The upper Wicomico River has a unique habitat. It is primarily fresh water streams, lakes, and ponds. There are many dammed areas which results in slow moving water. Because the water is freshwater, many of the aquatic species seen in the lower river will not be seen here. Many species however, such as osprey, great horned owls, and loblolly pines can be seen throughout the entire Wicomico River Watershed. The black arrows show the energy flow from a species to its predator. The blue arrows points from an animal to the plant species that commonly shelters it.
1.Blue Gill (Lepomis macrochirus) Blue gills are named for the blue spot directly next to their gills. They average about twelve inches but can grow as large as sixteen. They are often found in slow moving dammed fresh water, making the upper Wicomico River perfect for them. They may be found in the middle river as well, but it is unlikely they will be found in the lower river due to it's salinity. Their predators include humans, largemouth bass, great blue herrons, snapping turtles, muskrats, and osprey. Their main sources of food include small fish, crickets, and plants such as pondweed. In addition to eating pondweed, they also use it for shelter and camouflage.
7. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Osprey are a type of raptor whose diet is almost entirely fish, particularly blue gill. As adults they have few predators besides great horned owls, but their eggs are often eaten by raccoons and foxes. Because of their similar diets and habitat requirements, they compete with bald eagles. Osprey are very good indicators of environmental toxicity because their shells are substantially weakened due to bio-magnification. For more on birds, visit out birds page.
2. Pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus) Pondweed is a plant that grows almost completely underwater. There are leaves above and below the surface, providing shelter and food for numerous animals. Many fish such as blue gill and chain pickerel hide in the submerged vegetation. White-tailed deer, muskrats, snapping turtles, and ducks eat this plant. Pondweed, although it prefers the upper Wicomico River, could be seen in any part of the river sheltering species such as largemouth bass, yellow perch, snapping turtles, and many other species. It is often found near hydrilla, cattail, and common reed.
8. Raccoon (Procyon lotor) Raccoons and foxes, although they consume many of the same species, are not in competition because they both consume such a wide variety. Red foxes will actually eat raccoons, as will great horned owls, bald eagles, and barred owls. Raccoons eat the eggs of bald eagles and great horned owls, as well as bull frogs, snapping turtles, ducks, rabbits, and more. They find shelter in native species such as cattail, loblolly pines, pickerelweed, and even the invasive common reed.
3. Loblolly Pine (Pinus talda) Loblolly pines are one of the fastest growing pine trees. Average height is about 115 feet but they can grow up to 160, making them the tallest pine trees. Their seeds are eaten by wild turkeys in addition to many other small birds. White-tailed deer eat the needles while beavers and rabbits consume the bark.
9. Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) Wild Turkey are native species who find shelter in many unlikely places. They enjoy large clearings, the base of loblolly pines, and poison ivy. In addition to living in poison ivy, wild turkey also eat it. Wild turkey also eat dandelions, beech trees, worms, and insects. Their eggs are commonly eaten by foxes and raccoons and once hatched they are eaten by many owls including great horned owls and barred owls.
4. Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) Chain Pickerel is easily identified by the chain-like markings on its side. The average chain pickerel is two feet long. They primarily consume smaller fish, worms, insects, and plants such as pondweed which they also use for shelter. They are a sport fish making humans one of their largest predators. Many birds consume fish such as osprey and great blue herons will eat chain pickerel.
10. Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) Red foxes grow to be nearly four feet long and will consume nearly anything they can capture. This includes squirrels, raccoons, muskrats, wild turkey, snakes, turtles, and more. Their only major threats are great horned owl and humans. Foxes find shelter in loblolly pines and cattails. These habitats are generally taken over by woodchucks and snakes once the foxes have gone. To learn more about similar species in the area, visit our mammals page.
5. Red Bellied Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster) Red bellied watersnakes are semi aquatic snakes that grow up to four feet long. Amphibians make up most of their diet but they also consume many species of fish as well as other aquatic species. The inside of the mouth of a poisonous cotton mouth looks similar to that of the red bellied watersnake, tricking potential predators into leaving it alone. Species such as snapping turtles, large fish, raccoons, and herons will still eat the snake. To learn more about snakes and other reptiles, visit our herps page.
11. Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) Great horned owls may the most easily identifiable species of owl. Adults have large tufts of feathers that no other species in the Wicomico River watershed has. In this area they are at the top of the food chain. Anything from rodents to foxes will be in their diet. Once full grown adults, they can pick up prey almost three times heavier than them. They are preyed on by foxes, raccoons, and feral cats before they hatch. Great horned owls are in competition with eagles which may affect the populations. To learn how to identify more bird species, visit out birds page.
6. Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) Although poisonous to humans, most animals are not allergic to this plant. In fact, many species rely on it. Ducks, raccoons, deer, and wild turkey consume poison ivy. It also provides shelter for many other species including chipmunks, wild turkey, frogs, squirrels, and countless birds.
12. White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) White-tailed deer, although native, have similar qualities as invasive species. This is because they have very few predators which allows for uncontrolled population growth. The few predators they do have include foxes, and humans. Birds such as bald eagles will eat them if they are found dead. They prey on many plants including American holly, white oak, pondweed, and the needles of loblolly pines. For more on mammals simply go to our mammals page.