LAKE WACO WETLANDS

Wildlife & Plants

Wildlife

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

The Great Blue Heron ranges from 50 – 54 inches in length, wings and back are bluish-gray in color.  This species of heron is the largest and most widespread in North America.  They are found in both salt and fresh water bodies, often hunting for fish, frogs, snakes and other small mammals.  This is one of the most abundant bird species at the wetlands.

Great Egret (Andeo alba)

Great Egrets are the largest of all the white herons and holds its neck out in an “S” shape while in flight.  This bird species measures 37-41 inches in length, with white plumage, a yellow bill and glossy black feet and legs. They are found in marshes, lakes and wooded swamps hunting for fish, frogs, water snakes, and large insects.  They are found at the Lake Waco Wetlands year around, but more commonly seen in the spring and summer months.

Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

The males of this species have the most distinct color characteristics, black with red shoulders and a yellow border.  The females are less distinctive, often confused for a large sparrow, brown and heavily streaked with some red on the wing.  Red-wings measure between 7 to 9 ½ inches in length.  They live in marshes and grasslands often eating seeds, grain, insects and spiders. These birds are often heard and/or seen nesting in the cattails at the Lake Waco Wetlands.

Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)

This frog species is typically bright green in color, but can vary from yellowish to greenish-gray, with lateral strips of white or yellow and white lips.  Many small yellow dorsal spots cover its 1¼-2¼ inch body.  The Green Tree Frog lives in swamps, lakes, and edges of streams, and can also be found in brackish water.  They prefer to walk rather than jump away from danger and are mostly nocturnal.  They eat various insects and can be found resting on tall aquatic plants such as bulrush or cattails.

American Beaver (Castor Canadensis)

This large aquatic rodent is found throughout most of Texas, mainly habitats such as ones found at the Lake Waco Wetlands, Bosque and Brazos Rivers, and Waco Lake.  Their broad and flattened tails easily identifies beavers.  Their dark brown fur, highly prized within the fur industry as early as the 19th. century, keeps them well insulated during the winter months.  Beaver lodges (homes) are constructed of sticks and mud, with plunge holes or underwater tunnels used as entranceways.  Beavers feed on a variety of aquatic vegetation, but they favor most the inner bark of willow and cottonwood trees.

White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

They are found throughout much of the eco-regions of Texas; deserts, forests, swamps, open brushy areas, plains and river bottoms.  Their coat is reddish brown in the summer and grayish brown in the winter months.  The males of the species grow antlers in the spring and shed them in the winter.  They can run up to 40 miles per hour and when alarmed, they raise their white tails, thus giving them their common name of white-tailed deer.  They feed on acorns, seeds, bark from willow trees and grasses at the wetlands.

Plants

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

Leaves are large, up to 5 inches wide and lance-shaped. Flower heads are spikes of violet - blue colored flowers.  The small fruits that the plant produces are eaten by many species of puddle ducks.  A common and prolific plant out at the Lake Waco Wetlands.

Duck Potato (Sagittaria lancifolia)

Leaves are large, up to 4 inches wide and lance-shaped.  The white flowers have 3 petals.  Duck potato gets its common name from the potato-like corms that sometimes form in their root systems and serve as a food source for many species of ducks.

Bulrush (Schenoplectus californicus)

Stems grow up to 10 feet tall and are thicker on the bottom than on the top.  Leaves appear as sheaths on the base of the stem and inflorescence of several drooping spikelets appear on the top of the stem.  The seeds from the bulrush serve as a food source for ducks and the young shoots from the plant serve as food for snow geese.

Water Lily (Nymphaea)

Leaves are nearly circular in shape and notched to the center, and float on top of the water.  Flowers are showy and fragrant, usually white in color but with numerous hybrids and varieties, colors may vary.  Although ducks occasionally eat seeds and roots, it does not serve as a major food source.

Cattail (Typha)

Leaves grow out long and straight, twisting at the top.  The cylindrical flower spike is packed with tiny flowers and can grow up to one foot long. Smaller bird and mammal species depend on this plant for habitat and food sources.  Cattails are one of the most common aquatic plants at the Lake Waco Wetlands.