What are Temperate Deciduous Forest Animals?

By Elizabeth Warner
Herbst image by Grödels-Bilder from Fotolia.com

Of the major biomes on Earth, temperate deciduous forests are perhaps best known for the beautifully colored foliage of autumn. These primarily broadleaf forests are mostly restricted to the the mid-latitudinal belts of the Northern Hemisphere, including eastern North America, Europe, China and Japan. Exposure to cold and warm air masses cause the characteristic four seasons -- spring, summer, fall and winter. Endemic plants and animals have adapted specialized means of dealing with these seasonal fluctuations, including adopting periods of dormancy and migration.

Invertebrates

Species of snails are particularly sensitive to acid rain, a threat to temperate deciduous forests across the globe.
Herbst image by Grödels-Bilder from Fotolia.com

A multitude of invertebrates inhabit temperate deciduous forests across the world. Many of these species, beetles for example, seek out the humidity of the forest floor. Defoliating insects, on the other hand, feed on the leaves of trees and plants. Often these species specialize on a particular type of plant. For example, in North America the milkweed tussock eats only the milkweed plant, while the hickory horned devil consumes hickory and walnut leaves. Other invertebrates include species of land snails and slugs. The temperate deciduous forests of Europe provide habitat for more than 8,500 species of insects, including spectacular moths like the mottled umber moth and green torix. In Asia's forests, insects are the staple diet of many species of insectivorous birds.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Being cold blooded, reptiles and amphibians have adapted to cold winters by entering a period of dormancy or hibernation. A number of species of toads, terrestrial frogs and tortoises occupy the humid forest floor where they prey on invertebrates such as earthworms and slugs. In North America, this includes species like the American and the Fowler's toads, the Wood's frog, and box turtle. Snakes, like the black rat snake and copperhead snake, prey mostly on small mammals and birds. Amphibians also are abundant, in fact more species of salamander than anywhere else on Earth are found in the temperate deciduous forest of the Appalachian mountains. The critically endangered Chinese giant salamander, the largest salamander on earth, inhabits small pockets of temperate deciduous forest in China. European forests are home to 12 species of amphibians and seven species of reptiles.

Birds

Many species of woodpeckers inhabit the temperate deciduous forests of Asia, Europe and North America
Herbst image by Grödels-Bilder from Fotolia.com

Many bird species, notably the passerines (or songbirds), migrate to warmer climates over cold winters, returning when food is more plentiful in the spring. In North America, these forests provide vital habitat to such migratory species as the yellow breasted chat, warblers, the American robin and the brown thrasher. European forests are home to a number of bird species, including raptors like the peregrine falcon, eagle owl, white-tailed and greater spotted eagles, as well as passerines such as warblers and corncrakes. A variety of bird species take up residence in Asia's forests, including the red-crowned crane and species of woodpecker like the white bellied black woodpecker and the threatened fairy pitta.

Mammals

Like its North American counterpart, the Canadian lynx, the Eurasian lynx faces a critical loss of habitat.
Herbst image by Grödels-Bilder from Fotolia.com

Like reptiles and amphibians, some mammals have adopted hibernation to get through cold winters, when food supplies are scarce. In North America's forests, the American black bear sleeps for as long as 100 days without eating or drinking. Other North American species have adapted to the cold winters, including the raccoon, rabbits, the skunk, deer, bobcat, the timber wolf, and foxes. In Europe, 20 to 25 percent of forest mammals are listed as threatened or endangered, reflective of a significant loss of forest habitat. The remaining small tracts, like the Bialowieza Forest in Poland, provide critical habitat for a number of mammals including the European brown bear, foxes, ermine, the steppe polecat, the lynx, wolves, and the last remaining herds of European Bison, the largest mammal in Europe. Asian forests provide critical habitat for a number of species, including the red panda, clouded leopard, giant panda, Siberian tiger and lynx.