How many rocks could a Rock-Chuck chuck?

Rock Chuck or Wood Chuck, both are marmots. The correct name however, for our local marmot, is the Yellow-Bellied Marmot. The marmot is the only mammal to have a USA holiday named for it (Ground Hog Day).

This large (14” to 20”) rodent loves rocky terrain where they can lay in the sun and also escape predators when alarmed. One individual always stands guard and gives an alarm call. The call will vary according to the type of predator (hawk vs. coyote, etc). It may be a “chuck”, whistle, or a trill. Rock habitats must be close to greenery, as the animal lives entirely on green vegetation of all types.

Yellow-Bellied Marmots spend 80% of their lives in burrows – this includes nighttime, as well as hibernation which lasts from August through February. They are meticulous about keeping their den and bedding clean. Their hearty appetite allows them to put on a good layer of fat for their 7 month hibernation. Sleeping late, then eating vigorously, and finally resting on a rock in the sun conserves the energy that turns into a layer of fat.

The males are “harem-polygymous” and litter sizes average a bit over 4 pups. Males leave the colony, but females tend to stay with their mothers and become reproducers at 2 years of age.

This “bear-like” rodent has a golden to rufus coat, brown head, and a yellowish-red belly. Wood Chucks are found in the east, but Yellow-Bellies are a western, intermountain species.

They are most interesting to observe, whether sunning on a large rock or scurrying across a road or trail into the closest cover.

(A big one sunning – a favorite pastime)

Rock Pigeons and Adaptability

Rock Pigeons, also known as Rock Doves, are native to southern Europe where they nest in rocky cliffs. They were introduced to the United States, and as a result, were forced to adapt to new habitats. Lack of maximum prime habitat has limited their choices. We see so many in cities, around farm buildings, or under highway overpasses that it’s easy to think that they are where they want to be. Not so, they have made a major adjustment. Tall buildings are evidently the closest match to cliff sides that many can find. What is also interesting is that Peregrine Falcons (also forced to nest on tall buildings) have adapted in the same manner, but make the most of it by preying upon the pigeons.

Pigeons are a very diverse species. There are 12 sub-species, which includes Homing Pigeons. Many escaped domestic birds have added to this diversity and some individuals are totally white. Pigeons fly with their wings in a V configuration, which aids in their identification at a distance.

This species feeds in flocks on the ground. They also drink continually without tilting their head back. Tilting is characteristic of most birds. Pigeons are monogamous and will breed at any time of the year. Two young, called squabs, are produced at each nesting. The squabs feed by placing their beak into the parent’s throat. The food is drunk. It is called “pigeon milk.” It is a predigested, heavy, milky liquid.

We used to have a pigeon problem before we removed the top half of an old barn. Some high school students liked to bring their prom dates to the barn for an “after dance” dinner. To do that, required a major clean-up of pigeon feces before the old barn was presentable.

Rock Dove Showing off iridescent colors

Showing off iridescent colors