24 Water Birds in Indiana (ID Guide)

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Water Birds in Indiana

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Indiana, a state marked by rolling farmlands and a diverse array of water bodies, is a haven for a wide variety of water birds. Its extensive network of lakes, rivers, and wetlands offers an attractive mosaic of habitats that draw in these remarkable creatures.

Indiana water birds

Water Bird SpeciesFrequency in IndianaWhere to Find in Indiana
American White PelicanCommonPatoka River National Wildlife Refuge
Double-Crested CormorantCommonGeist Reservoir, White River
Great Blue HeronVery CommonWetlands and rivers statewide
Great EgretCommonGoose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area
Snowy EgretCommonKankakee Sands Preserve
Green HeronCommonWetlands, streams, and ponds statewide
Black-Crowned Night-HeronCommonUrban parks and wetlands
MallardVery CommonPonds, rivers, and lakes statewide
Wood DuckCommonWooded wetlands and rivers
Blue-Winged TealCommonWetlands and marshy areas
Northern PintailCommonWetlands and marshy areas
CanvasbackUncommonLarge rivers and lakes
RedheadUncommonLarge rivers and lakes
Ring-Necked DuckCommonForested wetlands
Lesser ScaupCommonLarge bodies of water
BuffleheadCommonPonds, lakes, and rivers statewide
Hooded MerganserCommonWooded wetlands and ponds
Common MerganserUncommonLarge rivers and lakes
Ruddy DuckCommonPonds, lakes, and rivers statewide
American CootVery CommonWetlands, lakes, and rivers statewide
Sandhill CraneCommonJasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area
American WigeonCommonWetlands, ponds, and reservoirs
American AvocetUncommonWetlands and mudflats
OspreyUncommonNear large bodies of water

Water Bird Species Found in Indiana 

American White Pelican

American White Pelican Scientific Name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
American White Pelican range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

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Scientific Name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Length: 50–70 in

Wingspan: 95–120 in

Weight:11 and 20 lb

The American White Pelican is a large water bird known for its impressive size, distinct white plumage, and extraordinary cooperative feeding behavior. They are commonly found in the inland freshwater lakes of North America during the summer and along the coastlines in the winter.

Appearance: American White Pelicans have a pure white body with black wingtips that are visible in flight. Their large yellow-orange bill is equipped with a stretchy pouch used for catching prey, and during the breeding season, they develop a unique, horn-like plate on the upper part of their bill.

Diet: Unlike their Brown Pelican cousins, American White Pelicans do not dive for their food. Instead, they catch their prey while swimming. They primarily xatch fish, but occasionally supplement their diet with crustaceans and amphibians. Interestingly, they often feed in groups, moving together to herd fish into shallow waters where they can easily scoop them up.

Reproduction: American White Pelicans typically nest in colonies on isolated islands. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs in a nest on the ground, which is made from dirt and vegetation.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant Scientific Name: Nannopterum auritum
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Scientific Name: Nannopterum auritum

Length: 28 to 35 in

Wingspan: 45 – 48 in

Weight: 2.6 – 5.5 lb

The Double-crested Cormorant is a large waterbird recognized for its long neck, hooked bill, and notable diving abilities.

Appearance: Double-crested Cormorants have a dark body with a somewhat iridescent sheen. The bird’s name derives from the presence of two tufts or crests of feathers that appear on the sides of the head during the breeding season. They have striking greenish-yellow to bright orange skin around the throat and cheeks, and their eyes are an interesting, bright turquoise color.

Diet: Double-crested Cormorants are excellent divers and their diet primarily consists of fish. They dive beneath the water’s surface from the air or while swimming to catch their prey. After a successful dive, they can often be seen standing with their wings outstretched to dry.

Reproduction: These birds typically nest in trees, on cliffs, or on ground colonies on islands. The female lays a clutch of 3 to 4 eggs, which both parents incubate for about a month.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Great Blue Heron Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
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Scientific Name: Ardea herodias

Length:36–54 in

Wingspan: 66–79 in

Weight: 4.0–7.9 lb

The Great Blue Heron is a large species of wading bird recognized for its majestic stature, stately flight, and impressive hunting prowess.

