Collection image

Golden Gate National Recreation Area Riddles

Last updated about 1 month ago

Test your knowledge about the animals and plants that live in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area!

Ask your friends to read the riddles out loud, then let them figure out which animal or plant is described in each riddle. Click on a thumbnail to see images, videos, quick facts and additional information about each organism.

You can download the riddles (PDF)for printing or displaying on a screen. You can also download a large format poster (PDF, 26 x 22.5 in) with pictures of the organisms.

Play the Memory Game!

Icon: Deer Mouse, Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan

  • 38616_88_88 Plantae > Caryophyllaceae

    Spergularia macrotheca

    Beach Sandspurry

    I am native to western North America from British Columbia to Baja California.

    I grow in a range of moist habitats, both coastal and inland.

    My stems may sprawl on the ground and my leaves are often arranged in clusters.

    I produce flowers with five white to lavender-pink petals.

  • 24538_88_88 Plantae > Caryophyllaceae

    Spergularia salina

    Salt Sandspurry

    My flowers each have five petals that are white to pink.

    I grow in a variety of wet habitats.

    My stems may be erect or sprawling and my leaves are arranged in pairs.

    I have a very wide native geographic distribution and have also been introduced widely around the world.

  • 57718_88_88 Plantae > Frankeniaceae

    Frankenia salina

    Alkali Heath

    I live in western North America, including California.

    I am often found growing in coastal salt marshes.

    I excrete excess salt from my leaves, leaving visible salt crystals on them.

    I have small fleshy leaves and produce flowers with five pinkish petals.

  • 51843_88_88 Plantae > Nyctaginaceae

    Abronia latifolia

    Yellow Sand-verbena

    I am native to the west coast of North America, from southern California to the Canadian border.

    I like to grow in sandy soils along the coast.

    My leaves are fleshy, glistening with glands, and I form sprawling mats on the ground.

    I produce rounded heads of rather large yellow flowers.

  • 79621_88_88 Plantae > Plumbaginaceae

    Limonium californicum

    California Sea-lavender

    I am found in western North America, mainly along the coast of California.

    My leaves are thick and leathery, growing from the base around my stem.

    My small flowers are lavender to nearly whitish and borne in stiff branching clusters.

    I am available from many native plant nurseries in California for planting in your garden!

  • 74216_88_88 Plantae > Asteraceae

    Jaumea carnosa

    Fleshy Jaumea

    I am found along the Pacific coast of North America from British Columbia to Baja California.

    I often grow in salt marshes.

    I am a member of the daisy family and produce yellow heads composed of many tiny flowers.

    My leaves are linear to oblong in shape and fleshy.

  • 66905_88_88 Plantae > Poaceae

    Distichlis spicata

    Inland Saltgrass

    I am broadly distributed in North, Central, and South America.

    I grow in coastal saltmarsh habitats, as well as inland salt flats and other salty soils.

    I am a grass with erect stems that grow to around 30 to 50 cm tall, often in dense stands.

    My leaves have salt glands that help me excrete excess salt.

  • 47776_88_88 Plantae > Plantaginaceae

    Plantago maritima

    Seaside Plantain

    I am very widely distributed across Africa, temperate Asia, Europe, northern North America, and southern South America.

    I grow mainly in sandy soil along the coast.

    My thick, fleshy leaves grow in a dense cluster.

    I produce dense spikes of tiny flowers.

  • 56806_88_88 Plantae > Fabaceae

    Lupinus chamissonis

    Chamisso's-bush Lupine

    I am found only in California.

    I grow in sand dunes and other habitats right along the coast.

    I have a shrubby growth form.

    I produce a long cluster of purplish flowers, which develops into a pod containing my seeds.

  • 89615_88_88 Animalia > Anguidae

    Elgaria multicarinata

    Southern Alligator Lizard

    I am long and slender, with a long tail (as much as twice the length of my body), short legs, and pale yellow eyes.

    I can sometimes be found in old woodpiles and trash heaps.

    I am typically found in relatively dry habitats, such as grasslands, chaparral, oak woodland, and open pine forests.

    I eat slugs, insects, centipedes, scorpions, and spiders--as well as lizards, small mammals, and (occasionally) the eggs and young of small birds.

  • 56497_88_88 Animalia > Anguidae

    Elgaria coerulea

    Northern Alligator Lizard

    I am long and slender, with a long tail, short legs, and mostly dark eyes.

    I can be found under bark, inside rotten logs, and other rocks and other objects.

    I live mainly in woodlands and forests, but also in grasslands and sagebrush habitats.

    I eat insects, ticks, spiders, millipedes, and snails.

  • 34674_88_88 Animalia > Charadriidae

    Charadrius nivosus

    Snowy Plover

    I have a thin dark bill and dark legs.

