Wading Birds: Am I Heron You Right?

Apr 21, 2020

While schools are closed, we're creating a series of "Talk of Iowa" episodes that will be fun and educational for learners of all ages. Every Tuesday, we'll learn about Iowa wildlife, and every Thursday, we'll learn about Iowa history.  

Unlike our neighboring state to the north, Iowa isn’t famous for lakes, rivers and streams, but our wetlands and waterways do attract some spectacular birds. Wildlife biologist Jim Pease will introduce listeners to the wading birds of Iowa’s wetlands. 

We’ll learn about great blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets, sandhill cranes,  green herons and spotted sandpipers. We’ll discover what makes these birds unique, including their striking calls. We’ll also talk about colonial nesting behavior and the advantages it provides. Several of these species were once hunted to the brink of extinction, fortunately we still have the opportunity to see them today. Pease will give listeners some tips on how to get outside and see and hear these birds in person.

Vocabulary for this podcast:

Colonial (nesting), adj. – bird species that nest and breed in close proximity as a group, often sharing communal behaviors for the benefit of the entire group.

Polyandry, noun – The mating of one female bird with more than one male bird while each male mates with only one female.

Breeding range, noun – The geographic area in which breeding may take place for an animal.

Sexual dimorphism, noun – The differences in appearance between males and females of the same species based on the animal’s biological sex. These differences may include color, shape or body structure.

Bait, verb – To prepare with bait to entice fish or animals as prey.

Conversation questions for this podcast: 

  • What are the benefits of colonial nesting?
  • Why were so many of these birds hunted?
  • The great blue heron is definitely great, but is it really blue?
  • How does the green heron use bait to attract prey?
  • Can you make a noise like a Sand Hill Crane?
  • Why do sandhill cranes dance? Can you dance like a crane? Watch this video and give it a try!