Appearance: Great Blue Herons are strikingly tall and slender, with a gray-blue body, a wide wingspan, and a long, pointed bill. They have a white head with a black stripe above the eye extending into feathery plumes, and long, reddish-brown legs.

Diet: Great Blue Herons are skilled hunters, primarily feeding on a variety of aquatic animals such as fish, frogs, and crustaceans. They can often be seen standing motionless in shallow water, waiting patiently for prey to come within striking distance.

Reproduction: Great Blue Herons nest in large colonies, often high in trees near bodies of water. The female lays a clutch of about 3 to 5 eggs, which both parents incubate for around a month. After hatching, the young herons are fed by both parents and start to explore outside the nest within a few weeks.

Great Egret

Great Egret Scientific Name: Ardea alba
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Scientific Name: Ardea alba

Length: 80 – 100 cm

Wingspan: 1.3 – 1.7 m

Weight: 0.7 – 1.5 kg

The Great Egret is a large, stunningly white bird commonly found in both freshwater and saltwater habitats across the United States. Known for its elegant flight and poised hunting stance, it is a symbol of conservation success.

Appearance: Great Egrets are recognized by their bright white plumage, long, black legs, and a yellow, dagger-like bill. Their slender, long necks and large wings are highlighted when they take flight, creating an elegant and captivating sight.

Diet: Primarily, the Great Egret feeds on fish, making use of its sharp bill to spear its prey in shallow water. However, its diet is diverse and can include other aquatic creatures like amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals, and invertebrates.

Reproduction: The Great Egret typically nests in trees or shrubs near water bodies, often in colonies with other water birds. A female lays 3 to 4 eggs, with both parents participating in the incubation process.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

Snowy Egret Scientific Name: Egretta thula
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Scientific Name: Egretta thula

Length: 22.1–26.0 in

Wingspan: 39.4 inches

Weight: 13.1 oz

The Snowy Egret is a small, graceful bird celebrated for its striking white plumage and contrasting black and yellow details. Found across the United States in a variety of water habitats, this bird is known for its animated hunting style.

Appearance: Snowy Egrets are particularly noticeable due to their pure white feathers, slender black legs, and bright yellow feet, which are often described as looking like they’ve been dipped in golden paint. They also sport a thin, black bill and expressive, yellow eyes.

Diet: Their diet mainly consists of fish, but they are known to consume a variety of aquatic animals such as crustaceans, insects, and small amphibians. Notably, their unique yellow feet are used to stir up prey from the bottom of shallow water.

Reproduction: Snowy Egrets typically nest in trees or shrubs in colonies with other water birds. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them.

Green Heron

Green Heron Scientific Name: Butorides virescen
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Scientific Name: Butorides virescen

Length: 25 to 31 in

Wingspan: 53 to 65 in

Weight: 4.5 to 6.0

The Green Heron is a small yet captivating bird, famous for its tool-using abilities and its striking appearance. This species can often be found around the edges of freshwater and saltwater habitats across much of North America.

Appearance: Green Herons possess a dark greenish-blue back, a rich chestnut body, and a dark cap on their head. Their bill is long and sharp, allowing them to be proficient hunters, while their relatively short legs give them a stocky appearance compared to other heron species.

Diet: As opportunistic feeders, Green Herons feed mainly on small fish, but their diet also includes a variety of invertebrates, insects, amphibians, and occasionally even small mammals and birds. They’re known for a unique hunting technique – using baits such as insects, feathers, or twigs to attract fish.

Reproduction: Green Herons build their nests in trees or shrubs, usually over or near water. The female typically lays 3 to 5 eggs, with both parents sharing the responsibilities of incubation.

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Black-crowned Night-Heron Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax
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Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax

Length: 22.8-26.0 in

Wingspan: 45.3-46.5 in

Weight: 25.6-35.8 oz

The Black-crowned Night-Heron is a medium-sized heron species that is known for its nocturnal habits, standing out among other, mostly diurnal herons.

