Oklahoma’s unique climate and varied geographic zones provide a diverse habitat for an extraordinary range of wildlife. From the common to the rare, the bizarre to the beautiful, wild animals in Oklahoma come in all shapes and sizes: from raucous flocks of birds soaring through the sky to elusive coyotes and bobcats prowling through the forests and grasslands.
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But the surprises don’t stop there. Oklahoma is also home to the eastern or common mole, a strange-looking creature with oversized hands specifically designed for digging, as well as its signature long, jerking nose. So whether you’re an avid nature enthusiast or simply enjoy observing the wonders of the world around you, animals in Oklahoma never disappoint.
About Wildlife & Animals in Oklahoma
The southern flying squirrel possesses a unique ability to glide from one tree to another, using a film attached to its four legs. It doesn’t truly fly but gracefully floats through the air. On the other hand, the little stinkpot turtle gets its name from its organs, which release a foul smell to deter predators.
The citrine forktail is a strikingly beautiful damselfly, known for its carefully designed appearance. In the Azores, there is a population of this damselfly that reproduces through parthenogenesis, a fascinating process where females can produce offspring without the need for fertilisation. This makes them unique among the Odonata order, which comprises dragonflies and damselflies.
The blockhead shrike, another remarkable creature in Oklahoma, is a skilled predator that captures its prey by twisting its neck around it and impaling it on security fencing or thistles.
While most of the truly dangerous creatures, like mountain bears, have been extirpated from Oklahoma long ago, there are still a few endangered species in the region. Some of these include:
Oklahoma cave crawfish: A scavenger that lives in caves and is nearly colorless due to its cave habitat. This species is endangered.
Arkansas River shiner: Once abundant from Arkansas to Texas, this brilliant little fish is now found in certain parts of the Canadian River through New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. It is classified as vulnerable.
Ozark giant-eared bat: This bat, with its unusually large ears, is found in a few caves across Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri.
Texas kangaroo rat: This small rat is considered vulnerable due to its decreasing population caused by habitat destruction.
Scissor Tailed Flycatcher
This bird is characterized by its long size and forked tail. They have a pale and dull appearance, often with darker wings and a salmon-colored hue on the belly. During the flight, you can spot brighter salmon underwings. Young birds have shorter and blunter tails compared to adults but still distinctive. They breed in open regions of Texas and neighboring states, frequently seen perched on fence posts and utility wires.
In the winter, they mainly inhabit the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America, sometimes gathering in large flocks. They might be confused with Fork-tailed Flycatchers in their winter range, but you can identify them by their paler plumage with salmon-colored underwings. Adult birds have grey heads and upper parts, light-coloured underparts, and dark grey wings with red patches underneath. They are large in size with sharply forked tails.
The top part of their tail is black, while the under part is white. Adult males are approximately 38 cm long, and female birds’ tails are about 30% shorter than those of males. Their wingspan measures about 15 cm, and they weigh around 43g. Juvenile birds have shorter and blunter tails.
Some scissor-tails have been reported to exceed 40 cm in length. They build cup-shaped nests in isolated trees or bushes and sometimes use artificial sites such as utility poles near towns. During the breeding season, males perform impressive aerial displays as part of their courtship, showcasing their long, beautiful forked tails. Both parents take part in feeding the offspring.
They fiercely protect their family, especially the male, who is often referred to as the “King” of birds. In the breeding season, they lay up to three to six eggs. During the summer, scissor-tailed flycatchers mainly feed on insects like grasshoppers, dragonflies, bugs, and other small insects. They catch these insects while flying or in mid-air.
In winter, finding insects for food becomes challenging, so they predominantly consume berries. During migration, groups flying south may consist of up to 1000 birds. The scissor-tailed flycatcher holds the title of the state bird of Oklahoma and is depicted in flight with tail feathers spread on the reverse side of the Oklahoma Commemorative Quarter. The professional soccer team FC Tulsa features a scissor-tailed flycatcher on their crest. The bird also appears in the background of the current stamp design.
Where to find Scissor Tailed Flycatchers in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, they often live near other creatures in open fields, or perch on trees, wires, posts, and trees along the road.
