25 Types of Water Birds Found in Michigan

A sanctuary for nature lovers, Michigan offers stunning scenery and a wide variety of wildlife. Water birds dominate the state’s diverse ecosystem, enthralling observers with their beauty and distinctive behaviors.

We shall explore the fascinating world of 25 Types of water birds Found in Michigan.

We will examine their habitats, features, and the wonder they offer to Michigan’s lakes, rivers, and wetlands. From the adorable Common Loon and majestic Bald Eagle to the graceful Sandhill Crane and hardy Osprey.

Join us on this avian adventure as we discover the remarkable water birds that call Michigan home.

25 Types of Water Birds Found in Michigan

Common Loon:

The Common Loon is an iconic bird known for its striking black and white plumage. It is an excellent diver and swimmer, with its legs placed far back on its body for efficient underwater propulsion. These birds have a haunting call that echoes across lakes in Michigan.

common loon
CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameGavia immer
Average SizeLength: 28-36 inches, Wingspan: 46-56 inches
HabitatLakes, ponds, and large water bodies
DietFish, crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates
Breeding SeasonMay to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

American White Pelican:

The American White Pelican is a magnificent bird with a massive size and impressive wingspan. These birds can exceed nine feet in wingspan and are known for their graceful flight. They have a distinctive appearance, with white plumage and a large, pouched bill.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NamePelecanus erythrorhynchos
Average SizeLength: 50-70 inches, Wingspan: 95-120 inches
HabitatLakes, rivers, and coastal areas
DietFish and small aquatic animals
MigrationMigratory, with movements in spring and fall
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Sandhill Crane:

The Sandhill Crane is a magnificent bird known for its long legs, gray plumage, and distinctive red crown. It can be found in wetlands and grasslands in Michigan. These birds have a bugling call that resonates across the landscape.

Types of Water Birds found in Michigan
CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameAntigone canadensis
Average SizeHeight: 3-4 feet, Wingspan: 5-7 feet
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and grasslands
DietPlants, grains, insects, and small vertebrates
Breeding SeasonApril to September
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Great Blue Heron:

The Great Blue Heron is a tall and elegant water bird commonly seen wading in Michigan’s shallow waters. With its long legs, neck, and dagger-like bill, it is a skilled hunter, preying on fish, amphibians, and small mammals.

Different Types of Water Birds
CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameArdea herodias
Average SizeHeight: 3-4.5 feet, Wingspan: 5.5-6.6 feet
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and shorelines
DietFish, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals
Breeding SeasonMarch to May
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Trumpeter Swan:

The Trumpeter Swan is the largest waterfowl species in North America. It is known for its resplendent white plumage and graceful presence. Michigan provides important breeding grounds for these beautiful birds.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameCygnus buccinator
Average SizeLength: 4-5.5 feet, Wingspan: 6-8 feet
HabitatLakes, ponds, and wetlands
DietAquatic plants, algae, and invertebrates
Breeding SeasonApril to June
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Canada Goose:

The Canada Goose is a familiar sight across Michigan. With its distinctive “V” formation flights and honking calls, it has become an iconic bird. These adaptable birds can be found in various habitats, including urban parks and rural wetlands.

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CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameBranta canadensis
Average SizeLength: 30-43 inches, Wingspan: 50-71 inches
HabitatLakes, rivers, and grassy areas
DietGrasses, sedges, grains, and aquatic plants
Breeding SeasonMarch to June
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Mallard:

The Mallard is one of the most recognizable ducks in Michigan. The male has a vibrant green head, yellow bill, and a distinctive curly tail, while the female has mottled brown plumage. They can be found in lakes, ponds, and marshes throughout the state.

Birds Of michigan
CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameAnas platyrhynchos
Average SizeLength: 20-26 inches, Wingspan: 32-39 inches
HabitatWetlands, lakes, and agricultural areas
DietAquatic plants, seeds, insects, and small invertebrates
Breeding SeasonFebruary to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Double-Crested Cormorant:

The Double-Crested Cormorant is a diving bird commonly found along Michigan’s coastlines. With its dark plumage and striking turquoise eyes, it is a fascinating species to observe. They are skilled swimmers and dive underwater to catch fish.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NamePhalacrocorax auritus
Average SizeLength: 28-35 inches, Wingspan: 45-49 inches
HabitatCoastal areas, lakes, and rivers
DietFish, crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates
Breeding SeasonApril to June
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Pied-Billed Grebe:

The Pied-Billed Grebe is a small water bird known for its unique bill, which has a dark band resembling a ring. It prefers freshwater habitats such as marshes, ponds, and quiet lakes. These birds are excellent divers and can disappear underwater with ease.