Appearance: Black-crowned Night-Herons have a stocky appearance, with adults characterized by a black crown and back, contrasting sharply with a white or gray body. Their eyes are notably red. The legs are yellow to greenish yellow, but become pinkish or even red during the breeding season. Young birds are brown, speckled with white and gray.

Diet: As opportunistic feeders, Black-crowned Night-Herons eat a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial animals. They primarily consume fish, but their diet can also include crustaceans, insects, small mammals, reptiles, and even other birds. They usually feed at night, which gives them a unique niche among heron species.

Reproduction: Black-crowned Night-Herons are colonial nesters, often forming nesting colonies with other heron species. They build platform nests in trees or shrubs, usually over water. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, and both parents share the responsibility of incubation.

Mallard 

Mallard
Mallard Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos

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Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos

Length: 20–26 in

Wingspan: 32–39 in

Weight: 1.5–3.5 lb

The Mallard is a well-known species of duck they are particularly recognized for their adaptability and can thrive in both urban and wild environments.

Male Mallards are renowned for their striking plumage, with a glossy green head, a white collar, and a chestnut-colored chest, while females sport mottled brown feathers. They both have blue speculum feathers on their wings, which can be seen during flight. Both sexes also exhibit a distinct curl on the tail feathers, more noticeable in males.

Mallards are omnivorous in nature. Their diet is diverse and includes seeds, aquatic vegetation, insects, and small fish. They are frequently seen ‘dabbling’ in the water, where they dip their head and neck below the surface while upending their body to forage for food.

In terms of reproduction, Mallards usually nest on the ground near water bodies, camouflaged by vegetation. The female lays a clutch of 7 to 10 eggs, and she incubates them for about a month. After hatching, the ducklings are precocial – they are active and able to feed themselves, but they continue to stay with their mother for protection until they can fly, which usually takes about two months.

Mallards are an iconic species that have significantly contributed to the genetic makeup of many domestic duck breeds. They are beloved for their rich colors, distinctive quacks, and playful demeanor.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck
Wood Duck Aix sponsa
Male and female wood ducks

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Scientific Name: Aix sponsa

Length: 19 to 21 in

Wingspan: 26 to 29 in

Weight: 16.0-30.4 oz

The Wood Duck is an exquisitely colorful waterfowl known for its unique nesting habits and is commonly seen in wooded swamps, marshes, and streams across North America.

Appearance: With their dazzling plumage, Wood Ducks are among the most stunning birds. Males display a multitude of colors, including a green and purple crested head, red eyes, and a white-striped chest, all contrasted with a bronze-colored body. Females, though more subdued with a gray-brown body and white eye-ring, also possess their own charm.

Diet: Wood Ducks have a diverse diet that includes seeds, fruits, and insects, as well as other invertebrates. Their broad diet helps them to adapt to a variety of habitats, whether in the wild or in urban areas with suitable nesting sites.

Reproduction: Unlike most other ducks, Wood Ducks prefer to nest in tree cavities near water, leading to their common name. They will also readily use nest boxes if they’re available. A typical clutch consists of 9 to 14 eggs, which the female incubates alone.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal Scientific Name: Spatula discors

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Scientific Name: Spatula discors

Length: 16 in

Wingspan: 23 in

Weight: 13 oz

The Blue-winged Teal is a small species of dabbling duck known for its striking plumage and its extensive migratory habits.

Appearance: Male Blue-winged Teals are quite colorful, with a slate gray head and neck, a white crescent in front of the eyes, and a predominantly brown body with specks of black. The name “Blue-winged” comes from the patch of blue feathers visible on their wings during flight. Females, in contrast, are primarily brown and subtly mottled to provide camouflage.

Diet: The Blue-winged Teal feeds mainly on plant matter, such as seeds and aquatic vegetation. However, they also supplement their diet with small invertebrates, especially during the breeding season. They are known for their “dabbling” behavior, where they feed at the surface of the water rather than diving.

