In honor of Kansas Day, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks educator Pam Martin brought some state symbols from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center to Park Elementary School in Great Bend on January 29 on Friday. As it turns out, many Kansas animals and plants can be found right here in central Kansas, including the state’s official birds, reptiles, and fish.
The state bird is the Western Meadowlark, easily confused with its twin, the Eastern Meadowlark. “The only way to tell them apart is to listen,” Martin said, playing back recordings of both birds’ songs.
“Right now they’re not singing much; they are looking for food,” she said. “But in the spring that male – the boy – will stand up on a stake and sing his heart out! He’s singing to find a girl.
This was his explanation to the kindergarten children. Martin repeated his program to all classes during the day.
The state fish is the channel catfish and the state reptile is the decorated box turtle. For the turtle, Martin had a live specimen to share with the kids.
The Kansas state mammal, the American buffalo (bison) is less common but can be found at Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. Martin had examples of skin, skull and horns, and a foot bone from a bison. Noting how Native Americans used every part of the buffalo, Martin said a foot bone could serve as a toy horse, which it resembles.
It also had something that looked like a balloon. “It comes from a bison’s bladder,” she said. Native Americans dried and inflated buffalo bladders to use as water containers. The inner tubes can also be flattened and used as bags.