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Guide to Campus Wildlife


Frogs and Toads

toadThere are several species of frogs and toads that live in this area of Georgia. After dark you can often hear them calling to each other. Species that have been seen in Clarke County include: The Eastern Narrow-mouthed toad, Gastrophtyne carolinensis, American Toad, Bufo americanus, The Common Toad, Bufo woodhousei, Southern Cricket Frog, Acris gryllus, Spring Peeper, Hyla crucifer, the Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, and the Southern Leopard Frog, Rana sphenocephala.


salamandersSalamanders superficially resemble lizards. They have four legs, but their skin is smooth not scaled, and their front legs only have four clawless toes. Salamanders lay their eggs in the water, just like frogs do. The larvae look very similar to a tadpole. Some species of salamanders retain their gills and never leave the water, others develop lungs and are able to breath air. Salamander species that have been seen in Clarke County include: the Red Eft, Notophthalmus viridescens.


American Robin, Turdus migratorius

robinThis medium size bird (9 to 11 inch long) is dark gray above and orange-red below. The male robin's breast is much more brightly colored than the females. They are found throughout the US and will often nest in open-air buildings quite close to humans. They can be seen hunting for earthworms in lawns and gardens around campus. They will also eat fruits and other insects.

Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon

These medium size (11 to 14 inches long), blue and white birds can be seen perched on branches, poles and power lines overlooking ponds, lakes, streams and marshes throughout much of the US. Kingfishers have been seen at They Lake Herrick and nearby parts of campus. They search for movement in the waters below, which they will either swoop or dive after. In addition to blue, males also have a red-brown belt.


Bluejay, Cyanocitta cristata

bluejayThis bright and noisy bird is common throughout the eastern US. They are 9 to 12 inches long, bright blue above and white below. They have a distinctly pointed feather crest on the top of their head. These jays are omnivorous, feeding on fruits, seeds, nuts, insects, small birds, mice, frogs, snails and even fish. They can be seen in trees & shrubs around campus and often visit bird feeders.



Brown Thrasher, Toxostoma rufum

brown thrasherThis is the Georgia State Bird. They are red-brown above and white with brown streaks below. Thrashers like their relatives the Mockingbird and Catbird will imitate the sounds of other birds. They feed prefer to feed on the ground, and can be heard scratching in leaf litter and brush for insects, berries, seeds and other eatables.

Canada Goose, Branta canadensis

gooseThis is the most common goose in North America. They are large water birds (22 to 40 inches long) that can easily be seen and heard around most ponds and lakes in the US, including our campus Lake Herrick. They have white breasts and underside; long black necks; black bill and tail; brownish wings and back; and black bill, legs and webbed feet. These geese usually nest near the waters edge and will defend both their nest and territory from invaders by hissing and biting. They often fly in groups that forms a 'V' shaped pattern. They can be heard 'honking' to each other as they pass overhead.

Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis

cardinalThese medium sized birds (7 to 8 inches long) are commonly seen around campus in trees, on lawns, and at bird feeders feeding on nuts and seeds. The female is brownish-yellow with red wings, tail, crest and bill. The males are bright red with a black bib. This species is found throughout the eastern US.

Carolina Chickadee, Parus carolinensis

This small bird (4 to 5 inches long) is very gregarious and can be seen and heard (su-fee su-bee) in trees and shrubs around campus and at bird feeders. They are light gray with a black cap and throat and white cheeks and underside. Chickadees are very friendly birds and often will actually take seed from your hand. This species of Chickadee is common to the southeastern and midwestern US.

Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

carolina wrenThis small (4 to 5 inch long), loud feisty bird can be found nesting in forests, thickets and birdhouses across the eastern US. Their common call is a series of double or triple notes (cherry, cherry, cherry), though they can produce other calls that mimic other birds. They can be seen in trees & shrubs around campus.

