67 Fascinating Wildlife Facts That May Surprise You

On the surface level, we understand that animals, insects and marine wildlife are, physically, quite different from us. But once you start to look more closely at their behavior and biology, there is a whole world of interesting and unusual parts most of us had no idea about.

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Someone asked “What’s a fascinating fact about wildlife that most people are unaware of?” and people shared their best examples. From owl-head movements to the particularities of flamingo dining, get comfortable as you read through, upvote your favorites and be sure to share your own thoughts in the comments below.

#1

Owls bob their heads up and down to help improve their depth of perception.

You can try it out yourself. Focus on an object and bob your head. It doesn’t work for us, but you do look like an idiot.

Image credits: WhimsyyWhisperr_

#2

Manatees control their buoyancy by farting.

Image credits: MotaHead

#3

Elephants have a specific warning call that means “human.”.

Image credits: BurghFinsFan

#4

There are reports of elephants finding humans sleeping under trees and the elephants think they’re dead. People have woken up with elephants gently stroking them with their trunk and in some cases they try to cover them with branches and sticks as a “burial”

Elephants are one of the few animals who mourn their dead and have rituals.

#5

Crows can mimic human voices similar to parrots. I experienced that first hand while hunting on public land. Heard a little boy calling “MOM” “MOM!!” only to realize that the voice came from a crow flying overhead.

Image credits: Riflemaiden1992

#6

My favourite fact ever: penguins have knees. Will never not baffle me. Knees.

Image credits: leclercwitch

#7

Every single whiptail lizards is female. They reproduce by parthenogenesis, a natural form of asexual reproduction.

Image credits: look_a_male_nurse

#8

Vultures are really important for the ecosystems they live in, but a lot of vulture species are critically endangered due to human activity. Vultures have stomach acid so powerful that it can destroy things like botulism and anthrax, thus cleaning up the environment when they eat rotting meat that contains those things. There is evidence for a correlation between the drastic decline in India’s vulture population and the boom in the stray dog population, since less vultures means there is more food for the dogs to scavenge. This has also sadly led to a rise in rabies which kills many people and animals. Many people find vultures scary, but for the most part they are harmless and we really need to have them around. Please consider supporting vulture conservation projects.

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#9

Flamingos are not naturally pink. They are born grey. But their feathers turn pink because of their diet of shrimp and algae.

IntelligentHippo4245:
To add on to Flamingos, they can lose their color when raising their babies because it’s so intense of an experience.

Image credits: GaryNOVA

#10

A flamingo’s head has to be upside down when it eats. This is interesting to know!

Image credits: angelLaguna1

#11

Ants have disinfectant saliva, and some actually treat the wounds of their fellow ants.

Image credits: AntsAllRound

#12

Raccoons have the most soft, velvety, devilish little hands.

Baby raccoons purr and knead like kittens. Did not know this myself until last spring when a wildlife rehabber posted a call to arms for people to help. (Figured I’ve raised enough neonatal kittens, my experience would be helpful.)

A ban has been lifted in my state and people are poisoning adult raccoons without considering the babies they are orphaning. Last year I raised and released 11. So far this year I’ve raised and released 27. I’ve also officially become a wildlife rehabber. One of the females I raised last year showed back up, babies in tow! Wasn’t sure how she’d respond after being away for a bit but she let me check her out and treat her battle wounds.

#13

The Mayfly’s adult lifespan is so short they are born without a mouth.

Image credits: agitator775

#14

Opossums brains are about 1/5th the size of other mammals their size. And mostly smooth, so precious and so dumb.
Eponarose:
Amazing Opossum Fact 1: It is extremely rare for them to have rabies!
Amazing Opossum Fact 2: They were used in the development of anti-venom!

Image credits: email_queen

#15

Caribou & Reindeer are the same species. Their ankles make a clicking sound when walking. It helps the herd follow each other in snowstorms. My knees make clicking sounds…but that’s just lack of cartilage?.

#16

Pigeons produce milk.

Image credits: cat9tail

#17

Young goats pick up accents from each other, joining humans, bats, and whales as mammals known to adjust their vocal sounds to fit into a new social group.

Image credits: soragoncannibal

#18

Penguins mate for life. The male penguins scour the shores for a beautiful stone and then proposes. If the female accepts, they mate for life. Also, the female goes to hunt after the egg is laid while the male watches/sits on eggs.

#19

There is a type of mouse that behaves like a tiny wolf. Members of this species travel in packs, hunt live prey, and even howl. It is called the Grasshopper Mouse, named for one of its primary food sources.

#20

There are coyotes in every major city in the USA. If you’re in the US, you’re likely less than 1mi away from one.

Edit: contiguous USA.

Image credits: CariocaInLA

#21

Elephants can’t jump.

Image credits: TheFuckeryIsReal

#22

One fascinating fact about wildlife that often surprises people is that some species of octopuses are known to use tools. They’ve been observed collecting coconut shell halves and using them as portable shelters.

#23

If you put a hamster wheel in the middle of the forest, you’d expect that small creatures would ignore it. They don’t. Instead, they absolutely love it! Scientists believe it’s because it provides some kind of novel stimulation that hits the core of most animal brains!