pied billed grebe
CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NamePodilymbus podiceps
Average SizeLength: 9-13 inches, Wingspan: 16-18 inches
HabitatFreshwater marshes, ponds, and lakes
DietFish, insects, crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates
Breeding SeasonApril to August
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

American Bittern:

The American Bittern is a master of camouflage, blending perfectly with its wetland surroundings. It has a streaked brown plumage that provides excellent camouflage amidst cattails and reeds. These birds are known for their unique booming call.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific Name               Botaurus lentiginosus
Average SizeLength: 23-34 inches, Wingspan: 41-50 inches
HabitatMarshes, wetlands, and reed beds
DietFish, amphibians, insects, and small mammals
Breeding SeasonApril to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Snowy Egret:

The Snowy Egret is a visually captivating bird with its contrasting white plumage and dark, slender legs. These elegant waders can be spotted in Michigan’s coastal areas, foraging for fish and invertebrates.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameEgretta thula
Average SizeHeight: 22-26 inches, Wingspan: 39-46 inches
HabitatMarshes, mudflats, and coastal wetlands
DietFish, crustaceans, and insects
Breeding SeasonApril to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Tundra Swan:

The Tundra Swan, also known as the Whistling Swan, is a graceful migratory bird that visits Michigan during the spring and fall. Known for its resonant calls and impressive wingspan, it adds to the beauty of Michigan’s water bodies.

tundra swan
CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameCygnus columbianus
Average SizeLength: 47-58 inches, Wingspan: 70-82 inches
HabitatTundra, marshes, and shallow lakes
DietAquatic plants, algae, and invertebrates
MigrationMigratory, with movements in spring and fall
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Hooded Merganser:

The Hooded Merganser is a small duck species distinguished by the striking fan-shaped crest on the male’s head. Michigan’s wooded lakes and rivers serve as ideal nesting sites for these cavity-nesting birds.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific Name               Lophodytes cucullatus
Average SizeLength: 15-19 inches, Wingspan: 23-28 inches
HabitatWooded lakes, rivers, and marshes
DietFish, insects, crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates
Breeding SeasonMarch to June
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Common Goldeneye:

The Common Goldeneye is a diving duck that breeds in Michigan’s boreal forests and winters on the state’s larger lakes. The male has a striking black-and-white plumage with a bright yellow eye.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameBucephala clangula
Average SizeLength: 15-19 inches, Wingspan: 26-31 inches
HabitatBoreal forests, lakes, and rivers
DietAquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish
Breeding SeasonMay to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Red-Breasted Merganser:

The Red-Breasted Merganser is a captivating bird found along Michigan’s coasts and larger inland water bodies. The male has a shaggy crest and rusty-red breast, while the female has a more muted appearance. These birds are skilled divers and primarily feed on fish.

red breasted marganser
CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameMergus serrator
Average SizeLength: 20-25 inches, Wingspan: 26-30 inches
HabitatCoastal areas, lakes, and rivers
DietFish and small aquatic invertebrates
Breeding SeasonApril to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

American Wigeon:

The American Wigeon is a dabbling duck characterized by its striking head pattern and whistling calls. These migratory birds can be found in Michigan’s wetlands and agricultural fields. They primarily feed on plant matter and aquatic invertebrates.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameMareca americana
Average SizeLength: 18-23 inches, Wingspan: 30-32 inches
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and agricultural fields
DietAquatic plants, grasses, seeds, and invertebrates
MigrationMigratory, with movements in spring and fall
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Ruddy Duck:

The Ruddy Duck is a small diving duck known for its vibrant breeding plumage and distinctive blue bill. Michigan’s marshes and shallow lakes are important breeding and wintering areas for these birds. They have unique courtship displays involving head-bobbing and water splashing.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameOxyura jamaicensis
Average SizeLength: 13-15 inches, Wingspan: 18-21 inches
HabitatMarshes, lakes, and ponds
DietAquatic plants, seeds, and small invertebrates
Breeding SeasonApril to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

American Coot:

The American Coot, often mistaken for a duck, is a water bird with unique lobed toes. It is a common sight in Michigan’s wetlands and can be observed swimming and diving in search of aquatic plants and invertebrates.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameFulica americana
Average SizeLength: 12-15 inches, Wingspan: 23-25 inches
HabitatWetlands, lakes, and ponds
DietAquatic plants, seeds, and small invertebrates
Breeding SeasonApril to August
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Ring-Billed Gull:

The Ring-Billed Gull is a familiar bird found along Michigan’s coasts and around inland lakes. With its white plumage, yellow bill with a black ring, and raucous calls, it is easily recognizable. These opportunistic feeders scavenge for food in a variety of habitats.

