25 Types of Water Birds Found in Minnesota

Are you looking to explore the diverse world of water birds in Minnesota?

Look no further!

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the captivating realm of 25 Types of Water Birds Found in Minnesota.

From the iconic Common Loon to the majestic Trumpeter Swan, we will uncover the unique characteristics and habitats of these avian wonders.

 Join us as we embark on a journey through Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and wetlands, and discover the beauty and diversity of its water bird population.

25 Types of Water Birds Found in Minnesota

Common Loon

The Common Loon is a large, sleek bird with a black head, neck, and back. It has a white underbelly and striking red eyes. During breeding season, it develops distinctive black and white checkered patterns on its back.

Diet:

Common Loons primarily feed on fish, diving beneath the water to catch their prey. They are skilled swimmers and use their sharp beaks to grasp and swallow their meals.

common loon

Identification:

Common Loons are known for their haunting calls, which are often heard echoing across the lakes. They have a long, slender body, a pointed beak, and webbed feet positioned far back on their bodies for better swimming.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Gavia immerBlack head, neck, and back; white underbelly; red eyes; checkered patterns during breeding seasonFishHaunting calls; long, slender body; pointed beak; webbed feet positioned far backFreshwater lakes and reservoirs

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swans are the largest waterfowl species in North America. They have a snowy white plumage, long necks, and a distinctive black bill. Their wingspan can reach up to 8 feet (2.4 meters).

Diet:

These swans are primarily herbivorous, feeding on aquatic vegetation, roots, and tubers. They forage by dipping their long necks underwater to reach their food.

Identification:

Trumpeter Swans have a graceful swimming style and emit a loud, trumpet-like call. They have a straighter neck compared to other swan species.

Habitat:

Trumpeter Swans can be found in wetlands, shallow lakes, and slow-moving rivers. They require open water and areas with ample vegetation for feeding.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Cygnus buccinatorSnowy white plumage; long neck; black bill; large wingspanAquatic vegetation, roots, and tubersGraceful swimming style; loud, trumpet-like call; straighter neckWetlands, shallow lakes, rivers

Scientific Name Appearance        Diet               Identification     Habitat

Cygnus buccinator           Snowy white plumage; long neck; black bill; large wingspan               Aquatic vegetation, roots, and tubers               Graceful swimming style; loud, trumpet-like call; straighter neck               Wetlands, shallow lakes, rivers

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons are tall wading birds with a long neck, legs, and a dagger-like bill. They have a bluish-gray plumage on their body and a white head with a black stripe above their eye.

Different Types of Water Birds

Diet:

These herons are opportunistic feeders and consume a variety of prey, including fish, amphibians, small mammals, and insects. They often stand motionless in water before striking their prey with their sharp bill.

Identification:

Great Blue Herons are known for their slow, deliberate movements and distinctive squawking call. They have a wingspan of up to 6.6 feet (2 meters).

Habitat:

They can be found in a range of aquatic habitats, including marshes, wetlands, and the edges of lakes and rivers. They prefer areas with abundant food sources.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Ardea herodiasTall wading bird; long neck and legs; bluish-gray plumage; white head with black stripeFish, amphibians, small mammals, insectsSlow, deliberate movements; distinctive squawking call; large wingspanMarshes, wetlands, edges of lakes and rivers

American White Pelican

The American White Pelican is a large bird with white plumage, a long neck, and a distinctive orange bill. During the breeding season, it develops a fibrous plate on the upper bill and a horn-like projection on the lower bill.

Diet:

These pelicans are primarily piscivorous, feeding on fish by scooping them up with their expandable pouches. They often cooperate in groups to corral fish for easier capture.

Identification:

American White Pelicans are known for their impressive wingspan, reaching up to 9 feet (2.7 meters). They soar gracefully in the air and emit a low, guttural sound.

Habitat:

They inhabit large bodies of water, such as lakes, reservoirs, and coastal areas. They prefer areas with shallow water where fish are abundant.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Pelecanus erythrorhynchosWhite plumage; long neck; orange bill with fibrous plate and horn-like projection during breeding seasonFishImpressive wingspan; graceful soaring; low, guttural soundLakes, reservoirs, coastal areas

Mallard

Mallards are medium-sized ducks with a mottled brown body, a green head, and a distinctive yellow bill. The male, called a drake, has a glossy green head and a curly black tail feather.

mallard

Diet:

These ducks are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of food sources, including aquatic plants, seeds, insects, and small aquatic invertebrates.

