Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nature Poetry
April is National Poetry Month! Celebrate with a study of nature poetry!

Start your by reading nature poems (see book list below).  Depending on the age and level of students make a study of the mechanics of poetry and how to write different kinds of poetry.

Take students to a natural area. Have each student find a quiet place to sit, reflect and observe. Students should record their feelings in a notebook or a nature journal created for nature observations (see below). While sitting quietly, students may write poems to reflect their feelings/observations OR record their feelings/observations to use to create a poem later. Allow students to draw observations as well. Many nature journals and poems are illustrated with the authors art work.

Creating a Nature Journal
A nature journal is a place to record your thoughts, feelings, and observations about nature. It is a place to reflect and interpret your inner thoughts on the natural world and to develop a greater awareness of both the natural world and your own thoughts and feelings. Many nature journals contain drawings, pictures, and specimens (such as leaves, feathers, or other small objects).

Learning Table: DIY Homemade Nature Journals

Acorn Naturalist: All Weather Student Journals

Book Lists
Educator Book List
Anderson, P. 1996. Henry David Thoreau: American Naturalist. Scholastic Library Publishing.
Bosselaar, L., and E. Hiestand. 2000. Urban Nature: Poems About Wildlife in the City. Milkweed Editions.
Hass, R. and P. Michael. 2008. River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things. Milkweed Editions.
Leopold, A. 1989. A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press.
Leslie, C. W., and C. E. Roth. 2003. Keeping a Nature Journal. Storey Books.
Leslie, C. W. 2003. Nature Journal: A Guided Journal for Illustrating and Recording Your Observations of the Natural World. Storey Books.
Muir, J. 1997. John Muir: Nature Writings. Penguin Group.
Shamir, I. 1999. Poet-Tree, the Wilderness I am. Better World Press, Inc.

Children’s Book List
PreK-2
Florian, D. 2002. Insectlopedia. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Florian, D. 2005. Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Florian, D. 2004. Mammalabilia. Voyager Books.
Florian, D. 2000. On the Wing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
George, K. O., and K. Kiesler. 2007. Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Glaser, L., E. Kleven. 2002. Our Big Home: An Earth Poem. Lerner Publishing Group.
Harrison, M., and C. Stuart-Clark. 1992. The Oxford Book of Animal Poems. Oxford University Press.
Heard, G., and J.O. Dewey. 1997. Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Poems. Boyds Mills Press.
Paladino, C. 1993. Land, Sea, and Sky: Poems to Celebrate the Earth. Little, Brown & Company.
Paolilli, P. and D. Brewer. 2001. Silver Seeds: A Book of Nature Poems. Viking.
Peters, L. W., and C. Felstead. 2003. Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up. HarperCollins Publishers.
Ryder, J., and D. Nolan. 1990. Under Your Feet. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
Sidman, J., and B. Prange. 2005. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Sidman, J., and R. Allen. 2014. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
VanDerwater, A. L., and R. Gourley. 2013. Forest Has a Song: Poems. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Worth, V., and S. Jenkins. 2007. Animal Poems. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Yolen, J. and J. Stemple. Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People. Boyds Mills Press.

Grades 3-5
Bradman, S., and S. Wintringham. 2002. Wild and Wonderful: Poems about the Natural World. Hodder Headline.
Florian, D. 2002. Insectlopedia. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Florian, D. 2005. Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Florian, D. 2004. Mammalabilia. Voyager Books.
Florian, D. 2000. On the Wing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Glaser, L., E. Kleven. 2002. Our Big Home: An Earth Poem. Lerner Publishing Group.
Hamerstrom, F. 1985. Walk When the Moon Is Full. Crossing Press, Inc
Heard, G., and J.O. Dewey. 1997. Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Poems. Boyds Mills Press.
Hoberman, M.A., L. Winston, and B. Fortin. 2009. The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination. Sourcebooks, Incorporated.
Kalman, B., C. Curtis, and M. Jupp. 1982. Animals in Danger: Poems from No Man’s Valley. Random House Children’s Books.
Mordhorst, H., and J. Reynish. 2009. Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature. Boyd Mills Press.
Nicholls, J. 1998. Earthways, Earthwise: Poems on Conservation. Oxford University Press, USA.
Paolilli, P. and D. Brewer. 2001. Silver Seeds: A Book of Nature Poems. Viking.
Peters, L. W., and C. Felstead. 2003. Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up. HarperCollins Publishers.
Sidman, J., and R. Allen. 2010. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Sidman, J., and B. Prange. 2005. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Sidman, J., and R. Allen. 2014. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Vanderhorst, M.J. 2007. Pictures and Poems: Introducing young people to NATURE in a poetic way!. Authorhouse.

