It is increasingly apparent that landbird (songbird) populations are facing a growing number of environmental threats. Habitat loss, climatic changes, loss of ozone, and toxic pollution are just a few of the major threats that these populations must continually face. Studies have shown that monitoring landbird populations over a long period of time is helpful in predicting changes in populations as well as the factors that contribute to these changes. Monitoring programs are essential to reversing declines in North American landbird populations.
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is part of a National banding program consisting of public agencies, private organizations, and bird banders of the United States and Canada to monitor landbird populations. This program, called Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS), was initiated in 1989 by the Institute for Bird Populations to operate a continent-wide network of constant-effort mist-netting stations to capture and band landbirds during the breeding season. There are over 500 stations across North America that participate in the MAPS program. The major objective of the MAPS program is to contribute to the avian population monitoring system for North American landbird species by providing the data necessary to estimate adult population size, post-fledging productivity, adult survivorship, and recruitment into the adult population.
Marsupials - primitive animals that bear their young prematurely then shelter them in the mother's pouch (the marsupium) until they are fully developed. The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found in North America. They are mostly nocturnal. Slightly larger than a house cat, the opossum is found in upland habitats and eats carrion (dead animals), but it also eats frogs, birds, fruits, other mammals, eggs and insects. Identified by their pointed nose, white face, course rat-like tail and coarse fur.
Moles - spend much of their life underground. Moles are small mammals with tiny eyes(if any at all), strong front feet, and powerful claws for digging. Signs include low ridges on the surface of the ground caused by their tunneling activities. Two moles are found in this area: the starnose mole and the hairytail mole.
Starnose moles are identified by the unique star-shaped fleshy projections around the nose. These projections are sensitive feelers, aiding the starnose mole in locating prey as they have poor eyesight. They prefer moist soils and are known to be excellent swimmers. The diet of the starnose mole consists of aquatic insects and earthworms.
Hairytail moles are similar to starnose moles, but they lack the fleshy projections around the nose and they prefer drier sandy soils.
Shrews - small (mouse sized) fierce mammals that have 5 toes on each foot. They typically prefer areas with moist soils. Shrews' diet consists mostly of insects and earthworms, although they will also kill and eat other mammals twice their size. Common shrews in this area are the masked shrew and the shorttail shrew.
Masked shrews have grayish brown fur and a long tail. They prefer moist areas of forest, meadows and brushlots.
Shorttail shrews are lead colored, have a noticeably short tail and tiny eyes that are barely visible. They are found throughout the refuge.
Bats - the only mammals capable of true flight. A membrane of skin that extends between the bones of the hand to the forearm, continuing along the side of the body to the hind leg. Most bats also have a membrane connecting their hind legs. These nocturnal animals mostly eat insects. As a substitute for poor eyesight, bats use echolocation to permit them to fly in darkness. They emit high-pitched sounds that bounce off objects and echo back to the large sensitive ears of bats. The following list is based mostly on reported range and can probably all be found at Montezuma:
Little Brown Myotis (Little brown bat) - known to be common near the Visitor Center Big Brown Bat - known to be found on the refuge Red Bat Keen Myotis Small-footed Myotis Silver-haired bat Eastern pipistrelle Hoary Bat
Rabbits - Cottontails are the only rabbits found in this area. This common mammal is known for their long ears, long hind legs and a short cottony tail. The preferred habitat of the cottontail rabbit includes areas with heavy brush, stripes of forests with open areas nearby, edges of swamps and weed patches. Cottontails are mostly active from early evening to late morning. They burrow in the ground or beneath brush piles. In the summer, cottontails feed on green vegetation and in the winter bark and twigs.
Rodents - small to medium sized mammals that have 4 prominent incisors used for gnawing. Rodents found at Montezuma include the eastern chipmunk, woodchuck, eastern gray squirrel, red squirrel, northern and southern flying squirrels, beaver, muskrat, deer mouse, white-footed mouse, meadow vole, Norway rat, house mouse, meadow jumping mouse, woodland jumping mouse.
