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 pool, 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 they are excellent habitats for wildlife, but the shallow water plays a vital 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 pools dry up. Others move on to other collections and habitats and become dormant until more rain fills the pool again.
Puddles can also be enlarged by people and animals walking on them and 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 pool, 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 puddle’s edge, larvae feed on any residue in the pool. 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 water’s surface before moving to safety at the bottom of the pool.
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 in these puddles. Many millions of tiny organisms can live in these puddles at one time.
Plants and flowers grow around established puddles, water mint, figwort buzz, and pineapple weed. Mudwort grows year-round and can often be seen around waterholes; although it may only come back every few years, many flowers and plants can be seen around large reservoirs.
Seeds can be brought to the surface in the mud, spread out 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 massive difference to the variety of life in an individual pool.
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 animal species need to bulk their nutrients. Deer can often be seen using the salt-licks from around pools.
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 and muddy the ground.
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 are moved with them and can form shallow pools.
Remember what you have read here when you are next walking through a wood, a field, or a forest. Please don’t disturb this habitat and try to walk around the puddle if possible and safely.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.