Grades 6-8
Bradman, S., and S. Wintringham. 2002. Wild and Wonderful: Poems about the Natural World. Hodder Headline.
Fleischman, P., and E. Beddows. 1992. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. HarperCollins Publishers.
Fletcher, R.J. 1997. Ordinary Things: Poems from a Walk in Early Spring. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
Hass, R. and P. Michael. 2008. River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things. Milkweed Editions.
Hoberman, M.A., L. Winston, and B. Fortin. 2009. The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination. Sourcebooks, Incorporated.
Kalman, B., C. Curtis, and M. Jupp. 1982. Animals in Danger: Poems from No Man’s Valley. Random House Children’s Books.
Mordhorst, H., and J. Reynish. 2009. Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature. Boyd Mills Press.
Paolilli, P. and D. Brewer. 2001. Silver Seeds: A Book of Nature Poems. Viking.

Grades 9-12
Bosselaar, L., and E. Hiestand. 2000. Urban Nature: Poems About Wildlife in the City. Milkweed Editions.
Collins, B., and D. Sibley. 2009. Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds. Columbia University Press.
Felstiner, J. 2009. Can Poetry Save the Earth?: A Field Guide to Nature Poems. Yale University Press.
Finch, R. The Norton Book of Nature Writing College Edition with Field Guide. W. W. Norton & Co. Inc.
Hollander, J. 1994. Animal Poems (Everyman’s Library). Knopf Doubleday Publishing.
Hyett, B.H. 1996. The Tracks We Leave: Poems on Endangered Wildlife of North America. University of Illinois Press.
Muir, J. 1997. John Muir: Nature Writings. Penguin Group.
Paolilli, P. and D. Brewer. 2001. Silver Seeds: A Book of Nature Poems. Viking.
Nelson, H. 2010. Earth, My Likeness: Nature Poetry of Walt Whitman. North Atlantic Books.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Helping our Native Pollinators

What is Pollination?
Pollination is the process where plants receive pollen from other plants of the same species so they can reproduce and form seeds. Many plants are pollinated by animals, and most of the animal pollinators are insects. The relationship between plants and their insect pollinators is beneficial to both the plant and the pollinator. The insect pollinator receives food, usually in the form of nectar, while it spreads pollen from plant to plant aiding the plants reproduction. Pollination is really just a “happy accident” that happens when an insect visits a flower to get food. The insects do not know they are pollinating plants as they are finding food for themselves.

Insects have been pollinating plants for approximately 140 million years, since the dawn of angiosperms (flowering plants). Flowering plants lure pollinators to them with scent, visual cues, and food. Learn more about the process of pollination: The Plant Pollination Process: http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/plant-pollination-process.html

Why We Need Pollinators
More than one-third of our food supply depends on pollinators. Without pollinators there would be no apples, onions, oranges, pumpkins, and many other fruit and vegetables. There would be no coffee, chocolate, nuts, or cotton for our clothes. Without pollinators our world would be a much different place than it is right now.

Produce Section With And Without Bees

List of crop plants pollinated by bees

Why you should be more worried about pollination than a bee sting

Flower Dissection
Gather flowers from your yard or visit a local flower shop and get flowers to dissect. Cut the flowers in half. Identify the different parts and talk about what they are and how pollination works.

Pollination Field Trip
Visit a local apple orchard, garden, or even walk around your schoolyard this spring to observe pollinators (bee, butterfly, moth, beetle, etc). Identify and record each species you find. Note native vs. non-native pollinators.

