Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What Birds Eat--Terrestrial Invertebrates

Caterpillar--terrestrial invertebrate--held by my 5-year-old niece.

I noticed that I am always mentioning aquatic or terrestrial invertebrates. These animals are tasty morsels for the birds and other animals. But many readers may wonder, "What are invertebrates and why are the birds always eating them?" Let's take a look at terrestrial invertebrates.

American Kestrel with a yummy little invertebrate. Probably a wasp. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve on the Bluff.

The definition of an invertebrate is animal without a backbone.
They may be soft like a slug, have a shell like a snail or clam, or a hard crunchy exoskeleton like an insect, grasshopper, or a spider. Many birds eat invertebrates like American Robins, Black Phoebes, and Hummingbirds. Even some hawks like the American Kestrel and the Cooper's Hawk eat invertebrates. Some invertebrates are very small--even almost microscopic. And some are large. Worms may be similar to our land worms or live in the water inside tubes with fan-like appendages at the end of the tube to collect food.

What makes invertebrates good food for birds?

Well, if you don't have teeth or something to tear into things well, you might go for something that's soft or a little crunchy without being too hard. They are a lot easier to eat than something with bones. They are usually smaller and softer. They are easier to eat, and very nutritious. They are also the most numerous type of animal life, and so they are not hard to find.
So invertebrates are
1) Often easy to eat.
2) Nutritious.
3) The most numerous type of animal on earth.
Examples of Invertebrates are
Worms Slugs, Snails, insects, spiders, scorpions, insects, centipedes, pill bugs, and much more.


Great section on invertebrates with photographs, illustrations, lots of information, and videos.

Easy to understand with pictures.

Here are examples of some invertebrates:


Arthropods have segmented bodies and jointed legs. The are the same on either side--ie "bilaterally symmetrical." Included under the Phylum Arthropoda are Insects, Arachnids (spiders, scorpions, ticks, etc), Millipedes, Centipedes, and Pill Bugs.

Oak Canyon Nature Center spider, an Arachnid

Terrestrial Arachnids (Spiders and others)

El Dorado Nature Center -- spider with prey. He's got it all wrapped up.

Arachnids Definition---Eight-legged, two segmented invertebrate.


Shipley Nature Center--Large spider suspended between branches of a tree.

Bold Jumper Spider on my patio in Fountain Valley. Yes, there are spiders like this in a residential Orange County neighborhood near you.


Short and informative article. From the University of Michigan.

Detailed article from the University of Michigan.

Visual Dictionary: Arachnids

Pictorial dictionary includes sound to assist reader with pronunciation.

Spiders on the Web

Orange County Spiders and other arachnids. Animated spider scurries across the page. See what we have crawling around the OC.

Other Terrestrial Arachnids


Iowa State University Entomology Library: Ticks

Scorpion in Arizona courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service Picture by Gary M. Stoltz


Desert USA: Scorpions

Spiders on the Web Orange County Spiders and other arachnids. Animated spider scurries across the page. See what we have crawling around the OC.


Definition--- Insects are Arthropods, too. Now what sets an insect apart is that it has its body segmented into three parts, and it has six legs.


The Visual Dictionary: Insects and Arachnids

Great multimedia source with drawings and audio.

Great resource for insects, arachnids, millipedes, centipedes and other creepy crawlers.


Oak Canyon Nature Center Butterfly

Butterflies and Moths

California Dogface butterfly on bush mallow at Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach

Mourning Cloaks at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach

Monarch Butterfly on bush mallow at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach

West Coast Lady at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach



OC butterflies shown with some great pictures.

Very cool place to take the kids or visit yourself. Right in Newport Beach visit an aviary full of native Orange County Butterflies. Very nice. Open in Spring and Summer.

Pavilion of Wings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History

In the mood for a drive and a bigger butterfly display--check out the LA Museum of Natural History Display. It is only through September 1st.

Bee on a wild rose. Note the pollen on her back leg.

Bees, Wasps, and Ants

Grasshopper headed for my geraniums.

Other related bugs

Millipede. Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife. Photographer Gary Stoltz.

Millipedes and Centipedes

Iowa State: Millipedes

Other Arthropods

The Bug Guide from Iowa State University

A Snail moving down a container.


Soft bodied invertebrates. Includes snails, slugs, mussels, shell fish.

Animal Diversity Web: Mollusks

Don't forget to look at all 13 pages. Great photos.


Mostly aquatic, Crustaceans have a hard exoskeleton and two antennae. Contains such diverse members as lobsters, crabs, crayfish, barnacles, krill, and terrestrial pill bugs.

Animal Diversity Web: Crustaceans

Lots of pictures. Good article.


The Adventures of Herman

Great site for kids and others about worms told in the story of Herman the Worm.

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