Animals In The Mighty Oak

Want to learn more about the animals in the Mighty Oak graphic? Read on.

Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Gray squirrel © Kaiya Santos
Gray squirrel © Kaiya Santos

Gray squirrels are typically 17 to 20 inches long. They have large fluffy tails that are almost half their body length. They are typically gray with a white underside, but some can be black, brown, or white. At home in oak forests, they are also very comfortable in suburban and urban areas. Read more about squirrels in Massachusetts.


Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)

Little brown bat © NPS
Little brown bat © NPS
Also known as the little brown myotis, it was once the most common bat species in our state, but populations have declined sharply due to an introduced fungal disease called White Nose Syndrome. After a newborn little brown bat is born, its mother will bring it with her for the first few days as she goes out hunting at night! Learn More

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

White tailed deer © Richard Johnson
White tailed deer © Richard Johnson
The white-tailed deer loves to eat acorns. It will also browse the twigs of oaks (and many other plants) in the winter when food is scarce. Like the domestic cow, the deer belongs to a suborder of animals called ruminants, and will regurgitate and chew on partially digested food called “cud”. Discover More

White-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)

White-footed mouse © NPS
White-footed mouse © NPS

This rodent lives in wooded or shrubby habitat and is an adept climber. Don’t confuse it with the non-native house mouse: the white-footed mouse is brown on top and bright white below, with—yes—white fur on its feet; the house mouse, a more familiar sight in urban areas, is grayer.


Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus)

Great horned owl © Phil Sorrentino
Great horned owl © Phil Sorrentino

A large owl, it has prominent tufts of feathers on its head that look like horns. Listen for males and females hooting at each other during the winter months. Though the female great horned owl is larger, the male has a deeper voice. Learn more about owls in Massachusetts. 


Black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Black-capped chickadee © David Parish
Black-capped chickadee © David Parish

This lively, bold animal is the state bird of Massachusetts. Its “chick-a-dee” call is distinctive, and scientists have discovered that the number of “dees” at to the end of this call indicates the threat level posed by predator (at least, as determined by the chickadee). Find out more


Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Wild turkey © Rosemary Mosco, Mass Audubon
Wild turkey © Rosemary Mosco, Mass Audubon

The wild turkey was hunted to extinction in Massachusetts by the late 1800s. It was successfully reintroduced the 1970s, and is now found all across the state. This bird readily eats acorns, beechnuts, and other wild nuts. Learn More


Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Red-tailed hawk © George McLean
Red-tailed hawk © George McLean

It’s one of our largest, most common hawks, and is found across the United States. Look for this raptor hanging on out light posts alongside highways, which makes for great birding on long car trips. Juveniles lack the characteristic red tail, and instead have brown and white striped tails. Read this species’ account in our Breeding Bird Atlas 2.


White-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

White-breasted nuthatch © Meyer Franklin
White-breasted nuthatch © Meyer Franklin

An agile bird, it will descend trees head-first as it searches for insects in the bark. It will also eat seeds and nuts, wedging them in a bark crevice and opening them with its chisel-like bill. Listen for this species’ familiar whining “yank yank yank” call. Learn More


Pileated woodpecker (Hylatomus pileatus)

Pileated woodpecker © Kim Nagy
Pileated woodpecker © Kim Nagy

Have you ever found a large rectangular hole in a tree? You’re looking at the work of this master chiseler. The pileated woodpecker excavates rectangle-shaped cavities in trees as it searches for its preferred food: carpenter ants. It also creates its nesting hole in a large tree. Read more about woodpeckers in Massachusetts.


Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina)

Eastern box turtle © Joy Marzolf, Mass Audubon
Eastern box turtle © Joy Marzolf, Mass Audubon

You won’t see this turtle basking on a log in a pond. It’s mostly terrestrial, wandering along fields and the forest floor in search of plants and animals to eat. It makes a dome of grasses or leaves—called a form—to sleep in for the night. Discover more about turtle species in Massachusetts.


Snowy tree cricket (Oecanthus fultoni)

Snowy tree cricket © Sally King, NPS
Snowy tree cricket © Sally King, NPS

This species is also known as the thermometer cricket, since it chirps faster at higher temperatures. You’ve probably heard its calls in the movies—it’s frequently used as the background noise in nighttime scenes.


Luna moth (Actias luna)

Luna moth © Jane Morrison
Luna moth © Jane Morrison

The luna is a large, distinctive moth with moon-shaped spots on its mint-green wings. It lays its eggs on several tree species, especially birches. While a luna moth caterpillar eats vegetation, the adult doesn’t eat—and doesn’t even have a mouth!


Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

Cecropia moth © Elaine Gauthier
Cecropia moth © Elaine Gauthier

This spectacular animal is our largest native moth. Like the luna, the cecropia caterpillar eats plant material, but the adult lacks a mouth and does not feed. Its name originates from Cecrops, a mythical king of the ancient city of Athens. Read all about the Cecropia moth on our Your Great Outdoors blog.


Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar)

Gypsy moth © Rosemary Mosco, Mass Audubon
Gypsy moth © Rosemary Mosco, Mass Audubon

Originally from Europe and Asia, it was accidentally introduced to the Boston area in the 1860s and soon spread throughout the US. The caterpillar voraciously eats leaves, and can severely damage oak trees. In recent years, a fungus native to Japan has dramatically reduced gypsy moth populations.


Caterpillar

Caterpillar © Richard Johnson
Caterpillar © Richard Johnson

Every fluttering moth and butterfly was once a caterpillar that hatched from an egg. Like all insects, the caterpillar has six legs. These are located near the front of its body. Farther down its body, it has leg-like appendages called prolegs. Kids can learn all about caterpillars with this activity page.