Gardening for Pollinators
Plan and plant a school garden for pollinators. Already have a school garden? Add plants for pollinators or devote a section to pollinators. Even growing a few pollinator-friendly plants in containers can be beneficial!

Blank Park Zoo: Plant. Grow. Fly.
Become part of a new conservation initiative to help protect native pollinators! Whether you have several acres, a small back yard, a schoolyard, or even a business courtyard – you can make a difference! Plant seeds, watch them grow, and help our native pollinators thrive!

Other things you can do to support pollinators:
·         Avoid or limit pesticide use at home and never use a neonicotinoid pesticide
·         Buy organic produce
·         Provide nesting sites, such as bee nesting blocks

Helpful Links
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation – Looking out for Iowa: Native Pollinators

Native Pollinators: The Amazing World of Native Pollinators

Native Bee Conservancy: Saving Our Wild Pollinators

Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees

Bug Guide: Native Bees of North America

Animal Pollination
USDA Forest Service: Gardening for Pollinators

Planting a Pollinator Garden

The Xerces Society: Pollinator Gardens

Garden for Wildlife

White House Gets “First-Ever” Pollinator Garden, Milkweed Planted at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Book List
Educator Reference
Barth, F. G., and M. A. Biedermann-Thorson. 1991. Insects and Flowers: The Biology of a Partnership. Princeton University Press.
The Xerces Society . 2011. Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat. Storey Books.

PreK-2
Galvin, L.G., and K. Kest. 2000. Bumblebee at Apple Tree Lane. Soundprints.
Heiligman, D., and B. Weissman. 1996. From Caterpillar to Butterfly. HarperCollins Publishers.
Hoff, M. K. 2004. Pollination. The Creative Company.
Lawrence, E. 2012. What Lily Gets from Bee: And Other Pollination Facts. Bearport Publishing Company, Inc.
Schaefer, L. M., and A. Richardson. 2001. Butterflies: Pollinators and Nectar-Sippers. Capstone Press.
Slade, S., and C. Schwartz. 2010. What If There Were No Bees? Capstone Press.

Grades 3-5
Heiligman, D., and B. Weissman. 1996. From Caterpillar to Butterfly. HarperCollins Publishers.
Hoff, M. K. 2004. Pollination. The Creative Company.
Kalman, B. 2010. What is pollination? Crabtree Publishing Company.
Lawrence, E. 2012. What Lily Gets from Bee: And Other Pollination Facts. Bearport Publishing Company, Inc.

Grades 6-8
Hauth, K. B., and K. Sather. 1996. Night Life of the Yucca: The Story of a Flower and a Moth. Rinehart, Roberts Publishers, Inc.
Kalman, B. 2010. What is pollination? Crabtree Publishing Company.
Lauber, P., and J. Wexler. 1986. From Flower to Flower: Animals and Pollination. Random House Children’s Books.

Grades 9-12
Hauth, K. B., and K. Sather. 1996. Night Life of the Yucca: The Story of a Flower and a Moth. Rinehart, Roberts Publishers, Inc.
Lauber, P., and J. Wexler. 1986. From Flower to Flower: Animals and Pollination. Random House Children’s Books.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Carmen A. 
Category III (Grades 6-8) 
1st Place Winner

Iowa Kids “Take It Outside” with IDNR Art Contest

To view all of the winning posters visit the IDNR Education Competitions:

Over 1800 Iowa students, ranging from Kindergarten to grade 12, participated in this year’s Iowa Department of Natural Resources “Take It Outside” Art Contest. Entries showcased children enjoying their favorite natural places in Iowa – from prairies and forests to lakes and streams.

This year art contest participants were asked to portray their favorite natural place to “take it outside”. They were asked to show what makes the place special to them. From hiking, fishing, hunting, reading under a tree to bird watching, lying in the grass, and climbing trees – this year’s participants showed us the wonderful ways they like to enjoy Iowa’s natural resources!

Iowa is abundant with wonderful natural resources and natural areas are found throughout the state. Natural places can be public, such as state parks and recreations areas, or private, such as farms and backyards. Regardless of size or location, natural places connect us to the outdoors and enrich our lives.

