5 Perplexing Questions About the Outdoors–Answered!

Guest post by Gerry Bishop


1. Why is a seagull Walking around in a parking lot miles away from the sea?

C. A better name for the bird we call “seagull” is just plain “gull.”  That’s because gulls often live other places besides near a sea or ocean.  Some gulls spend their whole lives around large inland lakes.  Others may fly far away from the ocean in search of food.  For example, you may see gulls in fields, following behind machinery and looking for earthworms, grasshoppers, or anything else that may turn up.  Other gulls search for food where lots of people come and go–such as in a parking lot.  Discarded pizza crusts or apple cores?  Dropped potato chips or cookie crumbs?  That’s all fine food for a hungry gull!

2. Why is that bird lying flat on the ground with its wings spread out?

D. If you see a bird lying on the ground with its wings spread, you can be pretty sure it’s doing something called anting.  Some birds just let the ants crawl on them, while other birds pick up ants in their beaks and rub them on their feathers.  Scientists aren’t sure why birds do this.  But their best guess is that a chemical given off by ants, called formic acid, helps the birds get rid of the tiny insects, mites, and other pests that live in their feathers.

3. Why is that squirrel shaking its tail?

A. Squirrels twitch their tails when they feel threatened or annoyed by people or other animals.  They also do it when they get into a “disagreement” with other squirrels.  Along with the twitching comes lots of loud chattering, as if to make sure no one misunderstands its meaning.

4. Why is that deer rubbing its head against a tree?

C & D. In the fall, male deer (called bucks) rub their heads and antlers against trees for two reasons.  One is to leave their scent on the tree.  These “buck rubs” tell other male deer, “I was here and this is my territory.”  Male deer also rub against trees to build up their neck muscles.  They will need strong necks to fight with other male deer over who gets to mate with the female deer.

5. Why is that worm crawling around on the sidewalk after a hard rain?

C. Earthworms live underground in burrows, but they still need air to survive.  They get oxygen from the air not by breathing it, as we do, but by absorbing it through their moist skin.  But when a hard rain fills their burrows with water, air can’t reach them.  So, what’s a poor worm to do?  Crawl to the surface where the air is; but doing that can be dangerous, too.  An above-ground worm can quickly dry out in the sun or it can be eaten by a hungry bird.  So for earthworms, a hard rain can be bad news whichever way they turn!