water column. It eats mostly crustaceans, including crabs, shrimp, and prawns (95% of the diet), but it will also eat worms, other invertebrates, and bony fishes (about 5% of the diet).[4] In addition to humans, predators of the gafftopsail catfish include the tiger shark and bull shark.

Gafftopsail catfish spawn over inshore mudflats during a relatively short time span (10 days) from May to August;[5] they are mouthbreeders. The eggs are about 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter. Males keep up to 55 eggs in their mouths until they hatch. Young are about 5 cm (2 inches) long when they hatch, and the male may continue to brood them until they are up to 4 in (10 cm) long. The males do not feed while they are carrying the eggs or young.[6]


The gafftopsail catfish is a common catch in the Southeastern United States, although it is also caught as far north as New York. They are taken from piers, jetties, reefs, and the surf, as well as bottom fishing or flats fishing. They are caught with lures such as plugs, spoons, spinners, cut bait, and shrimp, as well as soft plastic lure resembling shrimp, worms, and shad. They are attracted to the sound of struggling fish, like a popping cork creates. Catfish trapping is also used to capture them, but is regulated in some states. Catfish traps include “slat traps,” long wooden traps with an angled entrance, and wire hoop traps. Typical bait for these traps includes rotten cheese and dog food.

Gafftopsail catfish are good eating; the red lateral line should be removed to prevent “muddy taste”; however in Gafftopsail taken from southern Florida mangrove estuaries, this is seemingly unnecessary. The pectoral fins and dorsal fin contain venomous spines; care should be used when handling this fish.

Weight and length

Growth chart

The largest recorded weight for a gafftopsail catfish is 4.5 kg (9.9 lb)[7] and 69 cm (27 in) in length.[8] A more common weight and length of gafftopsails caught is 1–2 lb (450–910 g) and 12–16 in (30–41 cm).

As gafftopsail catfish grow longer, they increase in weight, but the relationship is not linear. The relationship between total length (L, in inches) and total weight (W, in pounds) for nearly all species of fish can be expressed by an equation of the form:

W = c L b {\displaystyle W=cL^{b}\!\,} W=cL^{b}\!\,

Invariably, b is close to 3.0 for all species, and the constant ct varies between species.[9] Data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission indicate, for the gafftopsail catfish, c = 0.000493 and b = 3.075[10] The relationship described in this section suggests a 12-inch gafftopsail catfish will weigh about one pound, while a 20-inch fish will likely weigh about five pounds.


  1. ^ a b c Chao, L.; Vega-Cendejas, M.; Tolan, J.; Jelks, H. & Espinosa-Perez, H. (2015). "Bagre marinus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2015: e.T196806A2476570. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T196806A2476570.en. Retrieved 14 January 2018. 
  2. ^ "Synonyms of Bagre marinus (Mitchill, 1815)". Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  3. ^ Smith, C. Lavett. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Chanticleer Press, 1997, ISBN 0-679-44601-X, pp. 85 & 346
  4. ^ Food and Feeding Habits Summary - Bagre Marinus see online accessed 11 March 2010
  5. ^ Muncy R.J., Wingo W.M.,Species Profiles: Life Histories and Environmental Requirements of Coastal Fishes and Invertebrates (Gulf of Mexico): Sea Catfish and Gafftopsail Catfish read online p. 4
  6. ^ Smith, pp. 85 & 346
  7. ^ IGFA 2007 Database of IGFA angling records. IGFA, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA, gafftopsail&LC=ATR
  8. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2017). "Bagre marinus" in FishBase. February 2017 version.
  9. ^ R. O. Anderson and R. M. Neumann, Length, Weight, and Associated Structural Indices, in Fisheries Techniques, second edition, B.E. Murphy and D.W. Willis, eds., American Fisheries Society, 1996.
  10. ^ average of data for male and female gafftopsail catfish at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Report 2008 accessed 7 March 2010


Blackstripe Topminnow



Blackstripe Topminnow info via wikipedia:

Blackstripe topminnow
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cyprinodontiformes
Family: Fundulidae
Genus: Fundulus
Species: F. notatus
Binomial name
Fundulus notatus
(Rafinesque, 1820)[1]

The blackstripe topminnow, Fundulus notatus, is small freshwater fish in the family Fundulidae, found in central North America.


The blackstripe topminnow is found in Canada along a roughly 60 kilometre stretch of Ontario’s Sydenham River. In the United States, it occupies other parts of the southern drainage of lakes Erie and Michigan and also the Mississippi drainage basin between Illinois and the Gulf of Mexico. The entire Canadian population of this small freshwater fish lives along a roughly 60 kilometre stretch of the Sydenham River in southwestern Ontario. Discovered only in 1972, the blackstripe topminnow is a fairly hardy fish although its greatest threats come from changes to its habitat due to human activity.


The blackstripe topminnow gets its name from the horizontal black stripe that runs the length of its body along its sides. The fish has a small mouth that turns slightly upward, and has a flat-topped head with a multi-coloured spot on it. The average length of this fish is between 5 and 7 cm. The males and females look distinct from one another. Males have dark vertical bars above and below their stripes, yellow-hued fins, and their dorsal and anal fins are longer and more pointed. Females have no bars, white fins and shorter, more rounded dorsal and anal fins.

Life history

Blackstripe topminnows live for two to three years. They are usually found in slow-moving water where vegetation along the river bank provides a good amount of edge cover. They tend to stay near the surface in summer and feed on insects. They also eat insect larvae in the water, as well as tiny molluscs, spiders and crustaceans. In the winter, they retreat to deeper water. Spawning occurs between May and August. Females lay 20 to 30 eggs; these are fertilized and tucked away in underwater vegetation one at a time by the males.


Although this population in Canada seems to have remained stable in recent years, it faces several environmental risks. These fish depend on vegetation, both in-stream and along the banks, especially as a source for the insects they eat. Livestock can threaten this vegetation by destroying or eating it. As well, when wetlands are drained, the flow of creeks and streams can change, potentially affecting the size and health of blackstripe topminnow populations. Taking water from streams to irrigate farmland could leave this fish especially at risk in times of low water or drought. Oil seepage from equipment and vehicles could harm the blackstripe topminnow because of its habit of feeding at the surface of the water where slicks occur.

First designated as a species of Special Concern by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) in April 1985, its status was re-examined and confirmed in May 2001. The blackstripe topminnow is now listed in Canada under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). As well, the federal Fisheries Act prohibits destruction of fish habitat. The blackstripe topminnow is also one of many species covered by the Sydenham River Recovery strategy. The Sydenham River Recovery Strategy, completed in 2003, was the first recovery strategy in Canada to use an ecosystem approach for aquatic species. The blackstripe topminnow is now being protected as part of a larger plan to return the Sydenham River’s ecosystem to health.

External links


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