Schools were asked to submit posters in the following categories: Kindergarten-Grade 2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12. All categories were for original hand-drawn artwork. Winners were selected based on portrayal of theme, creative expression, originality, visual appeal, and artistic merit. 

Individual winners (by category):
Category I: Grades K-2
1st Place – Emma F., Homeschool
1st Place – Ethan H., Homeschool
Best Use of Color – Krystal W., Benton Community Schools

Category II: Grades 3-5
1st Place – Nathan P., Mid-Prairie HSAP
Best Use of Theme – Rebecca U., Pleasant Valley Schools
Most Creative – Molly S., South Tama Schools
Best Use of Color – Amelia J., Des Moines Catholic Diocese

Category III: Grades 6-8
1st Place – Carmen A., Benton Community Schools
Most Creative – Tyler P., Ames Schools
Best Use of Color – Emily P., Southeast Polk Community Schools

Category IV: Grades 9-12
1st Place – Gabby R., West Marshall Schools
Best Use of Theme – Tessa M., North Polk Schools

Individual artists who placed first in each category received a prize package of exploration and/or outdoor recreation supplies. Every participant received a certificate from the IDNR. Winning entries will be displayed during the Iowa State Fair at the DNR building.

Grant for natural resources-based recreation experience
Each school that submitted art contest entries was entered in a drawing to receive a grant (total of 4 grants awarded) for a fishing field experience at a local outdoor recreation area.

Thank you again for all of the entries!    We enjoyed the opportunity to view all of the wonderful artwork and creativity of the students!

MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Hafner, DNR, at (641) 747-2200 or shannon.hafner@dnr.iowa.gov



Friday, March 21, 2014

Iowa Fish
What is a fish? Fish are animals that live their lives in water. Fish are cold-blooded, which does not mean that their blood is cold but rather that their body temperature changes with the temperature of the water around them. Fish are also vertebrates - they have a backbone and an internal skeleton made of cartilage or bone. 

Since fish are animals they must breathe oxygen just like other animals - but how do they breathe oxygen under water? With their gills! Gills make it possible for fish to breathe oxygen under water by absorbing the dissolved oxygen in water.

Fish also have fins and scales. Fins are how fish move around in the water. Different fish have different fin shapes and sizes. Scales cover fish and protect them. Most fish have scales but some, like catfish, are covered with tough skin.

There are 148 species of fish in Iowa.

Creature Feature – American Brook Lamprey (Lampetra appendix)

American brook lamprey are listed as THREATENED in Iowa.

American brook lamprey are long, cylindrical fish averaging 5 to 8 inches long. They have a long dorsal (upper) fin which is divided into two parts and extends around the tail. They do not have fins on the sides of their bodies. Adult american brook lamprey’s bodies are olive green to brown fading to lighter below. Immature American brook lamprey are smaller and have lighter colored bodies.

American brook lamprey are non-parasitic (until like many lampreys that use their mouths to attach to hosts and live off of their blood).

American brook lamprey live most of their life in their immature form, called ammocoetes. Ammocoetes live in burrows in the sand and silt in small streams in northeast Iowa. They eat small plants, animals, and bits of organic matter. Ammocoetes mature into adults after 3 to 7 years at which time they will no longer have a functioning digestive system and do not eat. Adult American brook lamprey spawn and die shortly after reaching maturity.  

During spawning the male and female construct a small nest by picking up small pebbles with their mouths and moving them to form a rim around a small depression on the stream bottom. The female then deposits the sticky eggs in the nest and they adhere to the sand and gravel.

American brook lamprey are listed as threatened in Iowa. Their numbers are low due to loss of spawning habitat due to siltation, and channelization.

Conservation Messaging
Use Aquatic WILD’s “Conservation Messaging” to create a public service announcement informing the public about actions they can take to conserve the American brook lamprey. Students should research threats to the American brook lamprey, explain what can be done to conserve and restore aquatic habitats, and use their research to create their PSA.