    I lay my eggs on the ground along sandy coasts and brackish (somewhat salty) inland lakes; my chicks leave the nest within hours after hatching to search for food, but cannot fly for around a month.

    Populations of my species along the Pacific coast of North America are threatened by habitat loss, human activities along beaches where I breed that result in the accidental destruction of my eggs and chicks, and other factors.

    I am about as cute and adorable as a bird can be.

  • 54423_88_88 Animalia > Phalacrocoracidae

    Phalacrocorax auritus

    Double-crested Cormorant

    As an adult, I have a black body and long neck, with some orange on my face.

    I can be found around both saltwater and freshwater across North America.

    I eat mainly small fish.

    I can often be seen perched on rocks or posts in the water with my wings outstretched, probably to dry them.

  • 64288_88_88 Animalia > Varunidae

    Hemigrapsus oregonensis

    Bay Shore Crab

    I have a nearly rectangular upper shell.

    I have visible fringes of "hair" on my legs.

    I feed mainly on seaweeds, especially green algae.

    I am common in salt marshes all along the northern Pacific coast of North America.

  • 98732_88_88 Animalia > Emberizidae

    Zonotrichia leucophrys

    White-crowned Sparrow

    I have a black-and-white striped crown and a whitish throat.

    Scientists have extensively studied geographic dialects of my song.

    I am present along the Pacific coast and in the western mountains of the United States year-round, but depart most of the U.S. in summer to breed in Canada.

    In winter, I travel in flocks, looking for small seeds on the ground near brushy thickets to which I can retreat in case of danger.

  • 10360_88_88 Animalia > Colubridae

    Diadophis punctatus

    Ringneck Snake

    I am usually dark with an orange neck ring.

    I live in moist habitats, often under logs or stones.

    I eat salamanders, small frogs, lizards, small snakes, slugs, and worms.

    When I feel threatened, I coil my tail and startle a potential predator by exposing my brightly colored belly.

  • 82397_88_88 Animalia > Charadriidae

    Charadrius vociferus

    Killdeer

    I am common across most of North America in open fields and along shorelines.

    My name is an imitation of one of my loud calls.

    I am brown above and white below with two black rings across my chest.

    If a predator comes near my ground nest, I may pretend I have a broken wing to tempt it away from my nest with the promise of an easy meal.

  • 33784_88_88 Animalia > Laridae

    Hydroprogne caspia

    Caspian Tern

    I can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

    I am found near water, both freshwater and saltwater.

    I eat mainly fish and small crustaceans.

    I am mostly white, with some black and gray, and have an orange-red bill.

  • 63829_88_88 Animalia > Alcedinidae

    Megaceryle alcyon

    Belted Kingfisher

    My distinctive loud rattling call is often heard before I am seen.

    I am mostly blue above and white below, with a blue band across my chest; if I am female, I have a rust-colored band as well, below the blue one.

    I eat mainly fish, but will feed on other small animals as well.

    I nest at the elevated end of a long tunnel my mate and I dig into a sand bank.

  • 97030_88_88 Animalia > Icteridae

    Euphagus cyanocephalus

    Brewer's Blackbird

    I am very common in open habitats across western North America--including human-built habitats such as parking lots!

    If I am male, I am black with glossy purple on my head and glossy green on my body--and bright yellow eyes.

    As I walk, my head jerks forward and backward.

    I eat mainly seeds and insects.

  • 45782_88_88 Animalia > Scolopacidae

    Numenius americanus

    Long-billed Curlew

    I breed in the grasslands of western North America, but am often seen feeding on mudflats along the coast in winter.

    I feed on insects and other small animals and, in coastal areas, on marine invertebrates such as crabs, shellfish, and worms.

    If I am female, I have a much longer bill than if I am male.

    I used to be known as the candlestick bird, giving my name to "Candlestick Point" and the "Candlestick Park" stadium in San Francisco.

  • 82547_88_88 Animalia > Pelecanidae

    Pelecanus occidentalis

    Brown Pelican

    I breed along the Pacific coast from California to Chile and along the Atlantic coast from Maryland to Venezuela.

    I catch fish by diving into the water and scooping them up with my huge bill.

    In the 1960s and 1970s, my populations declined because pesticides in the fish I ate made the shells of my eggs too thin, but these chemicals have been banned and my populations have been increasing.

    My body is brown and I have a yellow crown.

  • 90553_88_88 Animalia > Laridae

    Larus occidentalis

    Western Gull

    I am one of the most commonly seen species along Pacific shorelines of the United States.

    As a mature adult (4 years old), I am mostly white with a dark back and pink legs.

    When I am young, I am largely brown.

