American crocodiles live in fresh water, such as rivers and lakes, but will venture out into coastal waters, especially near estuaries and in lagoons, where the water is brackish. The crocodiles cope with the salty water by taking long drinks of fresh water when possible and removing salt from the body through glands on their faces - secreting "crocodile tears" in the process.
Feeding takes place at night, and the crocodiles occasionally come on to land to prey on livestock. They have also been known to attack humans. During periods of drought, the crocodiles burrow into mud and do not feed until the water returns.
The American crocodile's diet consists mainly of fish and other small aquatic animals. Larger individuals may also eat small mammals, birds and turtles. American crocodiles often exceed the size of other crocodilians in North and South America.
Most females lay their eggs in holes dug in the ground, but they may build nest mounds in areas where the soil is likely to become waterlogged and thus chill the incubating eggs. Nesting takes place in the dry season. Between 30 and 60 eggs are laid, which hatch three months later as the rainy season begins. The mother guards her nest until the hatchlings have dispersed.
Distribution: Southern Florida, Mexico, Central America and northern South America.
Habitat: Rivers and brackish water.
Food: Fish, turtles and birds.
Size: 4 - 5 m (13 - 16.5 ft).
Maturity: 5 - 10 years.
Breeding: Eggs laid in dry season.
Life span: 40 years.