25 Types of Water Birds Found in Maryland

An abundant ecology in Maryland draws a diverse variety of aquatic birds.

In this article, we wil explore the world of water birds in Maryland and highlight 25 Types of Water Birds Found in Maryland

We examine the traits, habitats, and behaviors of these remarkable birds, from the graceful Great Blue Heron to the stunning Wood Duck and the renowned Canada Goose.

It is your entry point to learning about the wonderful world of water birds in Maryland, whether you are an enthusiastic birder or simply fascinated by the wonders of nature.

Join us as we travel through this fascinating state’s rich avian habitat.

25 Types of Water Birds Found in Maryland

Here is the information about water birds that are found in Maryland.

1. Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a majestic wading bird commonly found in Maryland’s marshes, swamps, and along the shores of rivers and ponds. With its towering height, long legs, and impressive wingspan, this heron is a sight to behold. It has a blue-gray plumage, a white face, and a long, pointed bill, which it uses to catch fish and other small aquatic creatures.

great blue heron
Scientific NameArdea herodias
Unique FeaturesTowering height, impressive wingspan
HabitatMarshes, swamps, rivers, ponds
AppearanceBlue-gray plumage, long legs

2. Wood Duck

The Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) is one of the most stunningly colorful water birds found in Maryland. The male Wood Duck sports a vibrant combination of iridescent green, purple, and white plumage, while the female has a more subtle brown and white appearance. These ducks are often seen in wooded swamps, where they nest in tree cavities.

Water Birds Found in Maryland
Scientific NameAix sponsa
Unique FeaturesIridescent green and purple plumage (male)
HabitatWooded swamps, tree cavities
AppearanceColorful plumage, distinctive markings

3. Mallard

Introduction: The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a familiar and widespread water bird in Maryland. The male Mallard is recognized by its vibrant green head, yellow bill, and gray body. Females, known as hens, have mottled brown plumage. Mallards can be found in various habitats, including ponds, lakes, and marshes, where they feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates.

Birds Of maryland
Scientific NameAnas platyrhynchos
Unique FeaturesSexual dimorphism (color differences between male and female)
HabitatPonds, lakes, marshes
AppearanceVibrant green head, yellow bill

4. Canada Goose

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a large water bird that can be found in Maryland throughout the year. With its distinctive black head and neck, white cheeks, and brown body, it is easily recognizable. Canada Geese are often seen in open fields, near water bodies, and urban parks. They form V-shaped flight formations during migration.

canada goose
Scientific NameBranta canadensis
Unique FeaturesV-shaped flight formations during migration
HabitatOpen fields, water bodies, urban parks
AppearanceBlack head and neck, white cheeks, brown body

5. Snowy Egret

The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a graceful and elegant water bird that frequents Maryland’s coastal areas and marshes. It is known for its striking white plumage, slender black legs, and bright yellow feet. Snowy Egrets use their sharp bill to hunt for fish and other small aquatic creatures in shallow waters.

Scientific NameEgretta thula
Unique FeaturesGraceful and elegant, distinctive yellow feet
HabitatCoastal areas, marshes
AppearanceWhite plumage, black legs, yellow feet

6. Green Heron

The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is a small and secretive water bird found in Maryland’s wetlands, ponds, and streams. It has a greenish-brown plumage, a chestnut-colored neck, and a dagger-like bill. Despite its small size, the Green Heron is an adept hunter, using its sharp eyesight and patience to catch fish and small amphibians.

Scientific NameButorides virescens
Unique FeaturesDagger-like bill, adept hunter
HabitatWetlands, ponds, streams
AppearanceGreenish-brown plumage, chestnut-colored neck

7. Osprey

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a magnificent raptor known for its exceptional fishing skills. Often seen hovering above bodies of water, the Osprey has a wingspan of up to six feet and a white underside with dark brown plumage on its back. It has sharp talons and curved wings that enable it to dive into the water to catch fish.

Scientific NamePandion haliaetus
Unique FeaturesExcellent fishing skills, diving abilities
HabitatNear water bodies, coastlines
AppearanceDark brown plumage, white underside

8. American Coot

The American Coot (Fulica americana) is a fascinating water bird found in Maryland’s freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes. It has a distinctive black body, a white bill, and bright red eyes. American Coots are excellent swimmers and divers, and their lobed feet allow them to move easily through aquatic vegetation.

Scientific NameFulica americana
Unique FeaturesLobed feet for easy swimming and diving
HabitatFreshwater lakes, ponds, marshes
AppearanceBlack body, white bill, red eyes

9. Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is a charming water bird known for its distinctive appearance and fishing prowess. With its shaggy crest, blue-gray plumage, and a broad white band across its chest, the Belted Kingfisher is easily identifiable. It perches near water bodies, scanning for fish and then dives headfirst into the water to catch its prey.

Scientific NameMegaceryle alcyon
Unique FeaturesBroad white band across the chest
HabitatNear water bodies, rivers
AppearanceBlue-gray plumage, shaggy crest

10. Pied-billed Grebe

The Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) is a small water bird that can be found in Maryland’s freshwater marshes and ponds. It has a compact body, brown plumage, and a distinctive black band around its bill. Pied-billed Grebes are excellent divers and can swim underwater to catch small fish and invertebrates.

