Into The Wild: Mighty Oak

By | January 1, 2017
From Xplor: January/February 2017

Every tree is a tower of life. Lie down beside a mighty oak and gaze up into its branches. You might be surprised at the number of wild creatures you find.

What Happened Here?

Pileated woodpeckers hammer out huge rectangular holes while searching for ants and other insects to eat. Abandoned holes become homes for squirrels, bats, screechowls, wood ducks, and many other animals.


White-breasted nuthatches search the nooks and crannies of tree trunks for insects to eat. The nimble little birds start at the top of a tree and work their way down, usually going headfirst.


Oyster mushrooms can be found growing on trees (usually dead ones) at any time of the year. Look for the shelflike fungus after it rains. Although oyster mushrooms are delicious, never, ever dine on any mushroom unless you’re sure it’s safe to eat.

What Happened Here?

This hole was made by an acorn weevil. The tiny beetles use their long noses to drill into acorns. Female weevils eat part of the inside of the acorn, then lay eggs in the cavity. The babies, called grubs, hatch after the acorn falls to the ground.


Many animals sound the alarm when they spot danger. How many of these warning calls have you heard?

  • Tufted titmouse: A fussy, scratchy tsee-day-day-day
  • Blue jay: A scolding thief, thief, thief
  • Northern cardinal: A metallic chip, chip, chip
  • American crow: Caw, caw, caw


On warm winter days, keep an eye out for comma and mourning cloak butterflies. These hardy insects hibernate during the depths of winter and wake up when temperatures rise. Their fluttery flight is a sure sign spring will be here soon.

Did You Know

Some oak trees keep their dead, brown leaves attached to their branches all winter long. In the spring, new leaves start to grow, which finally pushes the dead leaves off.

Take a Closer Look

Missouri is home to 19 species of oaks, divided into two main groups: red oaks and white oaks. Red oaks have leaves with pointed lobes. White oaks have leaves with rounded lobes.

And More...

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White