Extension
Focus on other species. What other threatened or endangered Iowa wildlife species can you create PSA for as a class?

Book List
Amdahl, P. 2000. The Barefoot Fisherman: A Fishing Book for Kids. Clearwater Publishing.
Burger, C. 1960. All About Fish. Random House.
Parker, S. 2005. Fish. DK Publishing, Inc.
Schaefer, L.M. 2001. What Is a Fish?. Coughlan Publishing.

Links
IDNR: Fishes of Iowa

American brook lamprey

Wikipedia: Lampetra appendix

For factsheets, activity sheets and MORE visit:
IDNR: Education – Classroom Resources (go to the Document Library at the bottom of the page for fact sheets and activity sheets!)



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Iowa Invertebrates
More than 97% of the animal species on Earth are invertebrates. Invertebrates are small animals that do not have backbones. There are many types of invertebrates, from fluid-filled jellyfish, and squishy earthworms to hard shelled insects like beetles, and eight-legged arachnids. This fascinating and diverse group of animals spans the globe – invertebrates live on every continent and in every body of water!

BrainPOP: Invertebrates

Science for Kids: Invertebrates Poem


Creature Feature – Prairie Crayfish (Procambarus gracilis)

Crayfish are usually associated with aquatic habitats such as ponds and creeks. The prairie crayfish is one crayfish species that breaks that mold! Prairie crayfish, as their name implies, live in prairies and other grassland. However, since so little prairie remains in Iowa, they are frequently found in ditches or poorly drained pasture land. They dig deep burrows, over 6 feet deep, and leave a distinguishing “chimney” of mud around the entrance. Their burrows are usually below the water table and water-filled.

Prairie crayfish are bright red to reddish-brown with a high-domed shell. Their pincers are large with many bumps. Adults may be up almost 3 inches long. Their gills are able to obtain oxygen from the air for extended periods of time as long as conditions are moist. Prairie crayfish live for 3 or 4 years.

Prairie crayfish are secretive and nocturnal, coming out of their burrows only at night or during heavy rains. They can often be seen crossing roadways or walking in flooded roadside ditches during the spring and summer months. Prairie crayfish feed on plants, insects, and pretty much anything they can find, dead or alive.

Mating occurs during the spring and after the female lays her eggs she carries them under her abdomen. She will carry them through hatching and until they grow large enough to care for themselves at which time she will leave them in a suitable habitat.

Missouri Department of Conservation: Prairie Crayfish

Vanishing Prairies
Iowa was once covered by vast acres of rolling prairies. It is estimated that less than 0.1% of Iowa’s original prairie remains. Although some species, such as the prairie crayfish, have adapted and continue to thrive without vast prairie land, other species have not been so lucky. Research other native prairie wildlife species. What are some features of wildlife species that have adapted well to prairie destruction? What are some features of species that have not?

For factsheets, activity sheets and MORE visit:
IDNR: Education – Classroom Resources (go to the Document Library at the bottom of the page for fact sheets and activity sheets!)


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Iowa Reptiles and Amphibians

There are a wide variety and number of amphibians and reptiles that make Iowa their home. People are often surprised to learn of the variety of amphibians and reptiles we have in Iowa. Many of these animals are secretive and come out only at night and may not be easily observable. “Herps” is the names given to the large group of amphibians and reptiles and the study of them is called herpetology.

Herps are cold-blooded, which does not mean that their blood is actually cold. Cold-blooded animals are animals that do not generate their own body heat but rather rely on the ambient temperature surrounding them (air, water, soil, etc) to regulate their body temperature. This is why you see snakes and turtles basking in the sun or hiding in the shade – they are regulating their temperature.

Unlike amphibians, reptiles are not tied to water to lay their eggs and for their young to develop. Reptile eggs have tough leathery skins that do not dry out and their young are developmentally identical to adults and do not go through metamorphosis. Below we take a closer look at one of Iowa’s rarest reptiles – the Blanding’s turtle!