Reproduction: Blue-winged Teals prefer to nest on the ground in grassy areas near water. The female typically lays a clutch of 9 to 13 eggs, which she incubates alone for about three weeks. After hatching, the ducklings can feed themselves but remain under the mother’s protection until they are capable of flying.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail Scientific Name: Anas acuta

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Scientific Name: Anas acuta

Length: 23–30 in

Wingspan: 31–37 in

Weight: 1 –3 lb

The Northern Pintail is a graceful species of duck recognized for their elegance in flight and their sleek bodies and long tails which is pin-shaped.

Male Northern Pintails are celebrated for their distinctive appearance, featuring a chocolate brown head, a white neck, and a grayish body. The most notable characteristic is the long, pointed tail feathers, which give this species its name. Females are more understated in color, sporting a mottled brown plumage.

Diet: Consists primarily of plant matter, including seeds and aquatic vegetation. They are also known to eat insects, especially during the breeding season. The Northern Pintail is often seen dabbling and upending in water bodies to forage for food.

Reproduction: Northern Pintails usually nest on the ground, near water bodies. The female lays a clutch of 7 to 9 eggs and is solely responsible for their incubation, which lasts for about three weeks.

Canvasback

Canvasback Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria

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Canvasback

Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria

Length: 19–22 in

Wingspan: 31–35 in

Weight: 1.900–3.527 lb

The Canvasback is a large diving duck species known for its sloping forehead and long, robust bill. These distinctive birds are primarily found in the wetlands and open water bodies across the United States.

Appearance: Male Canvasbacks are easily recognized by their reddish heads, black chests, and white bodies, which gives the impression of a canvas-like texture, hence their name. Females, on the other hand, have light brown feathers and a slightly paler belly. Both genders have dark gray bills and red eyes.

Diet: Canvasbacks are primarily vegetarian, feeding on aquatic plants like wild celery, pondweeds, and algae. They also occasionally consume small aquatic animals, such as snails, insects, and crustaceans.

Reproduction: Canvasbacks typically nest over water, using marsh plants to construct their nests. The female usually lays a clutch of 5 to 11 eggs which she alone incubates for about a month.

Canvasback

Canvasback Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria

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Canvasback

Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria

Length: 19–22 in

Wingspan: 31–35 in

Weight: 1.900–3.527 lb

The Canvasback is a large diving duck species known for its sloping forehead and long, robust bill. These distinctive birds are primarily found in the wetlands and open water bodies across the United States.

Appearance: Male Canvasbacks are easily recognized by their reddish heads, black chests, and white bodies, which gives the impression of a canvas-like texture, hence their name. Females, on the other hand, have light brown feathers and a slightly paler belly. Both genders have dark gray bills and red eyes.

Diet: Canvasbacks are primarily vegetarian, feeding on aquatic plants like wild celery, pondweeds, and algae. They also occasionally consume small aquatic animals, such as snails, insects, and crustaceans.

Reproduction: Canvasbacks typically nest over water, using marsh plants to construct their nests. The female usually lays a clutch of 5 to 11 eggs which she alone incubates for about a month.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

Ring-necked Duck Scientific Name: Aythya collaris

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Scientific Name: Aythya collaris

Length: 15.3-18.1 in

Wingspan: 24.4-24.8 in

Weight: 17.3-32.1 oz

The Ring-Necked Duck is a small to medium-sized diving duck known for its distinctive markings and agile diving abilities.

Appearance: Male Ring-Necked Ducks are characterized by their bold black-and-white coloration, with a glossy black back, a striking white ring around the base of the bill, and two white “rings” on their flanks. Despite their name, the chestnut-colored ring around their neck is often hard to see. Females are more subtly colored with a gray-brown body and a white eye-ring.

Diet: These ducks have a varied diet that includes aquatic plants, seeds, and invertebrates, which they obtain by diving underwater in both shallow and deep water bodies.