Common Grackle, Quiscalus quiscula

grackleThis medium size bird (10 -12 inches long) is glossy black with an iridescent purple, bronze or greenish cast. They are common throughout the eastern US in farms, suburbs and parks.



Herons and Egrets

herons egretsThree species of herons and three species of egrets can be found in Georgia: Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias; Green Heron, Butorides striatus; Black-crowned night Heron, Nyctiocorax nycticorax; Snowy Egret, Egretta thula; Great Egret, Casmerodius albus; Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis. All but one (cattle egret) are only seen near water (ponds, lakes, marsh, and estuary). These wading birds all have long legs and bills which they use to find and catch food (fish, shrimp, frogs).

The Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Snowy Egret and Great Egret are often seen during the day searching for food in shallow waters. They use their large feet to stir up the mud. When this disturbance causes a fish or invertebrate to move they can easily spot it and catch it with their long bills. In contrast the Green Heron can be seen perched on branches overlooking the water. This bird can snatch fish and invertebrates from the shallow water without leaving its perch. Occasionally they will dive into deeper water after food.

The large (4 ft. high; wing span of 6 ft.) Great Blue Heron has a blue-gray body and long yellow bill.

The Great Egret and Snowy Egret are smaller and white with black legs. The Snowy Egret can be distinguished from the Great White by its smaller size(22 to 26 inches long as opposed to 36 to 42 inches long), longer feathers, black bill (Great White has a yellow one) and yellow feet (Great White has black feet).

The Green Heron is a small heron (18 to 22 inches long) with a red-brown breast and greenish-brown back wings and tail. Their bill is dark above and yellow below and their legs are orange-yellow.

The Black-crowned Night Heron is a nocturnal hunters. During the daytime they can often be seen sleeping in trees near water. They feed mostly on fish. They are 23 to 26 inches long, with a white body and head, black back and crest, and gray wings. Their bill is black and their legs are yellowish.

Cattle Egret are a new species to the Americas, they first appeared in South America around 1880. The first US colony was discovered in 1952 in Florida. Today they can be found throughout much of the US. They are often seen on farms near cattle or tractors feeding on the insects the cattle and tractors disturb. Cattle Egret are smaller than other egrets (18 to 20 inches long) have a yellow bill and tan feathers on their wings, breast and top of their head.

House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus

finchThis small (5 inch long) adaptable bird is originally from the southwestern US. They were released in New York in 1940's and have expanded their eastern range to include most of the eastern US. The female is a dull brown with faintly streaked breast, while the male has a bright red head, breast and rump.

Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos

duckThis is the most common duck in the world. It can be found in Europe, Asia and North America. It will live in close association with humans, building nests near small ponds in city parks. They are 16 to 24 inches long. The females are brown, while the males have an iridescent green head and red-brown breast. Both males and females have iridescent bands on their wings. Mallards feed on plants and small aquatic animals that live in the shallows of ponds. They will also eat grain and other foods.

Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura

doveThis is one of the most easily seen and heard native bird. Their soothing call (coo-ah, coo, coo, coo) can be heard in the quiet of the early mornings and evenings. They are relatives of the common Pigeon found in cities worldwide. They are smaller and slimmer (10 to 12 inches long) with grayish brown bodies. They can often be seen perched on power lines or feeding on the ground all around campus.

Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos

mockingbirdThis medium size (9 to 11 inch long) bird is found throughout most of the US. They are gray above and white below, with large white wing patches. These birds are easy to notice because they will perch in an open area and continually sing. Often their song imitates other birds songs. Look for them atop light poles, telephone poles, and on the outer branch of trees on campus. The other place you will see them is searching for insects in the lawns around campus. They hop along partially opening their wings while they search.

Red-tailed Hawk, Buto jamaicensis

hawkThis large raptor (19 to 26 inches long; wingspan 4 ft.) can be seen during the day either perched on a tall tree or telephone pole, or soaring overhead. From these heights they are searching for food. The majority of their diet is small mammals (mice, chipmunks). Although it is hard to tell from a distance, they are brown with white underside and red-brown tails. On campus you can often spot a Red-tail soaring high above the GGS building.

