Water Birds in New York (25 Species)

Author:

Published:

Water Birds in New York

Affiliate Disclaimer

We’re reader-sponsored! By checking out our awesome handpicked recommendations, you not only support us without spending a dime but also help us earn commissions from qualifying purchases made through links on this website. Let’s have fun and discover amazing birds together!

New York State, with its vast array of aquatic habitats ranging from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, serves as a haven for diverse species of water birds. These feathered inhabitants add life and color to the landscape, marking the rhythm of seasons with their migrations and nesting activities.

New York water birds

SpeciesFrequencyWhere to Find in New York
Double-Crested CormorantCommonGreat Lakes, Hudson River, Long Island Sound
Mallard DuckVery CommonStatewide
Canada GooseCommonRivers and lakes statewide
Great Blue HeronVery CommonWetlands and rivers statewide
Great EgretCommonCoastal areas, especially Long Island
Snowy EgretUncommonCoastal areas, especially Long Island
Green HeronCommonWetlands and rivers statewide
Black-Crowned Night-HeronCommonUrban and suburban areas near water, New York City parks
MallardVery CommonLakes, rivers, and wetlands statewide
Wood DuckCommonFreshwater marshes, rivers, and ponds statewide
Blue-Winged TealUncommonWetlands statewide during migration
Northern PintailUncommonWetlands and lakes during migration
CanvasbackUncommonSeen in the Great Lakes and Hudson River during migration
RedheadUncommonGreat Lakes and Hudson River during migration
Ring-Necked DuckCommonWetlands statewide during migration
Lesser ScaupUncommonGreat Lakes and Hudson River during migration
BuffleheadCommonCoastal areas and large lakes during winter
Hooded MerganserCommonFreshwater lakes and rivers statewide
Common MerganserCommonLarge rivers and lakes statewide
Ruddy DuckUncommonWetlands and coastal areas
American CootCommonWetlands and bodies of water statewide
American WigeonCommonWetlands statewide, especially during migration
OspreyCommonCoastal areas, Great Lakes, Hudson River
Common LoonCommonAdirondack Mountains, Great Lakes
Pied-Billed GrebeUncommonWetlands statewide

Water Bird Species Found in New York

Mallard 

Mallard
Mallard Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos

Listen to Mallard

credit https://xeno-canto.org/718813

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.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose
Canada Goose Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
Credit: allaboutbirds.org

Canada Goose Sound

credit https://xeno-canto.org/559271

Scientific Name: Branta canadensis

Length: 30 to 43 in

Wingspan: 50–73 in

Weight: 5.7–14.3 lb

The Canada Goose is a large, well-known species of waterfowl noted for its distinctive appearance, familiar “honk,” and migratory behavior.

Appearance: Both male and female Canada Geese have a similar appearance, featuring a black head and neck with distinctive white patches on the cheeks and chin. The body is primarily brown with a lighter, often white, underbelly.

Diet: Canada Geese primarily feed on plant matter, including grasses, aquatic vegetation, and grains. They can often be seen grazing in parks, lawns, and fields, as well as dabbling in water bodies.

Reproduction: Canada Geese typically nest on the ground near water bodies, often on islands or other isolated areas to avoid predators. The female lays a clutch of about 4 to 6 eggs, which she incubates alone for around a month.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant Scientific Name: Nannopterum auritum
Double-crested Cormorant range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Listen to Double-crested Cormorant

credit https://xeno-canto.org/638602

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
Great Blue Heron range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Listen to Great Blue Heron

credit https://xeno-canto.org/573252

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
Great Egret range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/751146

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
Snowy Egret range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/452102

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
Green Heron range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/149433

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
Black-crowned Night-Heron range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/742241

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

Listen to Mallard

credit https://xeno-canto.org/718813

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

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/451137

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

Listen to Blue-winged Teal

credit https://xeno-canto.org/346077

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

Listen to Northern Pintail

credit https://xeno-canto.org/721976

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

Listen

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.

Redhead

Redhead Scientific Name: Aythya americana

Listen

Scientific Name: Aythya americana

Length: 15 in

Wingspan: 33 in

Weight: 2.0 to 2.5 lbs

The Redhead is a medium-sized diving duck species recognized by its rounded head and broad blue bill. This bird is frequently found in wetlands, ponds, and open water bodies across the United States.

Appearance: The male Redhead is particularly striking, characterized by a coppery red head, black breast, and a gray body. The female is less colorful, featuring a brownish body and a duller, brownish-red head. Both sexes have a prominent blue bill with a black tip.

Diet: Redheads feed on a variety of items, including aquatic plants, seeds, and tubers. They also consume aquatic invertebrates, particularly during the breeding season.

Reproduction: Redheads often nest in marshes and ponds with dense vegetation.Females often lay their eggs in the nests of other ducks, a phenomenon known as brood parasitism. When nesting themselves, the female typically lays a clutch of 7 to 10 eggs and incubates them for about three weeks.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

Ring-necked Duck Scientific Name: Aythya collaris

Listen

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.

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup Scientific Name: Aythya affinis

Listen

credit https://xeno-canto.org/510883

Scientific Name: Aythya affinis

Length: 16.4–16.9 in

Wingspan: 27–31 in

Weight: 1–2.4 lb

The Lesser Scaup is a small diving duck species commonly found in North America, particularly in the lakes, ponds, and coastal bays of the United States.

Appearance: Male Lesser Scaups are characterized by their glossy black heads and necks, bright yellow eyes, and pale bluish-gray backs. They also feature a distinguished black chest and tail-end. Females, on the other hand, are primarily brown with white bands near the bill and a slightly lighter brown color on their heads and necks.

