Many of us know that the Eastern Bluebird is the New York state bird, but what about other living things that represent our state? I thought it would be interesting to list some plants and animals that represent the state of New York when it comes to nature, and to briefly describe the physical and behavioral characteristics of some of these organisms.
Thanks to a note from Warren McPherson who suggested this topic, I will start with the Eastern Bluebird. I doubt there are any who are not familiar with this attractive and friendly bird that enjoys nesting in boxes constructed by us or in natural tree cavities. As described by our earlier naturalists, it is a bird that needs no introduction. The other living creatures that are reported as indicative of New York state are the brook trout, beaver, ladybird beetle, wild rose, snapping turtle and sugar maple tree.
I will describe each of the organisms over the next two weeks, in hopes of acquainting you with the living things that have been selected as our state's nature symbols.
Starting with the Eastern Bluebird, it is, without question, a very familiar bird to most. There are probably many of you who have, at one time or another, constructed a bluebird house, or you know of a bluebird house in or near your neighborhood. Bluebird houses are a common project for many school children. They are found in many locations that face open fields, allowing the birds to come and go while searching for food. I have one on my property that was built by Cassidy Furman as part of her class activity. The bluebird is both an all-year and migratory species. It is a member of the thrush family, which includes the very familiar American robin. The female bluebird is usually responsible for building the nest from two to 20 feet above the ground in early April, which may contain three to six eggs.
The beaver, well known for its characteristic activity of constructing dams and huts, is found in many of our county's streams and ponds. Those of you familiar with this animal's behavior have experienced its loud squeal and tail smacking the water just before diving under. While it is observed during the day, it is primarily a nocturnal animal.
It prefers feeding on aspen, poplar, birch, maple, willow and alder trees. A gregarious animal that shows a slow movement on land, they are rapid swimmers. They have been timed to have been submerged under water for as long as 15 minutes. While they do not have a vocal sound as we are used to with some mammals, biologists have experienced them making various low-frequency sounds while submerged under water. Due to the popularity of the fur, the beaver was almost extirpated from some areas by early settlers.
The next animal that I will include in this week's article is the brook trout. Native to most of North America, it prefers clear, cool, well-oxygenated creeks, small to medium rivers, and lakes. They are fond of crayfish, frogs and other small amphibians, such as salamanders and aquatic insects, and have even been observed enjoying a meal of small mammals, such as voles, as well as worms and flies.
Since this is my first two-week edition of this article, I will conclude this week's topic with the lady bug. Sometimes referred to as the ladybird beetle, it is a member of a large group of beetles well known for their predation on other insects such as aphids, mites and other injurious insects. Farmers have used them to combat other insects that are damaging to orchards and farms. Sometimes we can see these beetles in our window and doors in fall or spring. While I have touted them as positive, for some there are some species whereby the larvae and adults have been serious garden pests.
I remind you, again, of the method for contacting me with article ideas and photographs. When sending a picture by U.S. mail, please put your name, address and the name of the organism on the back and send it to me at 38 Elm St., Fredonia, NY 14063. If sending by Internet, send the photo or article idea to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.