Reproduction: The Ring-Necked Duck nests near water, often in densely vegetated areas. The female typically lays between 8 to 10 eggs, which she incubates alone, but both parents will care for the ducklings once they hatch.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

Ring-necked Duck Scientific Name: Aythya collaris

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Scientific Name: Aythya collaris

Length: 15.3-18.1 in

Wingspan: 24.4-24.8 in

Weight: 17.3-32.1 oz

The Ring-Necked Duck is a small to medium-sized diving duck known for its distinctive markings and agile diving abilities.

Appearance: Male Ring-Necked Ducks are characterized by their bold black-and-white coloration, with a glossy black back, a striking white ring around the base of the bill, and two white “rings” on their flanks. Despite their name, the chestnut-colored ring around their neck is often hard to see. Females are more subtly colored with a gray-brown body and a white eye-ring.

Diet: These ducks have a varied diet that includes aquatic plants, seeds, and invertebrates, which they obtain by diving underwater in both shallow and deep water bodies.

Reproduction: The Ring-Necked Duck nests near water, often in densely vegetated areas. The female typically lays between 8 to 10 eggs, which she incubates alone, but both parents will care for the ducklings once they hatch.

Bufflehead

Bufflehead
Bufflehead Scientific Name: Bucephala albeola

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Scientific Name: Bucephala albeola

Length: 13–16 in

Wingspan: 21.6 in -23.2 in

Weight: 9.5–19.4 oz

The Bufflehead is a small, compact species of diving duck known for its striking appearance and large heads and unique nesting habits.

Appearance: Male Buffleheads are easily recognized by their large, bulbous head with a green-purple iridescent sheen, a large white patch across the back of the head, and a predominantly black and white body. Females are more subtly colored, primarily in gray-brown tones with a smaller white cheek patch.

Diet: As diving ducks, Buffleheads feed by diving beneath the water’s surface. Their diet consists largely of aquatic invertebrates, such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks, as well as some plant matter.

Reproduction: Uniquely among ducks, Buffleheads often nest in tree cavities, especially those made by Northern Flickers, a type of woodpecker. The female lays a clutch of about 6 to 11 eggs, which she incubates alone for roughly a month.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser Scientific Name: Lophodytes cucullatus

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Scientific Name: Lophodytes cucullatus

Length: 15.8-19.3 in

Wingspan: 23.6-26.0 in

Weight: 16.0-31.0 oz

The Hooded Merganser is a distinctive species of diving duck known for its showy crest and its excellent diving skills.

Appearance: Male Hooded Mergansers are especially striking with a large, fan-shaped, black and white crest, which can be expanded or contracted. They have bright yellow eyes, a dark back, and a white chest. The females have a more understated appearance with a brownish body, a smaller, reddish-brown crest, and dark eyes.

Diet: Consists of small fish, aquatic insects, and crustaceans. Their eyes are specially adapted for underwater vision, allowing them to spot and catch prey while diving.

Reproduction: Similar to Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers often nest in tree cavities near water bodies. The female lays a clutch of about 10 to 12 eggs and incubates them alone for about a month.

Common Merganser

Common Merganser
Common Merganser Scientific Name: Mergus merganser
Male & Female Common Merganser

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Scientific Name: Mergus merganser

Length: 23–28 in

Wingspan: 30 – 38 in

Weight: 2 lb 0 oz – 4 lb 10 oz

The Common Merganser is a large and elegant diving duck, famous for its unique fishing abilities and seen often in the lakes, rivers, and coastal areas across North America.

Appearance: The male Common Merganser is quite striking with its dark green, almost black, crested head, bright red bill, and white body tinged with salmon-pink. The females have a reddish-brown crested head, a white neck, and a grayish body, but share the same red bill as the males.

Diet: True to their diving duck status, Common Mergansers are exceptional hunters, primarily feeding on fish. They’re also known to consume aquatic invertebrates and, on occasion, small mammals and birds. Their serrated bills are specialized to hold slippery fish tightly.

