North America

North America is a continent in the world’s Northern and Western Hemispheres. As a result, it’s home to a diverse range of plant and animal life.

What and Where is North America?

North America is a continent in Earth’s Northern and Western Hemispheres. It contains the countries Canada, Mexico, the USA, and many others. In terms of area, it’s the third-largest continent after Asia and Africa. This huge size means North America hosts diverse climates and habitats.

The far north of North America, spanning Canada and Alaska, lies within the Arctic Circle. It means it’s extremely dark and cold for most of the year. The southern part of North America, which is often confusingly called ‘Central America,’ is much closer to the equator. As you might expect, it has a warmer, more tropical climate. In between, there’s everything from mountains to wetlands and deserts!

Its first human populations reached North America during the last glacial period crossing the Bering land bridge approximately 40,000 to 17,000 years ago. The so-called Paleo-Indian period is taken to have lasted until about 10,000 years ago (the beginning of the Archaic or Meso-Indian period). The classic stage spans roughly the 6th to 13th centuries. The pre-Columbian era ended in 1492, with the beginning of the transatlantic migrations of European settlers during the Age of Discovery and the early modern period. However, the first recorded European references to North America (other than Greenland) are around 1000 AD in Norse sagas, where it is referred to as Vinland. Present-day America’s population comprises the descendants of European colonists, indigenous peoples, enslaved people, and immigrants from all over the world.

What is the biggest country in North America?

Although many people assume that the biggest country in North America is the USA, it’s Canada! It is because Canada covers a whopping 9,984,670 km2 compared to the US, which only covers 9,629,091 km2. However, much of Canada’s land is within the Arctic circle and frozen all year round, making it too inhospitable to support life. As a result, Canada only has a population of 37,742,154 people (as of 2020) – slightly over 10% of the population of the USA, which is 331,002,651 people.

On the flip side, the smallest country in North America is St Kitts and Nevis by both metrics. St Kitts is a tiny island in the Caribbean sea, measuring only 261 km2, and it has a similarly small population of 53,547 people.

North American Animals

This extraordinary range of habitats means that North America is home to some of the Earth’s most charismatic creatures. Three North American countries – Canada, Costa Rica, and the USA – are considered mega biodiverse within their rights! To help you navigate the abundance of North American animals, we’ve compiled a list of 7 amazing animals in North America.

  1. Alligators
  • The American alligator is a large reptile that lives in the wetlands, marshes, and swamps of the Southeastern United States. They can grow up to 4 meters in length and weigh over 400 kilograms.
  • The alligator was once considered an endangered species, but thanks to government protection, its numbers have now recovered.
  • Did you know that the American alligator is the official state animal of Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi?
  • Though it might look precarious, female alligators are known to carry their young (known as ‘hatchlings’) in their mouths.
  1. Bald Eagles
  • Perhaps more so than any other North American animal, the bald eagle is of great importance to the people of the USA. The bald eagle is the national bird of the USA, and it appears on most official seals of the US Government, including the presidential seal.
  • Bald eagles have distinctive white heads and tails, which is how they get their name.
  • The bald eagle is also revered as a sacred animal in many Native American cultures. The Pawnee people, for example, consider the bird to be a symbol of fertility and parenthood because of how fiercely it protects its young.
  • Did you know that the bald eagle builds the largest tree nests of any North American bird? Some have weighed in at over half a tonne!
  1. Bison
  • The North American bison is one of the largest North American animals. It can be found throughout North America, from the frozen north to the deserts of the Southwest.
  • The bison were nearly hunted to extinction by European settlers in North America. By 1900, only 300 remained in the USA.
  • Today, bison numbers are recovering, but they are only present in a small portion of their former range.
  • Like the bald eagle, the bison is an animal of great importance to the indigenous people of North America.
  1. Bears
  • North America is home to 3 different species of bear. From the smallest to the largest, these are the black bear, the brown bear, and the polar bear.
  • As you might have guessed, the polar bear is in North America’s extreme north. It’s the world’s largest carnivorous mammal.
  • The black bear is the most widespread of all North American bears. It can be found from Canada to Mexico.
  • In North America, brown bears are found mainly in Canada. Some can grow to be as large as polar bears.
  1. Raccoons
  • These lovable North American Animals are found throughout the continent. However, they are most common in towns and cities, where their intelligence has helped them adapt to the encroachment of humans.
  • Along with humans and monvitals, raccoons are among the few animals with opposable thumbs.
  • Raccoons have a varied diet, from live birds and mammals to nuts and insects.
  • Like some other North American animals on this list, the raccoon is a recurring figure in the mythologies of Native Americans.
  1. Rattlesnakes
  • There are 36 known species of rattlesnake living in the Americas (that is, North America and South America). Most of these live in the Southwestern USA and North Mexico.
  • Rattlesnakes are the leading cause of snake-related injuries in the USA, although they don’t usually attack unless provoked.
  • Rattlesnakes are venomous, although if their bites are treated quickly, they’re rarely lethal.
  • Rattlesnakes shake the end of their tail to make a distinctive rattling sound to warn predators; this is how they get their name.
  1. Beaver
  • Beavers are found in the rivers and wetlands of the USA and Canada.
  • They use their large front teeth to gnaw at trees and branches to build dams. These dams create large wetland areas and habitats for other animals.
  • Increasingly, beavers are being found living in cities!
  • The beaver also has a large tail which helps it swim. Sometimes it slaps this tail against the water to warn predators.
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