Identification:

Mallards are recognized by their quacking calls and their ability to take flight quickly from the water. The male has a vibrant iridescent plumage, while the female, called a hen, has a more subdued appearance.

Habitat:

Mallards can be found in a range of wetland habitats, including ponds, lakes, marshes, and rivers. They are adaptable and can also thrive in urban environments.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Anas platyrhynchosMottled brown body; green head (male); yellow billAquatic plants, seeds, insects, small aquatic invertebratesQuacking calls; ability to take flight quickly; vibrant plumage (male)Ponds, lakes, marshes, rivers

Canada Goose

Canada Geese are large water birds with a brownish-gray body, a long black neck, and a distinctive white chinstrap marking. They have a powerful build and a strong, serrated bill.

Types of Water Birds

Diet:

These geese are herbivorous, feeding on a variety of plant matter, including grasses, sedges, and grains. They graze on land and also feed in water.

Identification:

Canada Geese are known for their honking calls and their V-shaped flight formations. They have a wingspan of up to 6.6 feet (2 meters).

Habitat:

They can be found in a variety of habitats, including lakes, rivers, ponds, and fields. They often congregate in large flocks.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Branta canadensisBrownish-gray body; long black neck; white chinstrap markingGrasses, sedges, grainsHonking calls; V-shaped flight formations; large wingspanLakes, rivers, ponds, fields

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbirds are small to medium-sized birds with a black body and distinctive red and yellow shoulder patches (epaulets) on the male. The female has a streaked brown plumage.

red winged blackbird

Diet:

These birds are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of food sources, including seeds, grains, insects, and small invertebrates.

Identification:

Red-winged Blackbirds are known for their distinctive “conk-la-ree” song and their habit of perching on cattails and other tall vegetation. The male displays its colorful shoulder patches during courtship and territorial displays.

Habitat:

They can be found in wetland areas, marshes, and along the edges of lakes and ponds. They are often seen near open fields and agricultural areas.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Agelaius phoeniceusBlack body; red and yellow shoulder patches on male; streaked brown plumage on femaleSeeds, grains, insects, small invertebrates“Conk-la-ree” song; perches on tall vegetation; displays colorful shoulder patches (male)Wetland areas, marshes, edges of lakes and ponds  

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes are tall, elegant birds with a grayish-brown body, long legs, and a long neck. They have a red forehead and a distinctive “bustle” of feathers on their rear end.

Diet:

These cranes are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of food sources, including insects, seeds, tubers, small vertebrates, and plant matter.

Identification:

Sandhill Cranes have a loud, trumpeting call and perform elaborate courtship dances. They have a wingspan of up to 7 feet (2.1 meters).

Habitat:

They can be found in various habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural fields. They require open areas for foraging and nesting.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Antigone canadensisGrayish-brown body; long legs and neck; red forehead; “bustle” of feathers on rear endInsects, seeds, tubers, small vertebrates, plant matterLoud, trumpeting call; elaborate courtship dances; large wingspanWetlands, grasslands, agricultural fields

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gulls are medium-sized gulls with a white body, gray wings, and a yellow bill with a black ring near the tip. During breeding season, they develop a dark ring around their eyes.

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Diet:

These gulls are opportunistic feeders and have a varied diet, including fish, insects, crustaceans, small mammals, and even garbage in urban areas.

Identification:

Ring-billed Gulls have a distinctive call that sounds like a “kak-kak-kak.” They have a graceful flight and can be seen hovering or soaring above bodies of water.

Habitat:

They can be found in a variety of habitats, including coastal areas, lakes, rivers, and urban environments. They are adaptable and often forage near human settlements.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Larus delawarensisWhite body; gray wings; yellow bill with black ring; dark ring around eyes during breeding seasonFish, insects, crustaceans, small mammals, garbage“Kak-kak-kak” call; graceful flight; hovers and soarsCoastal areas, lakes, rivers, urban environments

American Bittern

The American Bittern is a medium-sized heron-like bird with a mottled brown body and a streaked neck. It has a long, pointed bill and yellow eyes.

Diet:

These birds primarily feed on small fish, amphibians, insects, and crustaceans. They are skilled at camouflaging themselves and patiently waiting for prey.

Identification:

American Bitterns are known for their unique call, which resembles a low, booming sound. They have a secretive nature and often remain hidden among reeds and vegetation.