Reproduction: Like the Wood Duck, Common Mergansers also nest in tree cavities or nest boxes close to water bodies, but can also use rock crevices or holes in the ground. A clutch usually contains 9 to 12 eggs, incubated solely by the female.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck Scientific Name: Oxyura jamaicensis

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Scientific Name: Oxyura jamaicensis

Length: 13.8-16.9 in

Wingspan: 22.1-24.4 in

Weight: 10.6-30.0 o

The Ruddy Duck is a compact diving duck species recognized for its bright blue bill and stiff tail that is often held upright. These small, agile birds are found in wetlands and ponds across the United States.

Appearance: Ruddy Ducks are characterized by their distinct reddish-brown plumage, a blackish cap and nape, and a strikingly blue bill in males. The females are less vibrant, with gray-brown feathers and a dark bill. Both genders display a unique, spiky tail that often sticks upright, especially during courtship displays.

Diet: Ruddy Ducks primarily feed on a diet of aquatic invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. They also consume a variety of aquatic plants and seeds. Their specialized bill allows them to sift through the water and mud to find food.

Reproduction: Ruddy Ducks nest in marshes and ponds with dense vegetation. The female typically lays a clutch of 6 to 10 eggs in a well-concealed nest built from plant material and down.

American Coot

American Coot Scientific Name: Fulica americana
American Coot Range Map credit: allaboutbirds.org

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Scientific Name: Fulica americana

Length: 13–17 in

Wingspan: 23 to 28 in

Weight: 1.270 to 1.870 lb

The American Coot is a ubiquitous water bird commonly seen in the wetlands, lakes, and ponds of North America, recognized for its adaptability and striking features.

Appearance: American Coots are easily identifiable by their slate-gray bodies, offset by a white, chicken-like bill and a red eye. Their legs are also distinctive, equipped with lobed toes, as opposed to the webbed feet seen in ducks, which assist them in navigating both land and water adeptly.

Diet: While aquatic plants form the bulk of an American Coot’s diet, they aren’t strictly herbivores. These versatile birds also consume small invertebrates and fish, demonstrating their ability to adapt and survive in a variety of habitats.

Reproduction: Nesting for the American Coot usually happens in shallow water bodies, where they construct a floating nest hidden among the vegetation. A clutch can contain between 8 to 12 eggs, all of which are incubated by both parents.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane Scientific Name: Antigone canadensis
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Scientific Name: Antigone canadensis

Length: 2 ft 7-4 ft 6 in

Wingspan: 16.5–23.6 in

Weight: 4 – 4.5 kg

The Sandhill Crane is a tall, elegant bird known for its impressive size and striking appearance. They are found across North America, in habitats ranging from wetlands to grasslands.

Appearance: Sandhill Cranes are recognized for their tall stature, gray body, long legs, and long neck. Their most distinctive feature is a red forehead, which contrasts with their otherwise primarily gray plumage. During the breeding season, their gray feathers often take on a rusty-brown hue due to them rubbing iron-rich mud onto their feathers.

Diet: Sandhill Cranes are omnivorous birds and their diet is quite diverse, consisting of seeds, grains, berries, insects, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. They are known to forage while walking in shallow water or in fields.

Reproduction: Sandhill Cranes mate for life and their complex courtship dance is a sight to behold. They nest in marshy areas and the female typically lays two eggs.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon
American Wigeon Scientific Name :Mareca americana

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Scientific Name: Mareca americana

Length: 17–23 in

Wingspan: 30–36 in

Weight: 1 –3 lb

The American Wigeon is a medium-sized duck species that is a popular sight in wetlands, ponds, and lakes and is often seen in mixed flocks with other ducks.

Males of the species are recognized by their distinctive appearance. They sport a unique white forehead and crown, coupled with a green band stretching from the eye to the back of the head. The body is mainly gray with a pinkish hue on the chest. Females are more subdued in color, with primarily gray and brown tones.

Diet: comprising mainly plant material like aquatic vegetation and grasses, but it also includes insects and other small invertebrates. They are known for a feeding behavior called “kleptoparasitism,” where they often snatch food from other ducks.

