It had been raining when I went for a walk in the nearby forest, and I couldn’t help but notice how many puddles there were and how alive they were. I remembered that I hadn’t written a post on which wildlife lives in a puddle yet, so I came home to write this.
Puddles are home to millions of microscopic invertebrates and small insects. Small mammals and birds will use puddles for drinking and bathing in. Plants and flowers will often grow around established puddles.
Muddy puddles may not make you think that they are great habitats for wildlife, but the shallow water plays an important role for many animals and plants.
Puddles can be found in forests and woods and the middle of fields and can offer life and refuge to many wildlife species, both aquatic and terrestrial.
All puddles are unique, and most are temporary. Due to these habitats’ changing nature, many species are short-lived, dying out as the puddles dry up. Others move on to other puddles and habitats, and others become dormant until there is more rain, filling the puddle again.
Puddles can also be enlarged by people and animals walking on them as well as more rainfall.
Which Wildlife Lives In Puddles?
Algae can be seen in the puddles in sunlight. These single-celled organisms are fed on by tiny planktonic crustaceans called Daphnia, or water fleas. If you see a pinkish puddle, then it could be because water fleas are feeding.
Midges can be seen above the water, with males swarming around the females. The females lay their eggs in the water.
Around the edge of the puddle, maggots feed on any detritus in the puddle. The larvae of the drone fly; these maggots use their spiracle as a snorkel to breathe.
Mosquitos also breed and lay their eggs in puddles. The larvae are laid on the surface of the water before moving to safety at the bottom of the puddle.
Cyclops, an invertebrate copepod, may also be seen feeding on tiny rotifers.
Tiny eggs can also be brought out of the ground by rain, and these eggs, such as shrimp eggs that have been buried for many years, will soon hatch in a newly formed puddle.
Puddles make excellent safe havens for pond skaters. With no fish or water boatmen, they are safe to feed while swimming.
Large puddles can stay full for many months of the year, and wildlife can thrive on these puddles. Many millions of tiny organisms can live in these puddles at one time.
Plants and flowers also grow around established puddles, water mint, figwort buzz, and pineapple weed. Mudwort grows year-round and can often be seen around puddles; although it may only come back every few years, many flowers and plants can be seen around large puddles.
Seeds can be brought to the surface in the mud, and these spread out either on animals’ coats or in the wind.
Where the puddle is and how sheltered it is, the weather, and many other variables can make a huge difference to the variety of life in an individual puddle.
Many established puddles dry up during the summer, but humic acids from the soil turn the water orange-brown in winter and spring. Some rare microscopic wildlife can only be found in these conditions.
Mammals and Birds
Small mammals will drink from a shallow puddle with clear water, and these puddles will also attract many species of birds.
Puddles also contain mineral salts, which many species of animal need to bulk up their nutrients. Deer can often be seen using the salt-licks from around puddles.
Large animals such as deer can also change the shape of the pool. When many large animals use the same puddle, their hooves will churn the mud up, leaving the ground muddy.
Large mammals such as deer and cows will also take some of the mud on their coats when using the puddles. When they are finished drinking, the soil and water on their coats is moved with them and can form shallow pools.
When you are next walking through a wood, a field, or a forest, remember what you have read here. Please don’t disturb this habitat and try and walk around the puddle if possible and safe.