One of the wonderful experiences when birding away from your home turf is the potential to come across creatures other than birds with which you may not be familiar. On my previous trips to the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival I had only once spotted an armadillo, and that was on the side of the highway as I whizzed past, which is hardly the view you want when you are seeing something for the first time. But for some reason this year I spotted scads of armadillos and got the chance to photograph several of them.
But I wasn’t content just taking photographs of armadillos: I had to learn what kind of armadillo they are! A quick Google search gave me the answer. They are Nine-banded Armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus). Interestingly, they made their own way to the Florida panhandle, colonizing from the Texas population, but they were also introduced further south in Florida for some unknown reason. The two populations eventually merged and now armadillos are common across most of the state and are considered a pest by many because of their tendency to dig up gardens and to burrow under patios. Most active at dawn and dusk, the Nine-banded Armadillo is a perfect example of a crepuscular creature, one that eschews the extremes of both night and day, preferring to inhabit the in-between time that is twilight.
They are a bit bizarre-looking, no?
Each armadillo that I saw was out on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge or Cape Canaveral National Seashore on the side of the road, foraging in the grass. Well, they were foraging in the grass when they weren’t running out in the road, which is an unfortunate habit that they have. Even worse, one of their self defense mechanisms when being attacked by a predator is to jump upwards, which might help them avoid a coyote but won’t help them get away from a car. Fortunately, there are lots of armadillos and cars and angry gardeners can’t take them all out.
At least this one chose Black Point Wildlife Drive to be the road it hung out along. The 15-mph speed limit and cars full of people there to see wildlife probably increase its likelihood of survival.
I really don’t know what to make of armadillos. They are so weird and so cool. They are also close to cute but not quite. I think the tail is what tips them from cute to weird.
Well, the tail and the sparse hair on their legs. Still, they were fun to watch.
If you liked these images of Nine-banded Armadillos and want to see more great images of other cool creatures make sure to check out 10,000 Clicks, our big (and growing) page of galleries here at 10,000 Birds.
10,000 Birds is a Scrub Jay-level sponsor of the 18th Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.