American Wigeons usually breed in the northernmost parts of North America. The females create their nests on the ground, often hidden in tall grass near water bodies. They lay a clutch of 6 to 11 eggs which they incubate for about three to four weeks and the ducklings feed on small aquatic invertebrates and aquatic insects.

American Avocet

American Avocet Scientific Name: Recurvirostra americana
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Scientific Name: Recurvirostra americana

Length: 16–20 in

Wingspan: 27–30 in

Weight: 9.7–14.8 oz

The American Avocet is a distinctive wading bird known for its upturned bill and elegant profile.

Appearance: American Avocets have a unique look with a black and white body, a cinnamon colored neck and head in the summer, and a long, thin, upcurved bill. In winter, the bird’s neck and head turn grayish-white.

Diet: The diet of American Avocets primarily includes aquatic invertebrates, such as crustaceans and insects. They feed by sweeping their bill from side to side in the water to capture food.

Reproduction: American Avocets often nest in colonies, preferring to build their nests on open ground near water. The female typically lays a clutch of about 3 to 4 eggs, which are incubated by both parents.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Osprey
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Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus

Length: 50–66 cm (19+1⁄2–26 in)

Wingspan: 127–180 cm (50–71 in)

Weight: 0.9–2.1 kg (2 lb 0 oz – 4 lb 10 oz)

The Osprey, a fascinating bird of prey, is universally known for its exceptional hunting prowess and striking physical characteristics. Osprey are dark brown hawks on the upperparts, contrasting beautifully with the predominantly white underparts, and a distinctive dark band that stretches across the eyes towards the sides of its head.

Equipped with specialized talons and a reversible outer toe, the Osprey’s hunting strategy involves a spectacular plunge-dive into bodies of water, often emerging with a fish securely gripped in its claws.

Found on every continent except Antarctica, the Osprey is a cosmopolitan species favoring habitats near water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, reflecting its piscivorous diet. This bird has a diet almost exclusively of fish, making it a unique member of the raptor family and often referred to as the sea hawk or fish hawk. They locate their prey from the air, often hovering before plunging feet-first to capture a fish. When it comes to breeding, Ospreys are monogamous, often mating for life.

They construct large, bulky nests made of sticks, lined with softer materials, and prefer elevated or isolated areas such as treetops or artificial structures like utility poles. Both parents share the responsibility of incubating the eggs and rearing the chicks.

Where to Spot Indiana’s Water Birds

In total, according to the Indiana bird records committee there are over 422 types of birds in Indiana, and we’ve only chosen a tiny selection of the water birds above.

Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, Linton: This 9,000-acre wetland reserve is one of the largest restoration projects in Indiana history. With over 30 different ponds, it is a prime location for observing a vast array of water birds, including egrets, herons, and ducks and even the yellow crowned night heron or little blue heron.

Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis: One of the largest city parks in the U.S., Eagle Creek is home to a large reservoir and wetland areas. Water birds are abundant here, including various species of ducks, grebes, and coots.

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, Oakland City: This refuge provides habitat for a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds. Species commonly seen here include Sandhill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, and a range of duck species.

Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Seymour: With its wetlands, ponds, and creeks, this refuge is a haven for water birds. Look for species such as the Black-Crowned Night-Heron, American Coot, and the Northern Shoveler. You might also find the cattle egret and little blue herons, along with lots of wading birds and other large birds included barn owls. Cattle egrets, Tricolored Herons and other wading birds (at least ten species) are known to frequent the marshes during migration periods, making this location a birder’s paradise.

Indiana Dunes State Park, Chesterton: Situated on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, the dunes provide a crucial stopover for migrating water birds. This location offers birders a chance to see numerous gull species, Double-Crested Cormorants, and various species of ducks and grebes.

Neighboring StateBest Spots for Birdwatching
Michigan Water BirdsShiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Tawas Point State Park
Ohio Water BirdsOttawa National Wildlife Refuge, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Kentucky Water BirdsSloughs Wildlife Management Area, Mammoth Cave National Park, Lake Barkley State Resort Park
Illinois Water BirdsMontrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, Middle Fork River Forest Preserve


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