Our native lizards are Green Anoles , and their pink bubble on the neck is called a "dewlap."
Apparently they show their dewlap to court a female anole or to scare off predators. They easily leap from tree to shrubs or decks.
They will also readily drop their tails if need be, to escape a predator. The twitching tail jumps around on its own, hopefully distracting the predator so the little anole can get away. Then he grows back a new tail. Amazing nature.
Audubon NC staffers just spotted the first Least Tern of the spring, standing on a sandbar in Topsail Inlet. It was nonchalantly preening, most likely after a long trip north from Central or South America.
The Least Tern's name reflects its small size compared to the Common Tern. It is only about 9 inches long, with a 20 inch wingspan, weighing 1.5 ounces. Males and females look the same; they are easily identified due to their yellow bill, which is unique among terns.
Despite the fact that it is the smallest of the terns, it is assertive about defending its nest and can be seen diving at intruders, including people if they come too close. Habitats are sandy or gravelly coastal areas adjacent to the shallow water where they feed; they are also found along inland river banks and lakes with broad exposed sandbars.
They eat small fish, crustaceans and insects, as well as small mollusks or worms. Both the male and the female build the nest, incubate the eggs, and care for the young.
Least Terns leave in the fall and move to tropical waters further south to Central and South America. Sounds like the right idea!
The Great Egret is distinguished from the Snowy Egret by his yellow bill, black legs and greater size, with a wingspan up to 4 feet. He likes to stand in the marsh for long periods of time and wait for the quick kill. The male builds the nest in a tall tree in the spring and attracts the female in this endeavor. The young egrets in their nest can be aggressive toward each other, sometimes killing the weaker siblings.
The great egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, perhaps partly due to their conservation success story. Because of their beautiful plumage, their numbers were reduced 95% in the 19th century due to hatmakers' demand for the feathers. After legal protection was passed in this century, they are now abundant and thriving in many coastal areas of the world.
Populating in colonies, often with Great Blue Herons , the egrets are a delightful inhabitant to observe - simple beauty, majesty and solitary grace.
A skink by any other name is still a skink . Perfect name for this slithery lizard, apparently the most "diverse" of the lizard family, with over 1200 species. This little guy can also drop off his tail when threatened by a predator, and it sits there twitching to distract the enemy while he gets away.
Not sure why people would keep these as pets but some do. Gives a whole new meaning to the term "pet." You have to feed them insects, worms and even small rodents... now that would be worth watching.
The wild silkworm moth has "eyespots," believed to be his means to scare off birds. The eyes resemble those of bird predators like primates or cats. However, a recent study cited by National Geographic found that the eyes are simply large, "loud" markings that scare off the birds.
The beautiful moth emerges from its cocoon, does not feed but lives only on that which was consumed as a caterpillar. He only lives to mate, perhaps that same day or within a couple of days. His potential mate emits pheromones that the male can detect from miles away. He finds her, they mate, she lays eggs, then they die.
UNCW's Professor Jamie Rotenberg is our resident expert on the beautiful songbirds called Painted Buntings . He has enlisted several hundred volunteers - from here to Florida - to monitor the movements of the painted buntings.
They only live along the coastal southeastern United States, so Wilmington is as far north as they seem to go. They winter in Florida and even Cuba, and fly back north to the same areas they left. Dr. Rotenberg and his team band individual birds so they can track their movements. Interested birdwatchers as well as the scientists are part of the Painted Bunting Observer Team (PBOT)
Audubon has put them on their watch list due to population declines. No one is certain why they're declining, however degrading habitats and the bird trade in Mexico are considered the primary reasons.
If you live near a marsh or low shrubbery, you might see them in the spring and summer. Dr. Rotenberg advises to put out a feeder with white millet - that's the "whipped cream" for painted buntings.