Types of Water Birds of Washington State
Scientific NamePodilymbus podiceps
Unique FeaturesExcellent diver, can swim underwater
HabitatFreshwater marshes, ponds
AppearanceBrown plumage, black bill with a distinctive band

11. Northern Shoveler

The Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) is a unique water bird known for its large spatula-shaped bill. It has a striking plumage pattern, with a green head, white breast, and chestnut sides. Northern Shovelers can be found in Maryland’s wetlands and marshes, where they use their bill to filter small organisms from the water.

Scientific NameSpatula clypeata
Unique FeaturesLarge spatula-shaped bill, filter feeder
HabitatWetlands, marshes
AppearanceGreen head, white breast, chestnut sides

12. Common Tern

The Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) is a graceful seabird that can be spotted along the coastlines of Maryland. It has a slender body, a forked tail, and a black cap on its head. Common Terns are excellent fliers and divers, plunging into the water to catch small fish. They nest in colonies on sandy beaches or coastal islands.

Scientific NameSterna hirundo
Unique FeaturesSkilled flier and diver, nests in colonies
HabitatCoastal areas, sandy beaches, coastal islands
AppearanceSlender body, forked tail, black cap on head

13. Double-crested Cormorant

The Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is a large, dark water bird commonly seen in Maryland’s coastal areas and freshwater habitats. It has a sleek black body, a long neck, and bright turquoise eyes. Known for its excellent diving skills, the Double-crested Cormorant swims underwater to catch fish. After fishing, it can be seen perched with its wings spread wide, drying them in the sun.

Scientific NamePhalacrocorax auritus
Unique FeaturesExcellent diver, wingspread drying behavior
HabitatCoastal areas, freshwater habitats
AppearanceBlack body, long neck, turquoise eyes

14. Black-crowned Night Heron

The Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is a medium-sized water bird known for its distinct appearance and nocturnal habits. With a black crown, gray wings, and a white belly, it has a striking contrast in colors. Black-crowned Night Herons can be found near marshes, swamps, and wooded wetlands, where they patiently stalk their prey, which includes fish, frogs, and insects.

Types of Water Birds found in maryland
Scientific NameNycticorax nycticorax
Unique FeaturesNocturnal habits, patient stalking behavior
HabitatMarshes, swamps, wooded wetlands
AppearanceBlack crown, gray wings, white belly

15. American Wigeon

The American Wigeon (Mareca americana) is a medium-sized dabbling duck that migrates through and winters in Maryland. Male American Wigeons have a striking appearance with a white forehead, a green eye patch, and a gray body with white underparts. Females have a mottled brown plumage. They can be found in wetlands, marshes, and shallow ponds, feeding on aquatic plants and invertebrates.

Scientific NameMareca americana
Unique FeaturesDabbling duck, migratory species
HabitatWetlands, marshes, shallow ponds
AppearanceWhite forehead, green eye patch, gray body

16. Hooded Merganser

The Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is a small and striking water bird found in Maryland’s wooded wetlands and freshwater habitats. The male Hooded Merganser has a unique appearance with a black and white head, a crest that can be raised or lowered, and chestnut flanks. Females have a more subdued brown plumage. These diving ducks feed on small fish, insects, and crustaceans.

Scientific NameLophodytes cucullatus
Unique FeaturesDiving duck, distinctive crest
HabitatWooded wetlands, freshwater habitats
AppearanceBlack and white head, crest, chestnut flanks

17. American White Pelican

The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is a large and graceful water bird that occasionally visits Maryland during migration. It has a white plumage, a wingspan that can exceed nine feet, and a distinctive pouch beneath its bill. American White Pelicans primarily feed on fish, using cooperative group feeding techniques to corral their prey.

Scientific NamePelecanus erythrorhynchos
Unique FeaturesCooperative group feeding, migratory species
HabitatLakes, marshes, coastal areas
AppearanceWhite plumage, large wingspan, pouch beneath bill

18. Least Bittern

The Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) is a small and elusive water bird found in Maryland’s freshwater and brackish marshes. It has a brown and buff plumage, a slender body, and a neck that can extend to striking lengths when hunting. The Least Bittern is known for its secretive nature, often hiding among dense vegetation, and its ability to walk on floating plants.

Scientific NameIxobrychus exilis
Unique FeaturesElongated neck, secretive nature
HabitatFreshwater and brackish marshes
AppearanceBrown and buff plumage, slender body

19. Ruddy Duck

The Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is a small diving duck known for its unique appearance and vibrant breeding plumage. Male Ruddy Ducks have a blue bill, a rust-colored body, and a distinctive white cheek patch. Females have a brownish plumage with a lighter face. They can be found in Maryland’s freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes, where they dive to feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates.