Eastern Collared Lizard
These reptiles belong to the Crotaphytidae subfamily and are one of the nine types of reptiles found in the hilly areas of central US and northeastern Mexico, extending to the Great Basin in the west. The color and pattern of these lizards vary among species, and their hues can change based on the season, temperature, and light intensity due to hormonal changes related to reproduction.
Males are usually more brightly colored, ranging from cobalt blue and green to tan, brown, and black, compared to females. When captured, these reptiles are known to run on their rear legs, lifting their front legs off the ground. On average, captured lizards reach a length of 35 cm, with the tail alone accounting for two-thirds of their total length. Males tend to be larger than females. In the eastern part of their range, they are sometimes referred to as “mountain boomers,” a name given by early pioneers who attributed sounds from rocky hills to these creatures.
Collared lizards are agile and active reptiles with relatively large heads. They primarily feed on large insects and other snakes. After the breeding season, which typically ends in June, females lay clutches of 2-11 leathery-shelled eggs in the ground.
Being dedicated carnivores, their main diet consists of insects and small vertebrates. Although they may occasionally consume plant material, it is not preferred. They prey on large insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, moths, cicadas, and other small reptiles and snakes.
Due to their small stomachs, they cannot sustain a herbivorous diet as it would require a large amount of plant material to maintain their body weight. Hence, they are considered committed carnivores, relying on arthropods or other small reptiles for their nutritional needs.
Their diet can also vary based on age, sex, and seasonal changes. Younger lizards consume similar foods, specifically insect species, as adults, but the amount of food intake varies due to differences in body size and weight. On the other hand, male and female adults have similar dimensions and food intake amounts but display significant differences in the types of food they eat. This sexual difference in diet might be an evolutionary adaptation to reduce intra-species competition for resources, allowing females and males to avoid competing for the same food sources.
Where to find Eastern Collared Lizards in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, Eastern Collared Lizards can be found primarily in the eastern and north-south regions, especially in rocky areas, often cohabiting with other animals.
The American eel is a fish with a snake-like appearance, characterized by its smooth body surface. It exhibits colors ranging from green to yellow-brown, with a black body and a white belly. These eels primarily inhabit freshwater streams and other freshwater areas. They are known to grow up to two feet in length for males and three to five feet for females.
Their diet consists of worms, small fish, shellfish, mollusks, and scavengers such as soft-shelled crabs. However, larger fish and predatory birds like gulls, falcons, and ospreys also prey on these eels. American eels are catadromous, meaning they live in freshwater streams and migrate to the ocean to spawn.
In October, mature eels swim from freshwater to the Atlantic Ocean in the east, where they stay until January before returning to freshwater to spawn and eventually die. Their life cycle starts with tiny eel hatchlings floating in the sea for 9 to 12 months, known as glass eels, measuring about 2.4 inches in length.
While many eels live in the Bay, they often travel long distances from the Bay to freshwater streams. Young eels undergo a transformation into yellow adult eels, which prefer living in freshwater and river areas. Once they reach maturity, they return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and then die. The average lifespan of an American eel is around five years, although some have been recorded to live up to 15-20 years.
Where to find American Eels in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, American eels can primarily be found in the freshwater streams of the northern region. They are also present in the Mississippi River and various lakes.
The red-cockaded woodpeckers derive their name from their distinctive appearance, featuring red feathers, black caps on their heads, and white cheeks. Two centuries ago, they were referred to as “red woodpeckers” due to the decorative, suggestive feathers worn by males as spangles, strips, or trimmings in their caps.
The red cockade is the only visible difference between male and female birds. Both genders have grey bellies and black and white stripes on their back. Their wingspan measures around 14 inches, and they are approximately 7.38 to 9.1 inches in length.
These woodpeckers prefer to inhabit mature pine trees for two main reasons: young trees lack sufficient diameter for their nesting needs, and mature trees are often infected with a fungus known as red heart disease. This condition softens the wood, making it easier for the woodpeckers to excavate their nests.