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CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameLarus delawarensis
Average SizeLength: 17-21 inches, Wingspan: 43-49 inches
HabitatCoastal areas, lakes, and urban settings
DietFish, insects, crustaceans, and garbage
Breeding SeasonApril to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Common Tern:

The Common Tern is a graceful seabird that migrates to Michigan during the summer breeding season. With its aerial acrobatics and swift diving skills, it is an impressive sight over the state’s waters. These birds nest in colonies on sandy beaches and forage for small fish.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameSterna hirundo
Average SizeLength: 13-15 inches, Wingspan: 28-31 inches
HabitatCoastal areas, lakeshores, and estuaries
DietSmall fish, crustaceans, and insects
Breeding SeasonMay to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Black Tern:

The Black Tern is a striking bird with its jet-black plumage and buoyant flight. It breeds in Michigan’s marshes and wet meadows, and its presence adds to the state’s avian diversity. These birds are adept at catching insects on the wing.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameChlidonias niger
Average SizeLength: 9-10 inches, Wingspan: 24-26 inches
HabitatMarshes, wet meadows, and lakeshores
DietInsects, small fish, and aquatic invertebrates
Breeding SeasonMay to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Osprey:

The Osprey, also known as the fish hawk, is a magnificent raptor that can be found near Michigan’s lakes and rivers. With its remarkable fishing abilities and a wingspan of up to six feet, it is a true aerial predator. Ospreys build large stick nests near water bodies.

Osprey
CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NamePandion haliaetus
Average SizeLength: 21-24 inches, Wingspan: 59-70 inches
HabitatLakes, rivers, and coastal areas
DietFish, primarily freshwater species
Breeding SeasonMarch to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Bald Eagle:

The Bald Eagle, the national bird of the United States, is an iconic symbol of freedom and strength. Michigan’s extensive shoreline and inland water bodies provide ample opportunities for spotting these majestic birds. They build large nests in tall trees near water.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameHaliaeetus leucocephalus
Average SizeLength: 28-40 inches, Wingspan: 6-7.5 feet
Habitat               Coastal areas, lakeshores, and forests
DietFish, waterfowl, small mammals, and carrion
Breeding SeasonFebruary to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Belted Kingfisher:

The Belted Kingfisher is a small, charismatic bird known for its distinctive rattling call and remarkable fishing skills. It can be found near Michigan’s water bodies, perched on branches, and diving into the water to catch fish.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameMegaceryle alcyon
Average SizeLength: 11-14 inches, Wingspan: 19-23 inches
HabitatRivers, lakes, and streams
DietFish, insects, crustaceans, and amphibians
Breeding SeasonApril to July
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Common Gallinule:

The Common Gallinule, also known as the Common Moorhen, is a water bird with distinctive red frontal shields and long toes. It can be found in Michigan’s marshes, ponds, and wetlands, where it forages for plant matter and small invertebrates.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameGallinula galeata
Average SizeLength: 13-15 inches, Wingspan: 21-23 inches
HabitatMarshes, ponds, and wetlands
DietAquatic plants, seeds, insects, and small invertebrates
Breeding SeasonMay to August
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Conclusion

Michigan is a treasure trove for water bird enthusiasts. The state’s diverse array of lakes, rivers, wetlands, and coastal areas provide a rich habitat for a wide variety of water bird species. From the iconic Common Loon and majestic Bald Eagle to the elegant Sandhill Crane and graceful Trumpeter Swan, Michigan offers a glimpse into the enchanting world of these avian wonders.

The water birds of Michigan showcase remarkable characteristics, such as their specialized beaks, impressive diving abilities, unique plumage, and migratory patterns. Observing their behaviors, from fishing and diving to nesting and courtship displays, offers a captivating experience for nature lovers.

Whether you’re strolling along a lakeshore, exploring a marsh, or observing from a birdwatching hide, Michigan’s water birds provide a symphony of sights and sounds that resonate with the beauty and diversity of the state’s natural landscapes.

Also Read: Black Bellied Whistling Duck Habitat

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Are all the water bird species mentioned in the article native to Michigan?

Yes, all the water bird species mentioned in this article are native to Michigan. They can be found in various habitats across the state.

Are these water birds commonly seen throughout the year in Michigan?

 The presence of water birds may vary depending on the season. Some species are migratory and visit Michigan during specific times of the year, while others reside in the state year-round.

Can I spot these water birds in urban areas of Michigan?

Yes, certain water bird species, such as Canada Geese and Mallards, are adaptable and can be found in urban parks and lakes within cities.

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

Spring and fall are excellent seasons for observing water birds during migration. Additionally, summer is a great time to witness breeding behaviors and see adult birds with their young.

Are these water bird species protected in Michigan?

Many of these water bird species are protected under federal and state laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is essential to respect their habitats and observe them from a safe distance.

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