Animal Species of North America

January 15th, 2019

Canada lynx
Canada Lynx

North America is a continent with diverse terrain and a wide range of climates, making it a suitable home for a huge number of unique species. Counting mammals alone, North America has around 457 species. There are 914 bird species on the continent.

North America includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Greenland. The biodiversity of such a large area can be staggering. In this article, we'll narrow it down to just a few notable examples of North American wildlife.

Our first subject is an interesting cat, followed by a larger than average woodpecker. But we're not restricted to fur and feathers. There's a brief look at a bug and a trout too.

Now, let's get started with our first North American animal!

Canada Lynx

All kinds of lynx have a short tail, tufts of hair tipping their ears, and big paws for getting around in snow. The name lynx can apply to four species, the Canadian variety that we'll be looking at, plus the Iberian lynx, the Eurasian lynx, and the bobcat.

The Canada lynx is one of the smaller types. They live in forests and tundra regions of North America, specifically in Canada, Alaska, and certain northern parts of the US.

This cat excels at climbing and swimming, but it's primary food is on (or under) the ground—the Canada lynx eats snowshoe hares and little else. In fact, the snowshoe hare population in a given area has a lot to do with the how heathy the Canada lynx's population is.

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

With all the conventionally appealing animals in North America, a moth may seem like a strange subject, but the Luna moth has its own unique type of beauty. Lime-green colored wings and a white body catch the eye, especially with a moth of such size. Most specimens have a wingspan of about 4.5 in and some have been measured at 7 in!

Scientists believe that the Luna moth's twin tails are there to confuse bats' radar. The eyespots that appear on each wing, which are also thought to confuse predators, can be edged with a streak of black, blue, red, yellow, green, or white.

Here's something weird. Adult Luna moths don't eat. They have vestigial mouthparts, but all their nutrients come from fat that was stored during the caterpillar stage of their life.

Pileated Woodpecker


Next up, we have a very large woodpecker. The pileated woodpecker is a striking bird with bold markings and a bright red crest. That crest is what the term "pileated" is referring to—the Latin pileatus means "capped."

At 19 in long and weighing as much as 14 oz, the pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America (unless someone spots an Ivory-bill, which is widely thought to be extinct).

The pileated woodpecker digs deep gouges into rotten trees to eat carpenter ants. The ants can comprise as much as 60 percent of a pileated woodpecker's diet, but the birds also like to eat termites, beetle larvae, wild berries, fruits, and nuts.

Brook Trout


Our next North American animal is the Brook trout. It is native to the eastern US and Canada, but they have been stocked all over the world, including in Iceland, Europe, and Asia.

This stunner of a fish features a dark green to brown hue, but the markings on its back are what really pop. There is a unique marbled pattern that, in some specimens, can look like an intricate fashion print. There are also colorful dots on the fish's sides—usually red circles rimmed in blue.

Brook trout can get pretty large, with some reaching almost 26 in and weighing well over 6 lb. That makes them popular with anglers, especially those who prefer fly fishing. The current world record brook trout was landed by a doctor in Ontario, Canada in 1915. The fish was 31 in long and weighed over 14 lb!

Flying Squirrel

Flying Squirrel

We’ll close out this brief pass at North American animals with the flying squirrel.

First off, they can't really fly; they glide from tree to tree, with remarkable accuracy, by extending a membrane that stretches from their forepaws to their rear legs. They use their arms and legs to shape the membrane as a means of steering while in the air, with their tail adding stability and serving as a brake to slow them down right before reaching a tree trunk.

Flying squirrels come out almost exclusively at night, partly because they aren't very good at escaping from birds of prey. Their diet is diverse and includes seeds, bugs, snails, shrubs, flowers, bird's eggs, and pretty much anything else they can find. Flying squirrels have a very good sense of smell, which helps them find food in the dark.

Just because they have no wings to flap doesn’t mean flying squirrels can't soar. By shifting their parachute-like membrane, they can actually achieve lift. The longest recorded flight by a flying squirrel was a startling 300 ft!