Habitat:

They can be found in marshes, wetlands, and areas with dense vegetation. They rely on tall grasses and reeds for nesting and foraging.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Botaurus lentiginosusMottled brown body; streaked neck; long, pointed bill; yellow eyesSmall fish, amphibians, insects, crustaceansLow, booming call; secretive nature; hides among reeds and vegetationMarshes, wetlands, areas with dense vegetation

American Coot

American Coots are medium-sized water birds with a black body, a white bill, and distinctive lobed toes. They have a rounded head and a short tail.

Diet:

These coots are omnivorous, feeding on aquatic plants, algae, small invertebrates, and occasionally small fish and carrion.

Identification:

American Coots have a rapid, high-pitched “kuk-kuk-kuk” call. They are agile swimmers and divers, often seen foraging in groups.

Habitat:

They can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, including lakes, ponds, marshes, and rivers. They are adaptable and can also inhabit man-made water bodies.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Fulica americanaBlack body; white bill; lobed toesAquatic plants, algae, small invertebrates, small fish, carrionRapid, high-pitched “kuk-kuk-kuk” call; agile swimmers and divers; forages in groupsLakes, ponds, marshes, rivers, man-made water bodies

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with a stocky build, a large head, and a long, pointed bill. They have a bluish-gray plumage, a shaggy crest, and a white belly with a broad, blue band across it.

Diet:

These kingfishers are piscivorous, feeding primarily on fish. They perch on branches or hover above water before diving to catch their prey.

Identification:

Belted Kingfishers have a rattling call and can be seen in fast, direct flight along rivers and shorelines. They have a distinctive, crested appearance.

Habitat:

They can be found near bodies of water, such as rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal areas. They dig burrows in sandy or earthy banks for nesting.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Megaceryle alcyonStocky build; large head; long, pointed bill; bluish-gray plumage; shaggy crest; white belly with broad blue bandFishRattling call; fast, direct flight; crested appearanceRivers, streams, lakes, coastal areas

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneyes are medium-sized diving ducks with a blackish body, a white circular patch on the face, and a yellow eye. The male has a distinctive greenish-black head.

Diet:

These ducks primarily feed on aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and plant matter. They dive underwater to forage for food.

Identification:

Common Goldeneyes have a low, croaking call. During courtship displays, the male performs head-throwing and wing-flapping movements.

Habitat:

They can be found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and coastal areas during the breeding season. During winter, they migrate to larger bodies of water.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Bucephala clangulaBlackish body; white circular face patch; yellow eye; greenish-black head (male)Aquatic invertebrates, small fish, plant matterLow, croaking call; head-throwing and wing-flapping displays (male)Freshwater lakes, rivers, coastal areas

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebes are small diving birds with a stocky build, a dark brown body, and a distinctive, thick bill with a black band. They have a short, blunt tail.

Diet:

These grebes primarily feed on small fish, crustaceans, insects, and aquatic vegetation. They dive underwater to catch their prey.

Identification:

Pied-billed Grebes have a soft, repeated “kuk-kuk-kuk” call. They are excellent swimmers and can sink slowly into the water, leaving only their head visible.

Habitat:

They can be found in freshwater habitats, including lakes, ponds, marshes, and slow-moving rivers. They prefer areas with dense vegetation.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Podilymbus podicepsDark brown body; thick bill with black band; short, blunt tailSmall fish, crustaceans, insects, aquatic vegetationSoft, repeated “kuk-kuk-kuk” call; excellent swimmers; sinks into waterFreshwater lakes, ponds, marshes, slow-moving rivers

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teals are small dabbling ducks with a mottled brown body, a green wing patch (speculum), and a distinctive horizontal white stripe on the side of the head.

Diet:

These ducks primarily feed on seeds, grains, aquatic plants, and invertebrates. They feed by dabbling in shallow water or grazing on land.

Identification:

Green-winged Teals have a high-pitched whistle call. The male has a chestnut head with a green eye patch, while the female has a mottled brown plumage.

Habitat:

They can be found in various wetland habitats, including marshes, ponds, and flooded fields. They migrate long distances during the winter months.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Anas creccaMottled brown body; green wing patch (speculum); horizontal white stripe on side of headSeeds, grains, aquatic plants, invertebratesHigh-pitched whistle call; male has chestnut head with green eye patch; female has mottled brown plumageWetlands, marshes, ponds, flooded fields  

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shovelers are medium-sized dabbling ducks with a distinctive long, spatula-shaped bill. The male has a dark green head, a white breast, and rusty sides, while the female has a mottled brown plumage.

Diet:

These ducks primarily feed on aquatic invertebrates, seeds, and plant matter. They use their unique bill to filter food from the water.

