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21 North American Animals That Start With N (Pictures)

There are plenty of animals that start with N living around the world. But how about specific species you can only find in North America? From birds that fly in the sky to a species called the unicorn of the sea, read on to find out more about 21 specific species from North America. Some you may have heard of, while others might be new to you!

21 animals that start with N

Learn more about 21 species of animals starting with N you can find specifically in North America.

1. North American beaver


Scientific name: Castor canadensis

North American beavers, sometimes called American Beavers, are semi-aquatic rodents well-known for building dams that help create aquatic habitats, control flooding, and prevent erosion. They have waterproof fur, paddle-shaped tails, and large, webbed hind feet. These beavers are also the largest rodents in the U.S., growing up to 3 feet long, not including their tails.

2. Northern river otter

Northern river Otter | image: GlacierNPS

Scientific name: Lontra canadensis

Northern river otters, also known as the common otter, can be found throughout North America, from Alaska and Canada to the Rio Grande. They live in any water habitat, warm or cold, including marshes, ponds, rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

Well adapted, they can dive up to 60 feet deep and hold their breath for up to 8 minutes underwater. Their diet mostly includes fish, crabs, crayfish, frogs, birds, and turtles.

3. Northern flying squirrel

northern flying squirrel | image by Naoki Takebayashi via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Glaucomys sabrinus

Northern flying squirrels are well-known for their ability to glide from tree to tree as if they are flying. They do this by using a special membrane connected to their front and back limbs.

Not only can they glide 300 feet but they can also make 180-degree turns in the air. You can find them in coniferous forests in Alaska, Canada, and south to North Carolina and Utah.

4. New England cottontail

New England cottontail | image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Scientific name: Sylvilagus transitionalis

Sometimes called wood rabbit or brush rabbit, the New England cottontail prefers thickets, shrubby areas, and wetlands with tree cover. You can find them in parts of New England, including Connecticut, and areas in eastern New York. These medium-sized rabbits are the only species native to the area.

5. Northern elephant seal

Scientific name: Mirounga angustirostris

Northern elephant seals are solitary, large animals, with males growing over 13 feet long and weighing up to 4,500 pounds. This species is the second largest seal worldwide, after the southern elephant seal.

They spend most of their life out at sea, roaming the oceans searching for food. You can find them in the eastern and central North Pacific Ocean, preferring to breed in the Channel Islands off California.

6. New Mexico whiptail

New Mexico whiptail lizard | image by Greg Schechter via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Aspidoscelis neomexicana

New Mexico whiptails are a female-only species of lizard that reproduce by producing eggs through a process known as parthenogenesis. This means the babies can develop from unfertilized eggs. They are New Mexico’s official state reptile and can be found in New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico.

7. Northwestern pond turtle

Western pond turtles | image by Jerry Kirkhart via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Actinemys marmorata marmorata

Northwestern pond turtles are a subspecies of the western pond turtle living mostly west of the the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains from Washington to California.

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They live in waterbodies where they feast on worms, frogs, salamander eggs, aquatic plants, crayfish, and more. These turtles also need muddy bottoms for nesting and areas they can bask in the sun.

8. Narwhal

narwhals | image by Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.5

Scientific name: Monodon monocerus

Sometimes called the unicorns of the sea, narwhals are strange-looking marine animals with long tusks on their heads, which are actually a long, spiraled tooth. These porpoises can grow up to 17 feet long and 4,200 pounds in weight. They mostly live in the North Atlantic regions, including the coasts of the eastern Canadian Arctic.

9. North Pacific right whale

North Pacific right whale | image by NPRW4ever via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific name: Eubalaena japonica

The North Pacific right whale lives along the western North American waters, from Alaska to Washington. They are a large baleen whale species, growing up to 60 feet long with light-colored patches on their body. Unfortunately, they are endangered since their populations are surprisingly low at around 40 individuals.

10. Narrow-headed garter snake

Narrow-headed garter snake | image credit: Tom Brennan via fws.gov

Scientific name: Thamnophis rufipunctatus

Narrow-headed garter snakes are semi-aquatic and non-venomous snakes. You can find them near clear, cool headwater streams in the southwestern states, including Arizona and New Mexico. These snakes can grow up to 44 inches long and get their name from their narrow, triangular-shaped head.