Rufous-sided Towhee, Pipilo erythrophtalmus

towheeThis medium size (7 to 8 inch) bird can be seen vigorously scratching among the leaf litter under bushes on campus looking for food. The female is brown above with orange-brown sides and white belly, while the male is black above with orange-brown sides and white belly. They are common throughout most of the US.


sparrowsThere are several species of sparrows that live in the southeast. Most are small brown and very hard to tell apart. One of the species you may see on campus is the Chipping Sparrow, Spizella passerina. The males of this species have a reddish cap, white stripe above their eye, a black eye streak, and are pale grayish below the streak.

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris

starlingThese blackish-purple, glossy, medium size birds (7 to 8 inches long) and not native to the US. One hundred of these European bird were released in New York City in 1890. Today the descendants of these birds have spread throughout the US. They gather together each night to roost, because of this and their habit of taking nesting cavities from native birds, many people consider them pests. They are insect eaters.



Tufted Titmouse, Parus bicolor

titmouseThis small (5 to 6 inches long) gray-blue bird is commonly throughout the eastern US. A noticeable characteristic of this bird is the pointed feather crest on the top of its head. Often they are heard singing a rapid two note whistle (pe-ter, pe-ter). They can be seen in trees & shrubs all over campus and at bird feeders.

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura

vultureThese large (26 to 32 inch long; wingspan 6 feet) black birds are also called Turkey buzzards. These birds are incredible fliers. They are so adapt at using air currents, they can soar for hours without flapping their wings. Vultures feed on carrion and can often be seen soaring over the area where an animal has died. A vulture can be distinguished from a hawk by the angle they hold their wings at. Their wings form a 'V' shape while a hawk's wings form a straight line.


warblersNorth America has more than 50 species of warblers, many of which live in forested areas. Most warblers are dimorphicly colored, meaning the males and females look different. In most species the males have bright colors and distinct patterns, while the females are paler and duller colored and lack the distinctive patterns.


woodpeckersThere are several species of woodpeckers in the southeast, however on campus you will probably only spot the Common Flicker, Colaptes auratus, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus, and the Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens, which are more tolleratnt of humans than the other species. All of these woodpeckers feed on insects which they mostly find in infested trees. They can be seen and heard hammering on trees around campus.

The Red-bellied is 8 to 10 inches long with white and black barring on its back, wings and tail. Males have a red crown, while females only have a red nape. They do have a reddish breast but it is hard to see.

The Common Flicker is 10 to 13 inches long has a white rump, a black throat bar and yellow under the wings and tail. Unlike other woodpeckers, this bird can often be seen searching for insects on the ground.

The Downy Woodpecker is only 5 to 6 inches long. It is black and white patterned birds. Males have a small red spot on the back of their heads. Downy will often come to bird feeders for suet.


Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa virginica

There are several species of bees that live in this area, but the Carpenter Bee is by far the largest 1 inch long). They have black heads, abdomen and legs and a fuzzy yellow thorax. They are often seen around wooden structures which they build their nests in. They will burrow into the wood creating a tunnel at the end of which they lay their egg. Although, individually harmless, in large numbers they can cause serious damage to wooden houses.

Cicada killer, Sphecius speciosus

killerThis is one of our largest wasps (1 1/4 inches long). They are shiny black with a yellow striped abdomen. They dig under-ground burrow to lay their egg in. They also place food for the larvae in the burrow (one large cicada).



Crickets and Grasshoppers

cricketsThere are several species of crickets in this area. One of the more interesting crickets is the Common Mole cricket, Gryllotalpa hexadactyla. This cricket has large front legs that look similar to a moles. Like a mole, they uses these legs to burrow into the ground.