Eastern chipmunks are ground lovers that can be found throughout the drier brushy or wooded areas of the refuge. They have striped backs and checks. They eat seeds, nuts, fruits. and an occasional insect. Woodchucks are commonly found in open woods, bushy and rocky ravines. They are active mostly in the daytime. They feed on tender succulent plants. Woodchucks den in extensive burrows with 2 or more openings. Burrows may be 4 to 5 feet deep and 25 to 30 feet long. From October to February the woodchuck hibernates. Woodchucks are stocky animals with short dark brown or black legs.
Eastern gray squirrels are usually grayish in color with a bushy tail. Found in areas where there are mast-producing trees. Trees are used for dens or the construction of leaf nests. Their diet consists of nuts, seeds, fungi, fruit, and the inner bark of trees.
Red Squirrels - are much smaller than gray squirrels. The red squirrel's diet consists of seeds, nuts, eggs, and fungi. They are quite common in coniferous woods where they feed on nuts found in pine cones. A good sign of their presence is a midden pile (collection of scales from pine cones and the stripped core of cones). Esker Brook Trail is a great location to find red squirrels. They usually greet people with noisy chatter from the treetops.
Flying squirrels - are strictly nocturnal and seldom seen. They don't actually fly, but glide using the flaps of skin that run along the sides of their body. Flying squirrels prefer wooded areas where they make nests in cavities, nest boxes or nests constructed of tree bark, twigs and leaves. They feed on seeds, nuts, fruits, and bird eggs.
Beaver - North America's largest member of the rodent family. Chocolate colored fur, large incisors and a large flat tail are the key characteristics. Beavers mate for life and are mostly nocturnal. They build large log and mud dams and lodges. The beaver consumes bark of deciduous trees and is particularly fond of swamp white oak and birch.
Muskrats - Much smaller than beavers a (size of a house cat), muskrats have long rat-like tails. They can be frequently seen swimming in the water or feeding on plants next to water. Muskrat houses are made of mud, cattail and other marsh plants. Their feeding and material gathering for the construction of houses creates opening in marsh vegetation that are important for other wildlife such as black terns, Canada geese and great blue herons. The diets of muskrats include cattails, bulrushes, pondweeds and water lilies.
Deer Mice and white-footed mice - small white-bellied, white-footed brown mice that are very similar in appearance. They feed on seeds, nuts, acorns, and insects. Found in a variety of dry habitats.
Meadow Vole - This small grassland mammal is famous for making runways through matted grass. Feeds on seeds and grasses. These small rodents have small ears, small black eyes and a relatively short tail. Their fur is brown and fairly long.
Norway Rat - Known as the house rat or brown rat, this rodent is identified by its grayish-brown color and long scaly tail. The Norway rat eats fruits, grain, vegetables, carrion, fresh meat and garbage.
Coyote - The size of a medium-sized dog, Coyotes are fairly common, but rarely seen. Fur color varies greatly. When running, coyotes hold their tails between their hind legs. They are omnivorous, feeding on carrion, small mammals and vegetation.
Red Fox and Gray Fox - Both are smaller than the coyote. They eat a considerable amount of plant material, especially fruits and berries. Unlike the coyote, they hold their tail straight out when running. Red foxes have black legs and feet despite having fur that may be red, gray or black. The best characteristic for identifying the red fox is the white- tipped tail. They are commonly observed near the office, Visitor Center field and along the Wildlife Drive.
The more secretive gray fox is primarily nocturnal. The fur of the gray fox is mottled gray or brownish gray. Its tail is black-tipped. The gray fox is North America's only canid that is known to climb trees to escape danger.
Raccoon - Identified by the black mask and ringed tail. They feed on fruits, seeds,grasses, eggs, insects, and frogs.
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"Thanks to the growing strength of environmental organizations, there will always be some back country to provide us with a touch of wonder and a breath of fresh air." -- Wallace Stegner 1991