#24

The tongue of a woodpecker is longer than it's head, for a couple reasons. The more obvious one is so that it can reach far into the holes it pecks for insects to eat. The less obvious reason is that it cushions the bird's brain so it can peck trees without hurting itself. How does it do this? Because the tongue WRAPS AROUND the brain to keep it from moving! Edit: it's not just the tongue, but the entire bony apparatus which houses the tongue. This section of the skull has soft, spongy sections which do help to protect the brain while pecking

#25

I’ve told this one before, but some bar-tailed godwits (a wading bird) fly from Alaska to Australia non-stop in the longest continuous migration of any bird (maybe any creature).

To do this, they shrink their internal organs so they can pack more fat (for energy) into their body. They’re basically balls of fat when they take off. And when they’re in flight, they shut most of their organs down to devote all energy to flying.

And they’re just medium sized nondescript brown birds that peck around in the mud. I love wading birds, man.

#26

You can’t cull coyote populations. Through howling they know how many are in their pack and if the number drops the females will respond by having larger litters. Killing coyotes just creates more coyotes.

#27

Rats have collapsible ribcages – it’s why they can fit through such small crevices.

Image credits: Express_Hedgehog2265

#28

Whale milk is the same consistency as toothpaste.

#29

When a hornet invades a beehive, the bees will swarm it, and raise the heat of their bodies burning the invader to death. This ends with perhaps dozens of the hive’s protectors dead, but is seen as worth it to protect the hive and it’s inhabitants.

#30

Male platypus have venomous spines on their back feet, one on each side. The pain has been described as unbearably excruciating and can last for months on end. Platypus may look very cute, but never ever pick one up unless you are a trained wildlife carer.

#31

Some species of birds can sleep while flying, known as “unihemispheric slow-wave sleep,” keeping one hemisphere of their brain awake.

#32

Buffalo/ American bison only have one lung cavity. They have 2 lungs, but they are together in the same cavity. It’s what makes such incredibly powerful dumptrucks of pure muscle so vulnerable to a single gunshot, or bow shot.

#33

The Virginia Opossum has two vaginas and gives birth out of neither.

#34

Sharks don’t have bones.

Image credits: IceSmiley

#35

Beetles make up about 1/4 of all animal species.

Image credits: rimshot101

#36

Squid brains are donut-shaped and the digestive tract goes through the hole in the middle.

#37

Hyenas have inside-out vaginas until they’re ready to mate. They hang outside the body as a structure sometimes referred to as a false penis. This means that among hyenas, mate selection occurs entirely in the female; they can’t be forcibly inseminated the way most animals can be.

#38

Bull Sharks can survive in any kind of water. They swim into rivers to have their young because there are fewer predators, hence you hear news stories about sharks in the Mississippi River.

They are also a******s and will bite with very little provocation. IIRC they cause more “attacks” than Great Whites but they’re nowhere near as big so they don’t do as much damage. They are still the 3rd most dangerous shark in the world behind Tigers and Great Whites.

#39

Orcas are predators of moose. Moose can swim (and dive quite deep) and orcas have been seen attacking and killing moose in the wild. It’s not a common, everyday occurrence. But I think it’s metal as f**k.

#40

Back in the day dragonflies ate flesh, were 3 ft long, and dominated the food chain.

Image credits: Exact-Cod-4474

#41

Hummingbird courtship is probably one of the weirdest of any bird. Makes display by diving in U-shaped patterns in front of females while sometimes making noises by rubbing their tail feathers together at the top of their dives. Costa’s Hummingbirds (a species in the southwest US), also splay their purple gorget open in front of the female to look like a weird face octopus. I have seen this irl and it’s one of the weirdest things in nature I have witnessed.

#42

Most “herbivores” are not exclusively herbivores. And there are animals that drink milk of other species. 
Animals like horses, cows, and deer eat baby birds and rodents to get protein. Animals like antelope and other ungulates eat carrion and will scrape the meat and periosteum off bones for protein. Hippos occasionally eat carcasses. Koalas and Sloths are probably two of the only animals that exclusively eat leaves and don’t try to eat insects or meat. Though in captivity sloths enjoy eggs. 

Seabirds will harrass lactating pinnepeds and their young to sneak in to get any spilled or spraying milk, or they wait til they’re sleeping and essentially nurse. Bears will kill lactating prey animals/livestock to break into the udders, which while likely for meat they do have access to lap up the milk. .

#43

I do work surveying and trapping Mourning Doves in Kansas, so gonna lay some on you:

-Doves mate for life

-Male doves have a rosy underside and female head, while females do not

-Young doves have mottled feathers, and even older juveniles have buffy-tipped ones

-Many doves migrate between August and October

-It is not uncommon to see doves missing toes due to being caught in string and other fibers. Birds usually survive this

-Doves can go through the whole nesting process in under a month

-Doves can literally nest anywhere, though prefer short trees the most

-Doves feed their young a milk-like substance created in their crop as opposed to raw food like most birds

-Doves lay two eggs almost 100% of the time

-Doves usually nest at least a few times a year. Most nests end up being unsuccesful.

-Doves prefer urban areas much more than rural ones.