Dragonflies and Damselflies

dragonfliesThese long thin flying insects are hunters of mosquitoes. They are frequently found near water, where they lay their eggs. Their larvae, called nymphs, are aquatic predators. There are several species that live in this area many are brightly colored (red, blue, or green).




Fire ants, Solenopsis invicta

fire antThis small ant (1/10 to 3/4 inches long) are dark red and wingless. They live in large colonies which build large mounded nests. They prefer disturbed land to forests, and are commonly seen on roadsides, farms, pastures and lawns. They are very aggressive when disturbed and can produce a stinging bite. These ants and their nests should be avoided.

Fireflies, Photuris spp.

These night flying insects possess bioluminescence. They are often seen over meadows, along streams and lawns flashing. They are actually not a fly, but a soft bodied beetle. They are black with either red or yellow blotches. The bioluminescent organ is in their abdomen and each different species will flash a different pattern.

Ladybug or Ladybird beetle

ladybugThese are small (less than 3/8 inch long) round beetles. Different species have different shades orange-red and different numbers of spots on their wings. They are considered to be good luck for a garden, since they and their larvae feed on other insects that are plant eaters.



Luna Moth, Actias luna

lunaThis large (3 to 7 inch) green moth is quite spectacular. They can sometimes be spotted at night when they are attracted to bright lights.







MosquitoThere are several species of mosquitoes found in this area. The females must have a 'blood meal' before they can lay their eggs. The eggs are laid in shallow stagnant water and produce aquatic larvae.



Spinx and Hawk Moths, Sphingidae

mothsThese are large moths that have narrow wings and large stout bodies. Some species are active during the day and can beseen in meadows , gardens and woodlands.



Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio glaucus

tiger swallowtailBoth the yellow and blue phases of this large butterfly are commonly seen in this area. They frequent gardens that have fragrant flowers.





White and Sulphur Butterflies, Peridae

butterfliesButterflies in this family are either yellow or white. They often have wings with dark edges and one spot. The larvae (catipillers) of these species are green striped and very destructive to crops. Commonly seen species include: European Cabbage Butterfly, Pieris rapae, the Clouded Sulpher, Colias philodice, and the Orange Sulpher, Colias eurytheme.




Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias striatus

This small (5 to 6 inches long) striped ground dwelling squirrel can be seen in many places around campus. They prefer areas where the ground is covered by dense plants and it is easy to hide. Chipmunks actually spend most of their time below ground in their burrow sleeping. When we see them they are foraging for food (nuts, seeds, berries). Chipmunks store extra food in their burrows, which can be 12 feet long and have several entrances. They can carry several nuts at a time home in their oversized cheek pouches.

Eastern Mole, Scalopus aquaticus

Moles are small (4 to 6 inches long) brown furred, extremely small eyed mammals that live beneath the surface of the soil in tunnels. They spend their time searching for earthworms and insect larvae. Moles are solitary animals, except for while the female is caring for her young. They use their powerful clawed front legs to dig their tunnels. You may not see this animal, but you might notice the ridges in the lawns that are the results of where they have been.

Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis

This may be the most commonly seen non-human mammal on campus. They are 8-11 inches long with a 8-10 inch bushy gray tail. The gray on their back and sides fades to white on their belly. Squirrels are especially active just after sunrise and just before sunset, gathering nuts, seeds and fruits from trees, bushes and the ground. When food is plentiful they will bury the extra for latter use. At night and during the middle of the day they often rest on tree limbs or in large nests of leaves and twigs. Squirrels are very noisy animals, announcing the presence of intruders loudly and chasing other squirrels through the tree tops.