11. Northern pocket gopher

image: Katja Schulz | Flickr | CC 2.0

Scientific name: Thomomys talpoides

Northern pocket gophers are native to western U.S. states and areas of Canada, where they live in various habitats, including grasslands and wet meadows. These burrowing animals rarely appear above ground and typically don’t venture further than 2.5 feet from their burrow entrance. They use their extensive burrow systems to move around foraging in grasses, shrubs, trees, looking for things to eat.

12. Nine-banded armadillo

Scientific name: Dasypus novemcinctus

Like most armadillos, the Nine-banded armadillo is covered with an outer body armor of bony plates to protect them. Interestingly, they can also hold their breath for up to 6 minutes and walk or swim along river bottoms.

Although originally South American natives, their range has expanded north to southeastern U.S. states, including Texas, Louisiana, southeast Kansas, but also from Florida into Tennessee.

13. Northern pintail

Northern pintail duck | Image by Takashi Yanagisawa from Pixabay

Scientific name: Anas acuta

The Northern pintail is a long-distance migratory duck with breeding areas in North America and wintering areas near the equator. They are one of the most common duck species worldwide. These ducks have slender necks and long tails that point upwards while they swim through lakes and wetlands.

14. North American porcupine

Scientific name: Erethizon dorsatum

North American porcupines are the second-largest rodents in North America, known for their quill-covered bodies. Adults have around 30,000 loosely attached quills they can shoot at predators.

You can find them in northern Mexico, Canada, and the western and northeastern regions of the U.S. They can survive in forests, desert shrubs, grasslands, and even tundra.

15. Northern long-eared myotis

Northern long-eared myotis | image: NABat

Scientific name: Myotis septentrionalis

The northern long-eared myotis bat is widely distributed across forested areas in the eastern U.S. During the winter, you can find them hibernating as groups in caves or mines. These bats grow around 3.7 inches long, with 9 to 10-inch wingspans.

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16. Nelson’s pocket mouse

pocket mouse | image: White Sands National Park

Scientific name: Chaetodipus nelsoni

Native to western Texas and southeastern New Mexico regions, Nelson’s pocket mouse lives on rocky slopes where plants such as cactus and desert spoon grow. Within their range, they are the most common pocket mouse species. They are medium-sized mice growing up to 7.1 inches, including their tail.

17. Northern mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos

Northern mockingbirds are songbirds known for their mimicking ability where they mimic sounds around them, including car alarms, creaky gates, and other birds. This common mockingbird species found throughout the U.S. rarely migrate.

They can live in various habitats, including forest edges in the north, urban parks and gardens in the east, and desert scrub in the west.

18. Northern pygmy-owl

image: NechakoRiver | Flickr | CC 2.0

Scientific name: Glaucidium gnoma

The northern pygmy-owl is a species of long-tailed owl and one of the smallest owls in North America. You can find them from British Columbia and Alaska to Arizona, California, and northern Mexico.

They are ferocious hunters, active during the day searching for songbirds or mammals larger than themselves. These birds also have eyespot markings on their feathers that make them look like they have “eyes on the back of their heads.”

19. Nooksack dace

dace | image by Animal Diversity Web via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Rhinichthys cataractae

The Nooksack dace fish is a subspecies of common longnose dace. You can find them in western Washington state and southern British Columbia streams, including the Nooksack basin. These fish are streamlined and have a sub-terminal mouth, meaning their snout overhangs the mouth.

20. Northern pike

Northern Pike | image by atomtetsuwan2002 via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Esox lucius

The northern pike can grow up to 4.5 feet long and is the state fish of North Dakota. However, they can also be found throughout Alaska, the upper midwestern states, and portions of the Great Plains.

They are aggressive fish and ambush predators known to hide in the shallow, waiting to attack and snatch their prey with their long, sharp teeth.

21. Northern Flickr

Northern flicker | Image by Veronika Andrews from Pixabay

Scientific name: Colaptes auratus

Northern Flickers are brown all over, with lots of patterning on their undersides and wings. These large woodpeckers are in between the size of an American Robin and Crow, with smooth, rounded heads and long, tapered tails.

There are two distinct types of Northern Flickers; Northern Flickers in the east have bright yellow patches under their wings, but birds in the west, including Oregon, have red.

Northern Flickers occupy forests and woodlands that also offer open grounds for foraging. While most woodpeckers hang out on trees to forage, Northern Flickers are often spotted directly on the ground, using their slightly down-curved bills to dig for ants. They are one of about 17 species of woodpeckers found in North America.