Identification:

Northern Shovelers have a series of nasal calls and a wing whistle during flight. They have a distinctive feeding behavior of “shoveling” their bill side to side.

Habitat:

They can be found in wetlands, marshes, lakes, and ponds. They prefer shallow water with abundant vegetation.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Spatula clypeataLong, spatula-shaped bill; male has dark green head, white breast, rusty sides; female has mottled brown plumageAquatic invertebrates, seeds, plant matterNasal calls, wing whistle during flight; “shoveling” bill feeding behaviorWetlands, marshes, lakes, ponds

American Wigeon

American Wigeons are medium-sized dabbling ducks with a round head, a short neck, and a gray body. The male has a distinctive white crown and a green stripe behind the eye.

Types of Water Birds

Diet:

These ducks primarily feed on aquatic plants, grasses, seeds, and invertebrates. They forage by dabbling in shallow water or grazing on land.

Identification:

American Wigeons have a whistling call and can produce a variety of vocalizations. The male has a colorful breeding plumage with a white patch on the wings.

Habitat:

They can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, ponds, and estuaries. They are often seen in mixed flocks with other ducks.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Mareca americanaRound head, short neck, gray body; male has white crown, green stripe behind eyeAquatic plants, grasses, seeds, invertebratesWhistling call, vocalizations; male has colorful breeding plumage with white wing patchWetlands, marshes, ponds, estuaries

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorants are medium-to-large-sized water birds with a long neck, a long, hooked bill, and dark brown plumage. During breeding season, they develop distinctive double crests on their heads.

Diet:

These cormorants primarily feed on fish, but also consume crustaceans and amphibians. They are skilled divers, using their webbed feet to propel themselves underwater.

Identification:

Double-crested Cormorants have a guttural croaking call. They have a unique behavior of spreading their wings to dry them after diving.

Habitat:

They can be found near both saltwater and freshwater habitats, including lakes, rivers, estuaries, and coastal areas. They often nest in colonies on trees or rocky cliffs.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Phalacrocorax auritusLong neck, long hooked bill, dark brown plumage; double crests during breedingFish, crustaceans, amphibiansGuttural croaking call; spreads wings to dry after divingLakes, rivers, estuaries, coastal areas

American Wood Duck

American Wood Ducks are medium-sized ducks with a distinctive crested head, a colorful plumage, and a long, square tail. The male has a metallic green head and a white patch around the eye.

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Diet:

These ducks primarily feed on seeds, acorns, fruits, and insects. They forage by dabbling in shallow water or by grazing on land.

Identification:

American Wood Ducks have a high-pitched, whistling call. They are known for their nesting behavior of using tree cavities or nest boxes.

Habitat:

They can be found in wooded swamps, marshes, and shallow wetlands. They prefer areas with trees and vegetation near water.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Aix sponsaCrested head, colorful plumage, long square tail; male has metallic green head, white eye patchSeeds, acorns, fruits, insectsHigh-pitched, whistling call; nests in tree cavities or nest boxesWooded swamps, marshes, shallow wetlands

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets are medium-sized herons with a slender body, a long neck, and all-white plumage. They have a distinctive black bill, black legs, and yellow feet.

Diet:

These egrets primarily feed on small fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects. They use their sharp bill to spear their prey.

Identification:

Snowy Egrets have a high, piercing call and perform graceful foraging movements. During the breeding season, they develop long, delicate plumes on their back and neck.

Habitat:

They can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, swamps, estuaries, and coastal areas. They often nest in trees or shrubs near water.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Egretta thulaSlender body, long neck, all-white plumage; black bill, black legs, yellow feetSmall fish, amphibians, crustaceans, insectsHigh, piercing call; graceful foraging movements; long plumes during breeding               Marshes, swamps, estuaries, coastal areas

Osprey

Ospreys are large birds of prey with a wingspan of up to 6 feet. They have a dark brown body, white head, and distinctive dark eye stripe. Their wings are long and broad, adapted for soaring and diving.

Diet:

Ospreys primarily feed on fish, which they catch by diving feet-first into the water. They have sharp, curved talons for gripping their prey.

Identification:

Ospreys have a high-pitched, whistling call. They are known for their unique ability to hover in the air while hunting for fish.

Habitat:

They can be found near bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. They build large stick nests on trees, cliffs, or man-made structures.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Pandion haliaetusDark brown body, white head, dark eye stripe; long and broad wingsFishHigh-pitched, whistling call; ability to hover while huntingLakes, rivers, coastal areas

Western Grebe

Western Grebes are large water birds with a long neck, a slender body, and a long, pointed bill. They have a black cap and a white cheek that extends to the throat.

