From Xplor for Kids
July 2015 Issue

Into The Wild: Your Backyard

Publish Date

Jul 01, 2015

You can find wild things everywhere — even in your own backyard. So lace up your boots, shoulder your pack, and head into the wild.


Grassy backyards with scattered trees are a great place to spot Missouri’s state bird, the eastern bluebird. Bluebirds nest in abandoned woodpecker holes and hollow trees. If your backyard lacks these natural cavities, don’t be blue. Build a bluebird box. To learn how, fly over to

Do More

To migrate 3,000 miles from Missouri to Mexico, monarch butterflies have to be tough. But it’s rough to be tough when your tummy is empty. Milkweed, a monarch’s favorite food, is disappearing across the country. To keep monarchs fluttering, plant milkweed in your backyard. For plants and seeds, visit

Take A Closer Look

Did that rock just blink? With their brown bumpy skin, toads are masters of camouflage. By day, the chubby amphibians hide out in shady, damp areas. At night, they hop out to gobble insects. Search basement window wells and under bushes, garden plants, and dead leaves to see if a toad or two is living in your yard.

Heads Up!

Leave baby birds, newborn rabbits, and small fawns where you find them. They aren’t abandoned. Mom is hiding nearby and won’t return until you leave.


Blue jays are wordy birds, with quite a large vocabulary. You may recognize their shrieking alarm call: “Thief! Thief!” But the blabby birds also imitate hawks, cats, and other sounds. How many sounds can you hear them make?

What Happened Here?

In summer, immature cicadas crawl out of the soil and anchor themselves to the nearest vertical surface. Then, in a scene fit for a monster movie, the tough outer shell of each cicada splits open, and a winged adult squirms out. The process happens at night, so most folks miss it, but the crunchy shells left behind offer evidence of the bizarre transformation.


Ruby-throated hummingbirds are tiny birds with enormous attitudes. To see how gutsy a hummer can be, hold your hand beside a hummingbird feeder as if your finger were a perch. With patience — and a steady hand — one of the bold little birds will buzz in and sit on your finger for a quick sip of nectar.

Did You Know?

In a quest to fill their bellies with earthworms and grubs, eastern moles can tunnel twice the length of their bodies in under a minute. At that rate, you could dig the length of a football field in half an hour.

Also in this issue

Get Out

The best way to beat summer boredom is to head outdoors.

Pond Marvels

Slip on your rubber boots and get close to the ground — pond marvels abound. Get down near the muck, where you’re eye to eye with a duck. At the water’s edge, soon you’ll see some of Missouri’s most interesting creatures performing amazing feats.


Whether they’re covered with skin, scales, feathers, or fur, tails are tailormade for accomplishing some to-tail-ly amazing things.

Strange But True!

Your guide to all unusual, unique, and unbelievable stuff that goes on in nature.

How To: Make Jug Lines For Catfish

There are many ways to catch the fish affectionately known as “Mr. Whiskers.” Jug lines are fun, easy, and effective.

This Issue's Staff:

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

Stay in Touch with MDC

Stay in Touch with MDC news, newsletters, events, and manage your subscription

Sign up