Our world is full of beautiful nature and wildlife. Sometimes in our busy lives we struggle to take the time to stop and appreciate the sound of the birds in the trees or the colours of a passing butterfly. With entertainment options restricted, more and more people have been taking to the great outdoors to explore and appreciate the nature we have on our doorsteps.
We’ve been inspired to explore the nature across Europe and Canada and have picked out our favourite wildlife facts. Is your nature knowledge up to scratch?
The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet
Known as the giants of the earth and sea, Blue Whales can reach the unbelievable lengths of 33 metres and weigh up to 190,00kg. Just to put that in perspective, it is comparable to a Boeing 373 airplane. Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant and their hearts, as much as a car! These amazing mammals can be found in the Southern and Northern Hemisphere - they are often found alone or in small groups. Iceland is home to an estimated 1000 blue whales, there is thought to be around 10,000 – 25,000 remaining in the world. However, this is a far cry from the estimated 350,000 blue whales which were thriving in our oceans before whaling took their lives. Blue whales are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act and their population is increasing by approximately 7-8% per year – whaley great news!
Butterflies can’t fly if they are too cold
If it is too cold, a butterfly becomes immobile and cannot fly. This is why butterflies prefer tropical climates such as Peru, which is home to the largest amount of butterflies, making up 20% of the world total. In order to increase their internal temperature, butterflies go in search of the sun, they’ll find themselves a nice bit of vegetation to relax on, spread their wings and sunbathe just enough to get their body temperature back up to enable them to fly. It is vital that butterflies continue to fly, as they are important pollinators of our food and flower crops. Due to this importance, there are butterfly sanctuaries located around Europe to provide food and shelter for butterflies throughout their lifecycle. A sanctuary to note is one located in Mainau Island, Lake Constance, Germany. Here you will find more than 120 species of butterflies from Africa, Asia, central and south America.
Bears are NOT true hibernators
It is a common misconception that bears hibernate during the winter months, this is in fact untrue, instead they go into a deep sleep, known as torpor. The difference between hibernation and torpor is, when animals hibernate they will not wake up when they hear a loud noise even if they are touched or moved. However, while in torpor, the animal can wake quickly and easily. This is what happens to Black, Grizzly and Brown bears. While in torpor, a bears’ heart rate drops to around 8 beats per minute and they won’t eat or release body waste. Bears prepare for this period of torpor, by storing up during the autumn months and increasing their body fat, so that they can find a den and sleep during November and December. Bears are known to be very grumpy when they wake from their torpor, you know what it’s like after a long nap! Canada is home to grizzly, black and polar bears. Banff national park alone is home to roughly 65 grizzly bears and 20-40 black bears.
Marmots let out a high-pitched scream to alert others of predators
Marmots are known as the squirrels of the Alps and can be found in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Slovenia. They weigh significantly more than the typical squirrels you would find in British woodlands - weighing in at 3-7kg. They are suited to life in cold environments and protect themselves from predators by spending up to 80% of their time underground. They hibernate throughout the winter months and are more active in the summer months from March to September when you can often find them sunbathing on the rocks. They are typically a relaxed animal, until they are threatened by a predator, at this point they let out a high pitched, whistle like sound to alert their colony.
A puffin’s beak changes colour depending on the time of year
A puffin’s beak is a dull grey colour in the winter months, but in spring it blooms with a bright orange colour that helps to attract potential mates. When they find the one, they mate for life, which can be up to 20 years. The famous bright orange beak has given puffins their nickname of the ‘clowns of the sea’. Much like a clown removing its make-up at the end of a show, puffins shed their characteristic looks when the mating season finishes. Puffin’s are rarely seen in the winter as they head out to sea and moult their wing feathers which renders them flightless. In Norway, puffins return to land in March and they will mate until the end of August. Runde Island, just off the coast of Ålesund, is home to over 500,000 puffins from March to August.
Iceland is the only country in the world that has NO mosquitos
Iceland, located in the North Atlantic Ocean is the only country in the world with NO mosquitoes. You may automatically guess that this is down to the freezing temperatures here, however neighbouring countries such as Greenland that also reach freezing temperatures as low as -50 °C do in fact still inhabit mosquitoes. Freezing temperatures do play a part however there are other factors which contribute to this. The lack of stagnant water in Iceland make it impossible for mosquitos to lay their eggs. Also the chemical composition of Iceland’s water, soils and general ecosystem do not support the life of mosquitos. It is understood that over the years, mosquitos would have made their way over to Iceland via air travel, yet none of these insects have survived. The only living mosquitos in Iceland can be found in a laboratory in the Icelandic Institute of Natural History. The specimen exists in a jar of alcohol after being caught in the 1980s by University of Iceland biologist Gilsi Mar Gislason in the cabin of an Icelander airplane.
Eurasian pygmy owls are the smallest owl in Europe
These tiny owls can range from 15-19cm in length, often mistaken for a pigeon due to its stature and its grey colouring. These owls can be found in the Dolomite mountains in Italy, their small bodies allow them to live in tree hollows and stay safe from predators. Although you may not think it by looking at their cute fluffy feathers, they are in fact quite aggressive in their nature. They are much more likely to attack animals around them rather than just flying away. As the Eurasian pygmy owl is about to attack, it puffs up its feathers to make it seem larger than it actually is and will often attack prey that is 2/3 times its size. A clever feature of this bird is the two black patches on the back of its neck, which look like a pair of eyes, which can often deter predators from attacking.