Diet:

These grebes primarily feed on fish and aquatic invertebrates. They are skilled divers, capable of swimming underwater for extended periods.

Identification:

Western Grebes have a loud, croaking call. They are known for their elaborate courtship displays, where they run on the water’s surface with their wings extended.

Habitat:

They can be found in freshwater lakes, reservoirs, and marshes. They often form large colonies during the breeding season.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Aechmophorus occidentalisLong neck, slender body, long pointed bill; black cap, white cheek extending to throatFish, aquatic invertebratesLoud, croaking call; elaborate courtship displaysFreshwater lakes, reservoirs, marshes

Northern Harrier

Northern Harriers are medium-sized raptors with a long, slim body, long wings, and a long tail. The male has a grayish body with black wingtips, while the female has a brown plumage.

Diet:

These harriers primarily feed on small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They hunt by flying low over open areas and listening for the sounds of their prey.

Identification:

Northern Harriers have a high-pitched, raspy call. They have a distinctive flight pattern of gliding low to the ground with their wings held in a V shape.

Habitat:

They can be found in open habitats such as grasslands, marshes, and agricultural fields. They nest on the ground, often in tall vegetation.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Circus hudsoniusLong slim body, long wings, long tail; male: gray body with black wingtips; female: brown plumageSmall mammals, birds, reptilesHigh-pitched, raspy call; glides low with wings in V shapeGrasslands, marshes, agricultural fields

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teals are small dabbling ducks with a compact body, a short neck, and a small bill. The male has a grayish body with a white crescent on the face and a blue patch on the wing.

blue winged teal

Diet:

These ducks primarily feed on seeds, aquatic plants, and invertebrates. They forage by dabbling in shallow water or grazing on land.

Identification:

Blue-winged Teals have a series of whistling calls. They have a distinctive flight display of fast, twisting flights.

Habitat:

They can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, ponds, and flooded fields. They prefer shallow water with dense vegetation.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Spatula discorsCompact body, short neck, small bill; male: gray body, white crescent on face, blue patch on wingSeeds, aquatic plants, invertebratesWhistling calls; fast, twisting flight displayMarshes, ponds, flooded fields

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Ducks are small diving ducks with a compact body, a short neck, and a thick, stubby tail. The male has a bright chestnut body, a blue bill, and a white cheek patch.

Diet:

These ducks primarily feed on aquatic plants, seeds, and small invertebrates. They dive underwater to forage for food.

Identification:

Ruddy Ducks have a low, grunting call. They are known for their courtship displays, where the male performs a head-throwing behavior.

Scientific NameAppearanceDietIdentificationHabitat
Oxyura jamaicensisCompact body, short neck, thick stubby tail; male: bright chestnut body, blue bill, white cheek patch              Aquatic plants, seeds, small invertebratesLow, grunting call; head-throwing courtship displayFreshwater lakes, ponds, marshes

Conclusion

Minnesota is home to a diverse array of water birds, each with its unique characteristics, habitat preferences, and feeding habits. From the majestic Trumpeter Swan and the graceful Great Blue Heron to the colorful Wood Duck and the acrobatic Belted Kingfisher, these birds enrich Minnesota’s natural ecosystems and offer opportunities for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts to observe their fascinating behaviors.

By understanding the various water bird species found in Minnesota, we can appreciate the delicate balance of nature and work towards preserving their habitats. Whether you’re exploring the lakeshores, wetlands, or coastal areas, keep an eye out for these remarkable avian residents and cherish the beauty they bring to Minnesota’s landscapes.

Where is the best place to spot water birds in Minnesota?

Some of the best places to spot water birds in Minnesota include the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Are all water birds in Minnesota migratory?

While some water birds in Minnesota are migratory and travel to warmer regions during the winter, others are year-round residents, adapting to the state’s colder climate.

Can I feed water birds in Minnesota?

 It is generally advised not to feed water birds in natural habitats. Feeding them unnatural food can disrupt their natural diet and behavior and can lead to dependency on human-provided food.

 What is the average lifespan of water birds in Minnesota?

The average lifespan of water birds in Minnesota varies among species. While some may live for several years, others may have shorter lifespans due to predation, diseases, or environmental factors.

How can I contribute to the conservation of water birds in Minnesota?

 You can contribute to the conservation of water birds in Minnesota by supporting local conservation organizations, participating in citizen science projects, promoting habitat preservation, and practicing responsible birdwatching and wildlife photography.

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