Creature Feature – Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)

Blanding’s turtles are listed as THREATENED in Iowa and ENDANGERED over much of their range elsewhere. Their population is declining as their habitat is being destroyed. It is illegal to kill, collect, or possess them. Any sightings in Iowa should be reported to the IDNR and/or the Iowa HerpNet at REPTILIA74@aol.com.

Blanding’s turtles are named after Dr. William Blanding, the American naturalist who discovered the species in 1838. The Blanding’s turtle ranges in size from 5 to 10 ¼ inches long. The carapace (upper shell) has a high dome and looks like a helmet. It is black or dark gray with yellow dots or markings. The plastron (lower shell) is yellow with a large black blotch on the edge of each scute. Blanding’s turtles have hinged plastrons which allow them to pull their head and limbs inside their shell and completely close the front of their shell.  Male Blanding’s turtles are larger than females. In addition, females have striping on the upper jaw while the male’s upper jaw is plain black giving the appearance of a moustache.

Blanding’s turtles live in marshes, ponds, or wetlands. They prefer water that is less than four inches deep with emergent vegetation and a mud bottom. They are primarily aquatic turtles but they are often found on land not far from water. They hibernate in the mud at the bottom of the water body where they live. They emerge from hibernation in April and return to the bottom of the marsh to hibernate in October.

Blanding’s turtles feed on a variety of plants and animals with crayfish being their favorite. They also eat earthworms, slugs, snails, fish, aquatic insect larva, frogs, tadpoles, plant material and berries.

Breeding occurs April through May. The female will lay 6-15 eggs in a nest she digs in the soil. The young hatch in about 60 days. Upon hatching they make their way to the marsh. Hatchlings are not as vividly marked as adults and their carapace is not as domed. As with most turtles, the young are not cared for by the adults. Blanding’s turtles may live up to 80 years and do not reach maturity until 14-20 years of age.


Iowa HerpNet: Blanding’s Turtle

Threatened and Endangered Species in Iowa
Use Project WILD’s “Back from the Brink” to explore the issue of endangered and threatened species. Students are given background information on the recovery of wildlife species and are then asked to analyze the issue and make recommendations for the resolution. Make the Iowa connection and have students choose an Iowa species to research. Guide students as they choose a species, develop a recovery plan, and present their findings to the class. Something to think about: How could the local community and citizens be involved and help resolve any conflicts of interest?

IDNR: Iowa’s Threatened and Endangered Species Program

U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species: Iowa

Book List
Bang. M. 1997. Common Ground: The Earth We Share. Blue Sky Press.
Burns, D. and L. Garrow. Frogs, Toads, and Turtles (Take-Along Guide). NorthWord Books for Young Readers.
Crump, D.J. 1987. Wildlife: Making a Comeback. National Geographic Society.
Dinsmore, J.J. 1994. A Country So Full of Game: The Story of Wildlife in Iowa. University of Iowa Press.
Dinsmore, S. 1995. Iowa Wildlife Viewing Guide. Falcon.
Gibbons, W., J. Green, and C. Hagen. 2009. Turtles: The Animal Answer Guide. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Goodnough, D. 2001. Endangered Animals of North America. Enslow Publishers, Incorporated.
McClung, R.M. 1993. Lost Wild America: The Story of Our Extinct and Vanishing Wildlife. Shoe String Press, Incorporated.
Prelutsky, J. 1997. The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Pringle, L.P. 1990. Saving Our Wildlife. Enslow Publishers, Incorporated.
Reading, R.P. 2000. Endangered Animals: A Reference Guide to Conflicting Issues. Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated.



For factsheets, activity sheets and MORE visit:
IDNR: Education – Classroom Resources (go to the Document Library at the bottom of the page for fact sheets and activity sheets!)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Iowa Birds
Iowa is home to an impressive number of bird species - from seasonal migrants to species that make Iowa their home year round. Bird watching is a wonderful hobby enjoyed by many Iowans young and old! Birds are interesting and abundant making them wonderful wildlife to observe and study with children.

Creature Feature – Yellow-Headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

Yellow-headed blackbirds are medium-sized birds with stout bodies, large heads, and long, conical bills. The males of the species have striking yellow heads and chests with black bodies and white patches on the bend of their wings. Females are brown instead of black and have duller yellow heads.

