Welcome to Animals in Deleware.
Are you curious to learn about animals in Delaware? Delaware is the second-smallest state in the country, located between Pennsylvania and Maryland. All three states share the Delmarva Peninsula. Most of Delaware is on a coastal plain that is at sea level.
On the southern side of the state are rolling forests and hills and large farmland stretches which means there are wonderful natural places for animals to make their habitat. It is a small state and unfortunately, agriculture, development, and industrialization have destroyed a lot of some of the animal’s natural habitat, the wetlands – only about 25% remains today.
Fortunately, steps have been taken to preserve the remaining wetlands.
Let’s look at what fantastic animals in Delaware:
The chipmunk is a small species, reaching about 12 inches in length including the tail. It doesn’t weigh a whole lot either, around 150 grams. Its body has reddish-brown fur on with dark brown stripes and light brown ones along its back. It has a tawny stripe running from its whiskers to below the ears with light stripes over the eyes.
They really are entertaining little creatures to watch in the forest. Their cheeks are chubby, their eyes are round and big, and they have bushy tails. They are at home on the forest floor where they also can run and hide from predators such as foxes, hawks, weasels, snakes, and coyotes. Being herbivores, they enjoy feeding on berries, insects, seeds, fungus, and grains.
They stuff this into their cheek pouches and carry it off to the burrow to store. Along the path, they are also spreading seeds of the trees and other plants. They live in burrows which they live in for several years, filling the space with leaves, grass, and seeds. It stores its own nuts and seeds underneath this bedding. These eventually grow into plants. The chipmunk does hibernate, but it doesn’t sleep continuously right through the winter.
They wake up during winter and feed on their cache of seeds and nuts they have stored for the winter. They are solitary creatures, and usually ignore each other until the mating time starts. When they hear a threat they make repeated shrill bird-like calls. No wonder people love the chipmunk and even movies have been made of them – remember the movie Chip ‘n Dale by the famous Walt Disney?
There was a time when the numbers of the exquisite eastern bluebirds were declining as their habitat and nesting sites were being lost. Fortunately, their numbers have increased again. He flutters down from branches to the ground to catch insects.
But it will also hover in the air and grab something to eat before it lands. It also feeds on berries and insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, and earthworms. Their nests are usually about 20 feet off the ground and made up of twigs, weeds, and dry grass. The bird has a round belly, short legs, and long wings. It has a short, straight black bill.
They are mostly identified by their bright blue heads as well as their wings being bright blue. The throats are rust-colored and both males and females have white stomachs. Their predators are snakes, black bears, cats, raccoons, and Eastern chipmunks. They are super skilled fliers and have amazing vision as well, noticing an insect on the ground from a distance of 60 feet! They sing to stay in touch with other members of the flock. Can you believe that they also lay eggs that are pale blue?
Delaware’s state marine animal is the horseshoe crab. But it looks more like a prehistoric creature that existed along with the dinosaurs! It’s strange to think they are related to scorpions and spiders. They have a hard exoskeleton and 10 legs to stand their ground on the ocean floor. Its body has three sections; the first part is the head which looks like a horseshoe.
The head is the biggest part of its body and contains most of the nervous and biological organs. Its head has the heart, mouth, glands, brain, and nervous system in it all protected by a large plate that protects the eyes as well. Around the crab, there are nine eyes and it’s got other light receptors situated near the tail. The two largest eyes search for mates.
The middle part of the body is the abdomen, shaped like a triangle. It has spines on the side with a ridge in the center. The spines can move and protect the crab. It also has gills for breathing. The third section is the tail, called the telson. It is long and pointed and looks like a weapon, although it is not dangerous or even poisonous. But they use it to flip themselves over again if they land on their backs. They grow about 15 inches long. They lay their eggs on the beaches in late summer and spring.
A lot of the shorebirds, turtles, and fish look for crab eggs and eat them as an important part of their diet. The crab’s diet consists of worms and clams, and they also eat algae. Because this crab doesn’t have teeth, it crushes the food between its legs before it brings it to its mouth. It can live for over 20 years. Threats to them are habitat loss and overharvesting. When it is a full moon, new moon, or high tides, the horseshoe crabs gather in their thousands on Delaware Bay to breed.
The grey fox became the official state icon of animal in Delaware, 2010. This cute little animal is a mammal and ranges through many of the states of North America, particularly the southern side. It is a peppery-grey color on the top of his body and is reddish-brown on the sides and chest. Its legs and feet are also reddish in color. It has a bushy tail with a black stripe on top. Its ears are pointed ears and he has a pointed muzzle and long hooked claws.
It often forages for food by climbing trees and even has been seen to rest in a tree. It makes its den in caves and rocky crevices, trees, and hollow logs. Sometimes if it finds a woodchuck burrow, it will use it as its den. They usually use the den only during the mating season and when they are raising their young. Its most important habitat is a wooded area or brush.
The fox is a solitary hunter. It also eats a variety of foods such as mice, wolves, small mammals, and eastern cottontail rabbits. It will also eat insects and plants as well as corn, grass, and berries. When they find crickets and grasshoppers, they will also eat them.
It’s the smallest falcon in North America; the American kestrel, and is just 12 inches in length. It has a rust-colored tail. Two vertical black stripes are seen on its face. Its bill is hooked. It has white cheeks, long pointed wings, with white cheeks. The male’s wings are a slate-grey color and it has a spotted belly and breast. The female’s wings are a rusty color and she has streaks on her breast. This bird enjoys a meal of crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, and other insects.