Fire is essential for these birds, as it helps maintain a suitable habitat by preventing the overgrowth of trees beyond their natural capacity. The woodpeckers create their nest cavities near their roosting sites to deter other animals like rats and snakes from accessing their nests. They must also be vigilant against other bird and mammal species that may try to take over their nesting cavities while still in use.
Their diet primarily consists of insects and bugs found under the loose bark of pine trees. Additionally, they occasionally consume seeds and berries as part of their daily routine.
These woodpeckers are cooperative breeders, meaning multiple birds assist in raising the offspring. The female lays eggs in the male partner’s nesting cavity, and both males and other birds help in incubating the eggs. Once the young birds hatch, the whole family remains together. Their lifespan is relatively short, with the maximum recorded age being around 12 years.
Where to find Red Cockaded Woodpeckers in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, the population of red-cockaded woodpeckers is limited, with approximately 100 birds in the region. They are primarily found in the Ouachita National Forest and the wild areas of McCurtain County.
Lesser Prairie Chicken
The birds you are referring to are Lesser Prairie-Chickens. They are typically found in fields and grasslands. Their body and wings are mainly reddish-brown in color, with a paler buffy throat. During the spring breeding season, male Lesser Prairie-Chickens gather at display sites and perform a dance to attract females. They will be seen with ear-like feathers projecting from their heads and darker rosy-orange skin exposed on their necks. They are elusive and challenging to spot outside of these display areas. They are similar in appearance to the Greater Prairie Chicken but do not overlap in their range.
These birds are of significant to medium size with white and brown stripes on their bodies. They are slightly smaller and paler than their Greater Prairie Chicken relatives. Adult Lesser Prairie-Chickens typically measure between 38 to 40 cm in length and weigh 628 to 813 grams. Like their larger counterparts, they are known for their lekking behaviors’, where males gather to perform courtship displays.
Lesser Prairie-Chickens were previously listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the listing was removed in 2015 following a legal challenge.
Where to find Lesser Prairie-Chickens in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, Lesser Prairie-Chickens can be found in the northwestern part of the state, typically in less isolated areas alongside other wildlife. Due to their threatened status, they are becoming increasingly rare to find. Conservation efforts are important to protect their habitat and ensure their survival.
FAQs On Animals in Oklahoma
What animal is common in Oklahoma?
Common animals in Oklahoma include white-tailed deer, raccoons, Eastern cottontail rabbits, American bullfrogs, Eastern grey squirrels, red-eared sliders, and Western diamondback rattlesnakes. Birds like the American robin and Northern mockingbird are also prevalent.
What kind of wild animals are there in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, you can find a variety of wild animals. Some of the common wild animals in Oklahoma include white-tailed deer, raccoons, Eastern cottontail rabbits, American bullfrogs, Eastern grey squirrels, red-eared sliders (turtles), Western diamondback rattlesnakes, American robins, Northern mockingbirds, as well as many other bird species, reptiles, amphibians, and insects that are native to the region. Additionally, there are various other mammal species, such as coyotes, bobcats, and opossums, which are also present in the state.
What are the largest animals in Oklahoma?
The largest animal in Oklahoma is the American bison (Bison bison). Also known as the American buffalo, it is a magnificent mammal that once roamed the Great Plains in massive herds. While their numbers were drastically reduced due to hunting and habitat loss, conservation efforts have allowed them to persist in certain areas, including parts of Oklahoma. Adult male bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds or more and stand about 6 feet tall at the shoulder.
Final Words on Animals in Oklahoma
Nestled in a subtropical climate, this region boasts a diverse array of geographical zones that provide the perfect environment for rich and vibrant wildlife. From commonplace creatures like squirrels and deer to rare and exotic specimens like snow leopards and giant pandas, this place has it all. It’s not just the range of animals that’s impressive – it’s the variety of habitats too.
Dense jungles, sprawling savannas, and snow-capped mountain peaks provide a home for a whole host of different species. So whether you’re fascinated by the strange and unusual, or drawn to the beauty of the natural world, there’s something for everyone here.
Rahul M Suresh
Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.