Diet: Lesser Scaups are divers, and their diet mainly consists of aquatic invertebrates, including insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. They are also known to eat aquatic plants and seeds, particularly during the non-breeding season.

Reproduction: Lesser Scaups nest on the ground, generally close to water bodies. The female lays a clutch of around 9 to 11 eggs and is solely responsible for their incubation, which lasts for about three to four weeks.

Bufflehead

Bufflehead
Bufflehead Scientific Name: Bucephala albeola

Listen to Bufflehead

credit https://xeno-canto.org/152601

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

Listen to Hooded Merganser

credit https://xeno-canto.org/103686

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

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/644358

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

Listen

credit https://xeno-canto.org/163378

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

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/452170

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
Sandhill Crane Range Map credit: allaboutbirds.org

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/540192

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

Listen to American Wigeon

credit https://xeno-canto.org/700908

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.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Osprey
Osprey range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Osprey Sound

credit https://xeno-canto.org/670350

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.

Common Loon

Common Loon Scientific Name: Gavia immer

Listen:

Scientific Name: Gavia immer

Length: 24-39 in

Wingspan: 50-56 in

Weight: 6.4-13.6 lbs

The Common Loon is a large, iconic water bird that can be found in many parts of North America. It is known for its haunting calls, often heard in the early morning or late evening across the region’s lakes and ponds.

Appearance: The Common Loon is celebrated for its striking black-and-white breeding plumage, a red eye, and a robust, black bill. In winter, its plumage turns to a more subdued gray, but its large, sturdy body and pointed bill remain distinctive.

Diet: Common Loons primarily feed on fish, but also consume crustaceans, frogs, and aquatic insects. They are expert divers, capable of plunging deep underwater to catch their prey, and are often observed popping their heads above water before diving for their next meal.

Reproduction: The Common Loon nests near water, typically on lakes and larger ponds in the northern parts of North America. The female generally lays 1-2 eggs per year in a nest made from vegetation on the ground. Both parents share the responsibility of incubating the eggs and feeding the young.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe Scientific Name: Podilymbus podiceps
Pied-billed Grebe range map credit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Listen:

credit https://xeno-canto.org/698503

Scientific Name: Podilymbus podiceps

Length: 12–15 in

Wingspan: 18–24 in

Weight: 8.9–20.0 oz

The Pied-billed Grebe is a small, elusive water bird well-known for its unique ability to adjust its buoyancy and often “sink” out of sight. It can be found in a wide variety of wetland habitats across the United States.

Appearance: Pied-billed Grebes have a stocky build with a short neck and a chicken-like bill that is conspicuously ringed in black during the breeding season – hence the name “pied-billed”. Their plumage is primarily a muted brown, which can vary in tone depending on the season.

Diet: Their diet consists predominantly of aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and amphibians. Pied-billed Grebes are adept divers and can stay underwater for impressive lengths of time to catch their prey.

Reproduction: Pied-billed Grebes usually nest in dense marsh vegetation, where the female lays 5 to 7 eggs. Both parents share responsibilities for incubation. After hatching, the chicks are often seen riding on their parents’ backs while they learn to navigate their aquatic world.

Where to Spot New York’s Water Birds

New York is a crucial haven for countless water birds that span a broad spectrum of species. Its coastal habitats, particularly along the Great Lakes, play an indispensable role in providing these wild birds with shelter, rest, and nourishment.

These areas serve as critical waypoints for millions of birds undertaking their arduous migratory journeys. From the familiar Mallards and Canada Geese to the elegant egrets and elusive loons, these birds depend on New York’s rich and varied coastal ecosystems.

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Seneca Falls: Montezuma is a major resting area for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Keep an eye out for species such as the little Blue Heron, Green Heron and other wading birds.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens: This wildlife refuge in the heart of New York City offers bird watchers the chance to spot dozens of different water birds including Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and Mallards. You will also find many migratory birds such as snow geese and great and snowy egrets.

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Basom: Known as one of the best bird-watching spots in the northeastern United States, you can see a wide variety of water birds, such as the Black-Crowned Night-Heron, White-Faced Ibis, and the Sandhill Crane.

Central Park, New York City: Surprisingly, this urban park is a hotspot for birding. Its man-made bodies of water attract water birds such as the Double-Crested Cormorant, Bufflehead, and Red-breasted Merganser.

Lake Champlain Birding Trail, Champlain Valley: This trail includes 88 birding sites along the 300-mile trail. It’s an excellent place to spot species like the American Coot, Surf Scoter, and the American White Pelican.

Staten Island, one of New York City’s five boroughs, serves as a critical habitat for a variety of water birds. Its diverse waterfronts, marshlands, and parklands provide shelter and sustenance for species like the Great Egret, Canada Goose, and Mallard Duck, among others, making it a vibrant locale for birdwatching and wildlife appreciation.

For additional details regarding egrets, along with other wading bird species in the vicinity of New York harbor, we recommend visiting the New York City Audubon website. They’ve dedicated a portion of their site to the Harbor Herons study which provides extensive information on these subjects.

Neighboring StateBest Spots for Birdwatching
Vermont Water BirdsDead Creek Wildlife Management Area, Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Champlain
Massachusetts Water BirdsParker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island, Cape Cod National Seashore
Connecticut Water BirdsHammonasset Beach State Park, Milford Point, Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
New Jersey Water BirdsCape May Bird Observatory, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Pennsylvania Water BirdsPresque Isle State Park, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area

Latest posts