It also eats small mammals, other small birds, amphibians, and reptiles. It will hover over its prey and then make a pounce. You will find this wonderful bird in almost any habitat that has open areas for it to hunt in, as well as tall places for it to perch. It’s the only North American falcon or hawk that nests in cavities, which it makes in trees, in woodpecker holes, under eaves, and in nesting boxes. Often they hunt in family groups giving the young the chance to try out their own hunting skills.
If ever you find yourself along a roadside, or in wide, open spaces, look out for this small colorful bird, usually perched on power lines. As winter sets in, they start heading for the warmer climates. Apart from their beautiful looks, they are outstanding fliers and astound with their incredible aerobatic abilities. They often help to keep agricultural fields free of pests that damage the crops so farmers enjoy having them around. They usually capture their prey on the ground, although they have been seen taking prey in the air. American Kestrels are solitary birds, spending most of their time alone, except in the breeding season.
The American mink is a member of the weasel family and has a similar body to that of the weasel. In the past, they were harvested for their fur, which is of beautiful quality and color, always thick and glossy, waterproof, and oily. You won’t find the American mink living in dry areas. He is found near streams, swamps, lakes, rivers, and marshes and also along the coastline.
Their habitat will be mainly dense vegetation because this provides them with plenty of cover. They are solitary animals. The males, particularly, are intolerant of each other. They are nocturnal and are mostly active at night time, particularly nearer dawn and dusk. They are very good climbers and swimmers. When they are looking for food, they can dive deep as much as 100 feet.
They will dig burrows in lakes, streams, and riverbanks or they will use old dens where other mammals have lived such as muskrats. Being carnivores, their diet will change with the season but in summer, they love small frogs and crayfish, rabbits, shrews, mice, and muskrats. They will sometimes even eat duck and other water birds as well as fish. They have outstanding vision, smell, and hearing skills. They kill snakes but they don’t eat them.
When we talk about whales, the sei whale is one of the fastest. It’s a solitary carnivore, feeding on krill, small fish, squid, and copepods. Its most distinctive feature is the tall, sickle-shaped dorsal fin. It’s white or light grey in color. It has other names too, such as Japan Finner, Lesser Fin Whale, Pollock Whale, Coalfish, Sardine Whale, and Rudolph’s Rorqual. It can swim at 32 mph and has a fantastic lifespan of around 70 years.
Can you believe it weighs around 31 tons with a length of 64 feet? It’s terrible to think that once, this magnificent creature was part of just a handful left in the world. Thank goodness it has made a comeback, and yet it is still classified as endangered. Sometimes it is hard to tell this whale apart from the fin whale. It seems strange that even though it is one of the largest animals around, its diet consists of some of the smallest ocean meals. It eats while it is on its side, with its mouth open. When it closes its mouth, it uses its tongue to push seawater out, leaving the food behind which it then gulps down. They need about 2000 pounds of food each day.
This whale is a baleen whale, meaning it has baleen plates in its mouth. It strains its food from the water. Even though this species is found in most oceans and seas of the world, it avoids water that is partially closed off such as the Mediterranean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. It’s sad to think that the only predators of the sei whales as scientists have discovered, are humans – unbelievable to think that between the 19th and 20th Century, a quarter of a million of these were killed. And yet they are so important to the ecosystem too. Just for example, they eat krill and other small marine that that would imbalance the ecosystem if their populations exploded.
The cougar is often referred to as the puma, maybe even a mountain lion or a panther. But it’s none of those – it’s the second-largest cat in North America. It might be large, but it doesn’t roar like a lion – instead, it purrs similar to a house cat. Even their bodies are like the house cat. They can weigh up to 100 pounds. They have a greyish-tan coloring and lighter underneath. The tail end has a black spot. It is at home in the mountains to the deserts.
As long as they have shelter and prey, they are fine. They like to prey on deer but will also prey on smaller animals and are known to even eat insects.
They will stay hidden from their prey, pouncing on it with their claws outstretched. They are excellent jumpers and can clear heights of about 20 feet. They don’t really have any predators, but they do compete with bears and wolves for food. These animals in Delaware are solitary creatures, only interacting with females to mate, and living to be around 10 years of age.
One venomous snake found in Delaware is the Eastern Copperhead. They are easy to identify, with their copper-colored head as well as their cat cat-like vertical pupils. It’s the only snake species in Delaware that has dark hourglass-shaped cross-bands on it, which become wider at the stomach area. They use their venom to catch prey and defend themselves.
They are also semi-aquatic. They grow to about 48 inches long. They are found near freshwater habitats and particularly like cypress swamps, flood plains, rivers, and heavily vegetated wetlands. You might see them gather around drying pools in wetlands waiting to feed on amphibians and trapped fish. They are found during the night and day, but like to forage mainly at night. In the day they bask on rocks and logs near the water’s edge. They seldom climb high trees.
They eat amphibians, lizards, snakes, small turtles, baby alligators, mammals, birds, and especially fish. When they swim, they can be easily recognized because most of their body is above the water’s surface. A bite from one of these animals in Delaware can cause severe tissue damage around the bite area, but a bit is rare. They spend the winter in communal dens which they seem to find each year, often joined by other snake species.
Summary on Animals in Delaware
Animal lovers will love:
- Tulip Tree Woods Nature Preserve
- The Great Marsh Preserve in Rehoboth, Delaware
- Lums Pond State Park
- Wild Lands Milford Neck Preserve
- Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Did you enjoy reading up about the animals in Deleware? Have a look at our American wildlife feature blogs.