Celebrate World Wildlife Day with Shelby Farms Park on March 3! With 4,500 acres of land and 20+ lakes and ponds, we are home to countless species of wildlife. To get everyone excited about this holiday, here are some highlights of the various birds, plants and flowers, mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles that you should be on the lookout for at the Park!
Head to one of our lakes and chances are, you may see a Mallard Duck. Known for their signature emerald green head, these are the most common wild duck in North America. Male Mallards are referred to as “drakes” and females are referred to as “hens.” Both possess a vivid blue stripe on the back edge of their wings. They have thick, fluffy feathers close to their body to keep them warm, and feathers that are made waterproof by a liquid that is produced near their tail, on top of the other feathers. These migrating ducks can fly up to 40 mph and may lose up to 20-50% of their body weight during their journey.
Come summer, one beautiful flower that you can witness blooming at the Park is the Golden Tickseed. A part of the sunflower family, this flower’s plant can grow anywhere from 8 inches to 5 feet tall. However, most are in the 2-3 feet range. This flower gets its peculiar name from the fact that post-flowering, it produces small, dry, fruits that resemble bugs, or ticks. The invitingly beautiful Golden Tickseed is also known to attract bees and butterflies, which makes it all the more appropriate for World Wildlife Day.
Though buffalo are not native to the Park (they were brought here in 1989 by Tommy Hill), they are still an animal that thrives here and one that we revere so much, we made it our logo! You may have heard these huge (they can weigh up to a ton and are North America’s largest land animal!) creatures referred to bison and been confused about what to actually call them. The answer is that if you want to be more scientific, you can use “bison,”but the name “buffalo” is more closely connected to the animal’s history in the Western United States. In the wild, buffalo tend to give birth during thunderstorms as a safety measure for their calves so that the sounds and smells associated with the birth are masked and it is harder for predators to find them. And speaking of baby buffaloes, we had 12 at the park last year! Come and see our favorite animal at the Park!
Largemouth Bass can be found in our Shelby Farms Park ponds and lakes. These solitary fish tend to hang out on their own and are also known to be the predator within their environment. They possess what is called a “lateral line” that gives them a strong ability to detect even the smallest vibrations in the water. If you’re a fisherman, (and bass are the official sport fish of Tennessee), one thing to keep in mind is that bass can “learn from their mistakes.” If they are able to escape a fisherman’s line once, it is likely that they will internalize this and know to avoid similar hooks and lures in the future. It is also believed that bass are able to see the color red most distinctly. Bass typically live to be about 16 years old, but have been known to make it all the way to 20.
One of the many reptiles that lives at the Park is the Eastern Box Turtle. This turtle, which is the state reptile of Tennessee, gets its name from the fact that it is able to completely box itself inside of its shell, which other turtles are not able to do. However, because of their extensive shell and short legs, if they somehow roll onto their back, it is very unlikely that they are able to roll themselves back over. Up until they reach the age of 7, their shell is soft which makes them an easy target for predators. However, most do end up living to be about 30 years old, and some even make it all the way to 100! Come see Tennessee’s favorite turtle! But remember, if it’s hot out, they like to hide in the mud.
The Park is also home to North America’s largest frog, the Bullfrog. This amphibian can be as long as 8 inches and can weight up to 1.5 pounds. You can spot them by their green skin with brown spots and their circular, exterior eardrums (tympanum), which are easily seen on either side of their head. It’s even easier to find them by following their signature call which sounds like a cow’s moo. It is this call that got the frog its name. This invasive species can be not only be found all over the country, but also in Europe and Asia.
Where else are you able to find such a wide variety of wild species in the middle of urban America? Now that you know what to look for, come explore your Park today!
Work is being done by MLG&W near the Walnut Grove bridge at the Wolf River in the Lucius Burch Natural Area. Pleaes be alert in this area.