5th Grade - Math

LESSON PROBLEM: Data Analysis: How many bird species take advantage of the different habitats around rice farms?

Much natural wetlands habitat has been destroyed by land development and industry. Rice farming creates a wetlands like environment in which many animals, especially migratory waterfowl and birds, seem to thrive. How many bird species take advantage of the different habitats around rice farms? Do they seem to favor the man-made rice ponds or natural wetlands?





STUDY GUIDE



Migratory birds flock to the wetlands around rice farms.

Each year, millions of ducks, geese, and shore birds feed, rest, or nest in the flooded rice rice paddies and canals of the rice growing states along the
Gulf Coast and California. Texas rice farms host enormous flocks of migrating water fowl, along with birds of prey and native sparrows.

This prairie and marsh region of Texas has ideal conditions for growing rice: clay soil, good sources of water, and a temperate climate. These conditions
are also a welcome environment for birds.

Number of Bird Species Found In The Texas Rice Belt
Flooded Rice Fields 19
Stock Ponds 25
Flooded Irrigation Canals 20
Roost Ponds 48
Natural Wetland Depressions 40

Five different wetlands habitats have been identified as bird study areas . Two of these environments are man-made and specific to the rice lands: flooded rice fields and flooded irrigation ditches. Since rice plants only grow in standing water of 2 to 3 inches deep, it takes a lot of water to grow rice. The canals carry the water to and from the flooded fields where the rice grows, providing plenty of surface water and vegetation for birds to nest, brood, and find food.

Another environment where birds thrive is stock ponds which support sports fishing and hunting. Although usually not large in area, these year-round ponds are deeper than flooded rice fields and not crowded with vegetation, which may be an advantage for some species of birds.

The two remaining wetlands areas occupied by birds are natural ponds and natural wetland depressions and marshes where development has not occurred. Water sources are seasonal. The plants and animals in these regions have been less disturbed, so they represent a more balanced ecological system. These natural areas have shrunk in the past fifty years, as development and urban sprawl have taken over.

All of these are important bird habitats with various environmental characteristics. Different species of birds may be found in each area that take advantage of these features.




ACTIVITIES



Number of Bird Species Found In The Texas Rice Belt
Flooded Rice Fields 19
Stock Ponds 25
Flooded Irrigation Canals 20
Roost Ponds 48
Natural Wetland Depressions 40

The table above shows the number of different bird species found in the wetlands areas of the Texas rice belt. Some species of birds may be found in more than one of these habitats. Some birds species live in only one specific habitat.

Make a graph to compare the number of bird species that live in each habitat area. Be sure to give your graph a title and proper labels.

Write an essay to interpret the data on your graph. Be sure to answer these three questions:

Does it look like birds prefer the natural or the man-made environments?

What factors might make one kind of habitat more attractive to some kinds of birds than others?

Why should Texas people try to preserve the natural wetlands habitats in the rice growing areas?




EXTENDED LEARNING


Research the specific kinds of bird species that can be found in rice farm habitats. How many of these species are shore birds? How many are migratory? How many are other types of birds, such as birds of prey?

Make a pictograph to show the information you have found.

Write a short paper to describe the information. Can you explain how each of these kinds of birds fits into the wetlands food chain?




VOCABULARY
  • habitat
  • rice
  • paddy
  • wetlands
  • irrigation
  • migrate


Click here to play Rice Rampage!
How is Rice Grown:
Farming rice is hard work. Click here to learn more about the Stages of Farming Rice.
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