Wetland habitats are characterized by soil saturated with water that favors the growth of water-loving vegetation. The plants and animals living in wetlands are specially adapted to thrive in these wet conditions. The following types of wetlands are found in Missouri: ephemeral wetlands, emergent marsh, forested swamp, shrub swamp, and fens. These wetlands support a vast number of plants, birds, bats, insects, and other invertebrates. Wetlands help people by purifying water, providing a natural buffer against flooding, and providing exciting recreational activities, such as fishing, waterfowl hunting, and, of course, bird watching. Of more than 300 bird species recorded in Missouri, 110 species that regularly nest or migrate through the state depend on wetlands for part of their life cycle.
A variety of birds use wetlands for many stages of their annual cycle. These birds have bodies that reflect their semi-aquatic lifestyle, such as the webbed feet of swans, ducks, and geese, and the long stilt-like legs of herons and egrets. Rails and bitterns have slender, thin bodies that allow them to move through dense wetland vegetation. Gallinules have long toes with wide edges that allow them to walk upon floating lily pads. Characteristic species include: Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, American Bittern, Least Bittern, Common Gallinule, Interior Least Tern, Marsh Wren, Rusty Blackbird, Black-crowned Night-heron, Sora, King Rail, Yellow Rail, and Virginia Rail.