    I have a broad diet, including marine fishes and invertebrates, eggs and chicks of seabirds, and carrion.

  • 72696_88_88 Animalia > Myidae

    Mya arenaria

    Softshell Clam

    My native home is the Atlantic Ocean, but I was introduced to San Francisco Bay by the 1870s and spread as far north as Alaska by the 1950s.

    I live buried in sand or mud.

    I have a hard shell and thick tube-like "siphons" that are used to bring in water, which I filter for food particles then expel.

    Many humans say I am delicious.

  • 18588_88_88 Animalia > Boidae

    Charina bottae

    Rubber Boa

    I am found in both grasslands and woodlands, often beneath rotting logs and rocks and the bark of dead trees.

    I am a good swimmer, burrower, and climber.

    I eat mice and shrews, small birds, salamanders, and snakes.

    I look a bit like a rubber toy--but I'm real!

  • 93261_88_88 Animalia > Muridae

    Microtus californicus

    California Vole

    I live mainly in California.

    I am found in grassy fields, meadows, and around wetlands.

    I am active mainly during the day, but try to stay hidden from predators in runways I make through the grass and shallow underground tunnels.

    I eat green vegetation when I can, but lots of roots and seeds during the dry summer.

  • 65734_88_88 Animalia > Scincidae

    Plestiodon skiltonianus

    Coronado Skink

    I live in western North America.

    I spend much of my day basking in the sun.

    I live in a range of habitats, but avoid densely forested areas.

    I have a bright blue tail!

  • 86280_88_88 Animalia > Gobiidae

    Clevelandia ios

    Arrow Goby

    I live in the water along the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico.

    To keep me safe from predators and drying out, I often live in burrows in mud or sand made by shrimps or worms.

    I am quite small, just around 4 to 6 cm long.

    I feed on tiny bits of algae and invertebrate animals, sometimes placing large food particles near crabs and waiting for them to shred them into pieces I can eat.

  • 47494_88_88 Animalia > Trochilidae

    Calypte anna

    Anna's Hummingbird

    I am a common year-round resident along the west coast of North America.

    I can be found in many different habitats, including gardens and parks.

    I am very small, but I can move very quickly and make a loud jumble of squeaks and buzzes.

    I have a deep rose red-colored head and emerald green and white body (I have been described as "flying jewelry").

  • 49692_88_88 Animalia > Sturnidae

    Sturnus vulgaris

    Common Starling

    I was brought to New York from Europe around 1890 and have since spread across North America.

    In the summer, I am shiny black with some lighter speckles and a yellow bill.

    I often squeak and warble noisily from a perch in a tree, sometimes in large groups.

    I nest in holes in trees, sometimes driving away native birds trying to nest in these holes.

  • 74609_88_88 Animalia > Ardeidae

    Egretta thula

    Snowy Egret

    The color of my plumage explains my name.

    My yellow feet and dark legs and bill distinguish me from similar species in North America.

    I eat mainly small fish that I grab out of the water.

    In summer, I gather in large groups to nest in trees near freshwater.

  • 46188_88_88 Phrynosomatidae

    Sceloporus occidentalis

    Western Fence Lizard

    I am one of the most common lizards in the western United States.

    Especially if I am male, I have blue on my throat and the sides of my belly.

    I am found in a wide range of habitats, but usually on or close to the ground.

    I feed on insects and spiders.

  • 86040_88_88 Animalia > Procyonidae

    Procyon lotor

    Northern Raccoon

    I have a black mask like a cartoon bandit.

    I live in cities and towns as well as in rural and wilderness areas.

    I will eat almost anything, including human garbage.

    I am native to North and Central America, but have spread to parts of Europe and Asia.

  • 99618_88_88 Animalia > Muridae

    Peromyscus maniculatus

    Deer Mouse

    I have big ears and big eyes and most people think I look very cute.

    I can be found across most of North America.

    I can be found in an extremely wide range of habitats.

    I eat seeds, nuts, berries, insects, and lots of other things.

  • 86763_88_88 Animalia > Mephitidae

    Mephitis mephitis

    Striped Skunk

    I am black with white stripes.

    If I feel threatened, I will warn you by stamping my front feet.

    If you don't go away, I may spray you with a very smelly liquid!

    I am nocturnal (out at night) and eat a range of small animals and plant foods.

  • 46885_88_88 Animalia > Didelphidae

    Didelphis virginiana

    Virginia Opossum

    After birth, my tiny babies climb into my pouch, where they nurse and grow for two months.

    Once they leave my pouch, my babies sometimes ride around on my back.

    I am an omnivore, eating a wide range of plant and animal foods.

    I am comfortable both on the ground and climbing in trees.