Yellow-headed blackbirds are neotropical migrants. Neotropical migrants are birds that spend their summers in a breeding range in North America and migrate to Central or South America for the winter (see below for more information on neotropical migrants).

Yellow-headed blackbirds live in natural lakes and marsh habitats.  They rest in reeds and cattails over the water. Their song is a drawn out “krick” or “kack” that is often said to sound like a rusty old gate.

Yellow-headed blackbirds eat insects, grain, and seeds. They form large flocks in the winter and flock to farm fields eating left-over grain.

Male and female yellow-headed blackbirds migrate separately with the males arriving in Iowa for the breeding season as early as April. The males stake out breeding territories in wetlands as they wait for the arrival of the females in early May. Males defend a territory and will have as many as eight females nesting within his territory. He may help feed the young of the first nest for a short time but otherwise the females care for the young on their own.

Nesting occurs in May and June. Nests are built by the female. She weaves long strands of vegetation around the upright stems of cattails. Nests are built over the water. Females lay 2-5 grayish to greenish white eggs with brown or rofous splotches. She will incubate the eggs for approximately 12-13 days. The young are born altricial, or helpless, and are cared for by the female. They fledge, or leave the nest, at about 2 weeks of age.

Yellow-headed blackbirds begin their fall migration south as early as July. They are often in large flocks with their smaller cousins, red-winged blackbirds.

All About Birds: Yellow-headed Blackbirds

Neotropical Migrants
There are 386 bird species on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act bird list. Many of the birds on this list are also listed as threatened or endangered. Neotropical migrants are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction as they face a lack of habitat in their summer breeding grounds, their winter non-breeding grounds, as well as long their migration routes.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Bird List

North America Migration Flyways

How Birds Migrate

How You Can Get Involved!
While we cannot directly influence the loss of habitat for neotropical migrants in their tropical winter habitat we can do our part here in Iowa! As a class “adopt” your schoolyard and make it a Schoolyard Habitat. Schoolyard habitats benefit wildlife AND children as they plan, build and LEARN. Learn more about planning a schoolyard habitat project:

National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitats

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Schoolyard Habitat – Stewardship through action

Book List
Arnosky, J. 1993. Crinkleroot's 25 Birds Every Child Should Know. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
Arnosky, J. 1992. Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Birds. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
Bailey, D. 1992. Birds: How to Watch and Understand the Fascinating World of Birds. DK Publishing, Inc.
Boring, M. 1998. Bird, Nests, and Eggs. T&N Children's Publishing.
Burnie, D. 2004. Bird. DK Publishing, Inc.
Chu, Miyoko. 2007. Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds. Walker & Company.
Davies, J. 2004. The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon. Houghton Mifflin Company.
DeGraaf, R.M. 1995. Neotropical Migratory Birds: Natural History, Distribution, and Population Change. Cornell University Press.
Faaborg, J.R. 2002. Saving Migrant Birds: Developing Strategies for the Future. University of Texas Press.
Fitcher, G.S. 1982. Birds of North America. Random House, Incorporated.
Gans, R, Mirocha, P. 1996. How Do Birds Find Their Way? HarperTrophy.
Hume, R. 1993. Birdwatching. Random House, Incorporated.
Johnson, A. 2005. Iowa Birds. Lone Pine Publishing.
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Knight, T. 2003. Marvelous Migrators. Heinemann.
Kress, S.W. 2001. Bird Life. Golden Guides from St. Martin's Press.
Peterson, R. T. and L. A. Peterson. 2010. Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Robbins, C.S. 2001. Birds of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Golden Guides from St. Martin's Press.
Rylant, C. 2006. The Journey: Stories of Migration. Blue Sky Press.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. National Aububon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Stokes, D. and L. Stokes. 2010. The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Little, Brown & Company.
Tekiela, S. 2001. Birds of Iowa: Field Guide. Adventure Publications.
Weidensaul, S. and T. Taylor. 1998. Birds (Audubon Society First Field Guide Series). Scholastic, Inc.

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