Jan 152010
 
photo provided courtesy of Hamed Saber on Flickr Creative CommonsHomeworldwide
Habitattropical and temperate forests, grassland, suburban
Nichemost are herbivorous, some species feed on other insects
Favorite Foodplant juices
Lengthup to 1 inch
Notable Featurethey produce a foul-smelling liquid to ward off predators



















There are over 5,000 species of stink bugs worldwide, and they range in color from drab green and brown to brightly-colored red and yellow. Most species suck juices from trees and shrubs, but a few prey on other insects. As a result of their feeding habits on commercially-valuable crops, some species are serious pests to humans.

Stink bugs are also known as shield-bugs because of the shape of their bodies. They have broad “shoulders” that taper into their abdomens below their folded wings. They have strong angular legs for gripping plant stems and have specialized mouthparts for piercing and slurping. They are very common insects and can be found nearly everywhere in the world where there’s vegetation.





Stink bugs are so-named because of their defense against predators. If they’re disturbed, they will eject a noxious liquid from special glands in their thorax. The smell and taste of this bitter chemical weapon is enough to deter many predators and to put off a casual human collector. The bright coloration of many species is a warning sign to predators that it doesn’t taste very good. Sometimes coloration alone in the animal kingdom does the trick without needing to deploy the weapon being advertised.

Jan 152010
 
photo provided courtesy of mybulldog on Flickr Creative CommonsHomeNorth and South America
Habitatvaried: tropical and temperate forest, grassland, desert, and mountains
Nichenocturnal hunter
Favorite Foodsmall mammals
Lengthup to 2 feet
Weightup to 5 pounds
StatusCommon
ThreatsHabitat destruction





















The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl in North America, and its range extends from Northern Canada down to Tierra del Fuego. It gets its name from the tufts of feathers on either side of its head that resemble horns from a distance. A silent killer of the night, it is one of the world’s most successful birds.

Great Horned Owls are some of the most sedentary birds in the world, rarely venturing far from their home tree. Because of their adaptations, they don’t need to fly far in search of food. Small mammals are plentiful across the Great Horned Owl’s wide range across North and South America, and this amazing bird has an extensive hunting arsenal. Its binocular vision is so acute that it can spy a mouse over 100 feet away, and its hearing can detect tiny movement in the leaf litter below its tree. Although owls can’t move their eyes in their sockets, they can turn their heads almost completely around their axis, allowing them to zero-in on prey. Finally, the soft feathers of an owl muffles the sound of flight, making its deadly approach nearly silent up until the point it sinks its razor-sharp talons into an unfortunate animal.

Great Horned Owls make their nests in trees, usually in a hollowed-out trunk or the abandoned nest of a hawk or crow. In sparser areas, they will nest in rocky alcoves. Although the female is the one to incubate the eggs, both parents will tend to the fledgling chicks for about 6 weeks until they leave the nest. Great Horned Owls are very territorial birds, even when not rearing young, but will defend their nests with resolve. They have been known to dive-bomb humans to frighten them away from their trees if they get too close.





Habitat destruction is the greatest threat facing Great Horned Owls because of their dependence on trees for nesting. However, their wide range has afforded them a buffer against encroachment, and they are still common in many regions of North and South America.

Jan 102010
 
photo provided courtesy of photographix.ca on Flickr Creative CommonsHomeSouth Asia
Habitattemperate mountain forests
Nichearboreal omnivore
Favorite Foodbamboo
Lengthup to 4 feet, nose to tail tip
Weightup to 13 pounds
StatusEndangered
Threatsloss of habitat



















The red panda couldn’t look more different than the better-known giant panda. Aside from a similar color pattern on its face, this member of the raccoon family is a far cry from the gigantic black and white panda in terms of looks. It’s much more raccoon-like, with a slender body and a long, bushy tail that helps it balance in the trees of Southern Asia where it lives.

Red pandas prefer dense temperate forests below the tree line on mountain slopes in Asia. The trees allow them access to the tender leaves and shoots of bamboo and as shelter from predators. Red pandas feed primarily on bamboo, but supplement their diet with fruit, grubs, eggs, and small animals. They communicate with others of their kind primarily by smell, marking territories with any number of secretions and excretions. In the world of the dense forest, animals like the red panda must rely on senses other than sight.

Females bear litters of between one and five offspring in nests built into hollow tree trunks and attend to all of the parental care. Not unlike some human relationships, the male involvement in fostering the new generation ends with mating.





Like many other animals dependent on trees, the red panda has fallen victim to loss of its natural habitat. As the forests have fallen in Southern Asia in the past half century, so have the numbers of red pandas in the wild. They are now exceedingly rare and there may be as few as 2500 left.