Iowa's Landforms

Stephen J. Dinsmore

Iowa contains diverse terrestrial and aquatic habitats that help shape the breeding bird community. Many habitat patterns differ at local spatial scales, but some are evident at much larger scales. There are many ways to characterize large-scale habitat patterns, but one that is useful in Iowa involves the use of landforms (Prior 1991, Iowa Department of Natural Resources 2015). One of the primary drivers shaping these landforms is their glacial history. The movement of glaciers affects the topography, distribution of water, and, ultimately, the associated plant and animal communities. In Iowa there are eight landforms by most definitions, although sometimes more are defined (Prior 1991). These landforms differ greatly in size, topography, and the breeding bird community. Below, we briefly characterize the topography and habitats in each landform along with the associated breeding bird community. The descriptions are brief and greater detail can be found in Prior (1991). The breeding bird community description is also brief with an emphasis on species that are unique or show a strong preference for that landform.

Iowa Landforms