Little Brown Bat, Myotis lucifugus

This may be the most abundant bat in North America and is commonly seen in cities. They are small (3-4 inches long), with shiny dark brown fur. They are nocturnal and can be seen flying near wooded areas and water searching for insects, which they eat. Bats are the only true flying mammals (others species can only glide). Unlike birds, whose wings are made up of feathers, a bat's wing is made up of thin skin that is stretched between their fingers and body. Bats find insects using echolocation (similar to sonar). A single bat can consume over 3,000 mosquitoes in a night! During the day groups of bats roost in attics, hollow trees and caves. Female bats give birth to a single offspring each year, which they nurse and care for just like other mammals care for their young.

Opossum, Didelphis virginiana

This is North America's only marsupial (pouched mammal). They have coarse gray-black fur, a pointed pink nose, and long tail with little fur. Opossum are omnivores, and will eat insects, smaller animals, bird's eggs, mushrooms, grains, fruit and carrion. They are nocturnal (active at night) and so rarely seen during the day. They live in fields and forests near water, but frequent areas where man is looking for food. Female opossum can have up to 14 kits in a litter, each only the size of your thumb. They spend the first several months of life in their mother's pouch and continue to stay with her for several weeks after emerging.

Raccoon, Procyon lotor

raccoonThis medium sized (16 to 26 inches long) masked, bushy tailed mammal is equally at home in forested, rural, and suburban areas. Like the opossum, raccoons are omnivores and will take advantage of any scraps humans leave behind. They often raid garbage cans, although they can also happily eat nuts, berries, grain, bird eggs, carrion, rodents, insects, crayfish, snails and clams. They are also more active after dark than during the day.


Although there are almost 30 species of shrews in North America, there are only a few species that live in this part of the state. All are small (1 to 4 inches long) and have soft dark fur. They are active throughtout the day and night, although they are seldom seen above ground. They eat more than their weight in food each day, and will feed on insects, mollusks, earthworms, even carrion. The Least Shrew, Cryptotis parva is Georgia's smallest mammal. The Short-tailed Shrew, Blarina brevicauda is a unique mammal, as it has venomous saliva.

White-footed Mouse, Peromyscus leucopus

This is the mouse you are most likly to see in this area. There are several species of mice that live in this part of the state. Some prefer living around humans while others do not. All species are small (5 to 6 inches long) and prefer to live in areas that have cover. Mice are mostly nocternal and forage for food during the night. They will feed on nuts, seeds, berries and insects.


American Anole, Anolis carolinensis

Anoles are abundant in the tropical and sub-tropical western hemisphere. While there are nearly 200 species throughout the hemisphere, only one species is native to North America. Anoles are very capable climbers and are frequently seen on the sides of buildings, on trees and fences. Their color changes in response to light and temperature. They will be green in the cool shade of a plant and brown when out in the heat on a fence. This species of anole can reach 8 inches in length.

Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina

Box turtles are medium size (4 to 8 inched long) land-dwelling turtles. Their shells are high domed and brown with yellow, orange or olive lines and spots. They can be seen crawling through forests, fields and even suburban areas. Occasionally they are hit by cars while crossing roads. They are capable of withdrawing there appendages and head into their shell and then pulling their lower shell (plastron) up against their upper shell (carapace). These turtles are very long lived and individuals have been recorded to live over 100 years.

Five-lined Skink, Eumeces fasciatus

This is a medium size lizard (5 to 8 inches long). The adults are brown with faded stripes and a gray tail. The juvenile skinks have 5 light stripes and a bright blue tail. Most often you will notice the juvenile skinks because of their bright blue tails. They prefer damp woods and shaded gardens that have lots of leaf litter.

Rat Snake, Elaphe obsoleta

This snake occurs throughout the eastern US, and is one of our most commonly encountered snakes. The young snakes are light gray with a distinct darker pattern, while the adults are darker, almost totally black. They feed on mice, rats, frogs, lizards, birds and bird eggs. They are good climbers and sill climb trees in search of food. Because of there preference for mice and rats they are commonly seen near human habitations. When threatened they will put on an aggressive show, vibrating their tail, hissing and lunging. However this is all show, they are not really dangerous and should be left alone.

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