-They are the most popular game species in the US. Over 10% of the population is shot every year, but they seem to be holding steady.

-Populations have declined by about a third in the Midwest in the last 10 years, hence why I’m working to help my supervisor get information about this.

#44

Scientists studying sperm whales are ignored/shunned if they wear scuba gear. If they use drones, like submersible ones, the whales leave. If they free dive, no gear, holding their breath about 10-15 feet deep, for a few minutes at a time…

Whales approach within feet of the diver. Close enough a full strength hunting “call” would pulp the human. Close enough the energy from a normal “scan” heats up the divers.

Sometimes, the pod will surround the diver, floating vertically, and swap over to their communication mode.

As James Nestor (look him up on Youtube) says – Getting that close to an animal that can kill you with its voice, when there is a chance that specific whale may be old enough to remember being hunted by humans… is pretty sketchy.

#45

If the flea was the size of a person it could leap over two Empire State buildings stacked on top of one another. Part of of this is astonishing but what is hilarious is that fact that a flea cannot aim where they land because of the wind resistance that’s created by that crazy a*s jump. This means the fleas that caused the black plague were solely because of sheer dumb luck.

#46

Killdeer will feign a broken wing if you get too close to their nest/babies. Had this happen just a few days ago. Was on a road I was driving, so followed the parents with my truck and they soon flew off from whence they came once I was far enough from the chicks.

#47

Sharks can “smell” electricity.

They have pores on their snout that can detect electrical fields, and they use this sixth sense to hunt. They are capable of sensing the electrical currents a brain uses to communicate with muscles, and have even been known to chew on underwater electrical cables. It’s possible that they can even tell if a creature is feeling calm or panicked this way.

#48

Killer whales are a species of dolphins not whales.

#49

Wild wolves are pretty timid around humans and getting attacked by one is so extremely rare.

#50

Just how far that twittery little birdie came from. You live in New York and you see a Gray Catbird in the spring and you’re like “oh hey buddy, where’ve you been?”

If the bird could answer it would likely say something like Mexico or Central America where it likes to overwinter. That tiny songbird has been further south than I have!

The migrations a lot of perfectly ordinary looking birds make are wild.

#51

An opossum’s body temperature is too low for rabies to survive in it. They also kill most ticks that try to latch on.

#52

Horses and mice are not able to puke.

#53

Deer will eat human remains. It’s known that they are very occasional opportunistic carrion consumers, and this has included film of a deer munching on human remains at a body farm. I guess there’s no reason to assume that carrion wouldn’t include human remains, but it’s just sort of a weird thought, we just don’t think of deer like that.

#54

Turkeys love pets and have a favorite scritchy spot on their necks.

#55

Mountain lions can chirp like a bird to communicate with each other.

#56

Sperm Whales have 2 nostrils. Only one is the blowhole.

#57

Most monogamous birds are only socially monogamous. Genetic studies prove again and again that many clutches have multiple paternity. A few exceptions exist, like mute swans. Bearded vultures have a strange diet that is comprised 90% of bones. If they cannot swallow a bone whole, they drop it on a rocky surface to break it. They pick specific rocky places, which they visit often for that. Many aquatic turtles take supplemental oxygen through their cloacas. Komodo dragons don’t have septic bacteria in their bite, they are mildly venomous. However, prey usually dies quickly from blood loss caused by their serrated teeth. King cobras usually stick to the forests and hardly ever bite people. If anything, they help control the populations of many other venomous snakes that commonly bite people. Fire salamanders exhibit intrauterine cannibalism, where the larger larvae will consume the smaller ones. The longer they stay on land without giving birth, the larger but the fewer the offspring will be. Leopard slugs mate hanging from a thread of their own slime, and then drop off. Many classic herbivores like cows, deer, horses or tortoises will eat meat or bones on occasion to supplement missing protein or minerals.

#58

Fungi can help build "wood wide webs" connecting surrounding tree roots in the forest. These "webs" are used as warning systems when a tree is in distress from an attacker and these systems also transfer nutrients and other goods to eachother within the system.

#59

Pronghorn is the fastest land mammal in North America.

#60

Chickens have ear lobes.

#61

The Cuvier’s Beaked Whale is the deepest diving mammal. The deepest dive on record is 2,992m (3km or 2mi). They also hold the record for longest breath held by any mammal at 3 hours and 42 minutes.

#62

Ruby throated hummingbirds migrate from Central America and mexico to breed in the eastern US every Spring. A large numbers of them cross the great expance of the gulf of Mexico without stopping (Some over 600 miles!). They migrate to and from their range in waves, so they all don’t get wiped out by a tropical storm..

#63

White tailed deer squat when they pee!! I had no idea until I saw it last night driving home with my husband.

#64

Polar Bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend so much of their lives at sea.

#65

Cockroaches’ brains reside in their bodies—creepy yet fascinating.

#66

Fruit flies have testicles.

#67

Occasionally birds with red feathers that fail to get proper nutrients (either by mutation or naturally) can have their feathers turn orange/yellow. I trap birds for my work and caught a Red-winged Blackbird just a few days ago with orange wings.
Source: boredpanda.com

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