Scientific NameOxyura jamaicensis
Unique FeaturesDiving duck, vibrant breeding plumage
HabitatFreshwater lakes, ponds, marshes
AppearanceBlue bill, rust-colored body, white cheek patch

20. Black Skimmer

The Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) is a unique water bird known for its distinctive beak and feeding behavior. It has a black body, long wings, and a lower mandible that extends beyond the upper mandible. Black Skimmers can be seen along Maryland’s coastlines and beaches, flying low over the water and skimming their lower beak through the surface to catch small fish.

Scientific NameRynchops niger
Unique FeaturesSkimming feeding behavior, coastal species
HabitatCoastlines, beaches
AppearanceBlack body, long wings, lower mandible extending beyond upper mandible

21. American Avocet

The American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) is an elegant shorebird occasionally found in Maryland’s coastal and inland areas. It has a slender body, long legs, and a distinctive upward-curving bill. During the breeding season, its head and neck turn rust-colored. American Avocets forage in shallow waters, sweeping their bill from side to side to capture small invertebrates.

Scientific NameRecurvirostra americana
Unique FeaturesElegant shorebird, rust-colored head and neck during breeding
HabitatCoastal areas, inland waters
AppearanceSlender body, long legs, upward-curving bill

22. Red-breasted Merganser

The Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) is a diving duck commonly found along Maryland’s coastlines and inland waters during the winter season. It has a slender body, a shaggy crest, and a reddish-brown head with a sharp, slender bill. Red-breasted Mergansers feed on small fish, diving underwater to catch their prey.

red breasted marganser
Scientific NameMergus serrator
Unique FeaturesDiving duck, slender bill
HabitatCoastlines, inland waters
AppearanceSlender body, shaggy crest, reddish-brown head

23. Common Loon

The Common Loon (Gavia immer) is a large, distinctive water bird that visits Maryland’s lakes and coastal areas during the winter months. It has a black head, a white neck, and a black-and-white checkered back. Common Loons are known for their haunting calls and their ability to dive deep underwater to catch fish.

common loon
Scientific NameGavia immer
Unique FeaturesHaunting calls, excellent diver
HabitatLakes, coastal areas
AppearanceBlack head, white neck, black-and-white checkered back

4. Northern Pintail

The Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) is a graceful dabbling duck that migrates through Maryland during the spring and fall. It has a slender body, a long neck, and a distinctive pointed tail. Male Northern Pintails have a brown head, a white breast, and a gray body with intricate patterning. Females have a mottled brown plumage. They can be found in wetlands, marshes, and flooded fields, foraging on plant matter and small invertebrates.

Types of Water Birds of maryland
Scientific NameAnas acuta
Unique FeaturesGraceful dabbling duck, migratory species
HabitatWetlands, marshes, flooded fields
AppearanceSlender body, long neck, pointed tail

25. Trumpeter Swan

The Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) is the largest native water bird in North America and occasionally visits Maryland during migration. It has a white plumage, a long neck, and a distinctive trumpet-like call. Trumpeter Swans can be found in wetlands, lakes, and rivers, where they feed on aquatic plants and occasionally small fish.

Scientific NameCygnus buccinator
Unique FeaturesLargest native water bird in North America, migratory species
HabitatWetlands, lakes, rivers
AppearanceWhite plumage, long neck, distinctive call


A wide variety of water bird species with individual traits and environmental requirements can be found in Maryland. These birds, which include stately herons, graceful swans, agile divers, and expert hunters, add to the diverse ecosystem of Maryland’s wetlands, marshes, beaches, and inland lakes. Their presence enhances the beauty of the surrounding natural landscapes and is essential for preserving the ecological harmony of these areas.

We can increase our understanding of the wonders of nature and the significance of protecting these delicate ecosystems by learning more about the intriguing world of water birds in Maryland.

Also Read: Are pileated Woodpeckers Rare?

How Do Birds Reproduce?

What is the best time of year to observe water birds in Maryland?

The best time to observe water birds in Maryland is during the spring and fall migration seasons when a diverse range of species pass through the state.

How can I identify different water bird species in Maryland?

Identifying water bird species in Maryland can be done by observing their distinctive physical features, such as plumage coloration, bill shape, and body size. Utilizing field guides, birding apps, and joining local birding groups or guided tours can also provide valuable assistance in species identification.

 Are there any endangered water bird species in Maryland?

Yes, some water bird species in Maryland are classified as endangered or of conservation concern. Examples include the Black-crowned Night Heron and Least Bittern. Conservation efforts focus on preserving their habitats, reducing threats, and raising awareness about their conservation status.

What threats do water birds face in Maryland?

Water birds in Maryland face various threats, including habitat loss due to urbanization, pollution of water bodies, disturbance to nesting sites, and climate change impacts. These threats can affect their breeding success, foraging opportunities, and overall population health.

 Can I contribute to water bird research in Maryland as a citizen scientist?

Yes, there are opportunities for citizen scientists to contribute to water bird research in Maryland. Participating in bird counts, reporting bird sightings to eBird or other bird monitoring programs, and volunteering for local conservation organizations can all help gather valuable data for scientific research and conservation efforts.

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