22 Types of Water Birds Found in Ohio

Discover the diverse and captivating world of water birds in Ohio! From graceful herons to colorful ducks, the state offers a haven for these avian wonders.

In this article, we will explore 22 Types Water Birds Found in Ohio, highlighting their unique characteristics, habitats, and behaviors.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or simply curious about the natural beauty of Ohio, join us on a journey through the wetlands, lakes, and rivers to encounter these magnificent creatures up close.  

So grab your binoculars and get ready to delve into the enchanting realm of Ohio’s water birds!

22 Types of Water Birds Found in Ohio

American White Pelican

The American White Pelican is a magnificent bird with a large wingspan and striking white plumage. These pelicans are known for their graceful flight and can be spotted in Ohio during their migration periods, particularly around Lake Erie and other bodies of water.

They have a unique bill that is large, flat, and bright orange, making them stand out among other water birds. American White Pelicans are skilled divers, plunging into the water to catch fish. They are a true spectacle to behold in Ohio’s wetland areas.

Scientific NamePelecanus erythrorhynchos
Average WingspanUp to 9 feet
HabitatLakes, rivers, wetlands
Feeding HabitsFish, amphibians
MigrationSeen during migration periods
Special FeaturesLarge, flat bill, white plumage

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is a majestic water bird that can be found in Ohio’s wetlands, lakes, and rivers. With its tall stature, long neck, and striking blue-gray plumage, it is a sight to behold.

These herons are skilled hunters, patiently stalking their prey in shallow waters before striking with lightning speed.

Great Blue Herons are known for their impressive wing spans and their ability to stand perfectly still for extended periods, making them expert fishermen. Their elegant presence adds to the charm of Ohio’s waterways.

great blue heron
Scientific NameArdea herodias
Average Wingspan3.2 – 4.5 feet
HabitatWetlands, lakes, rivers
Feeding HabitsFish, frogs, small mammals
Special FeaturesBlue-gray plumage, long neck

Canada Goose

The Canada Goose is a well-known water bird that can be found throughout North America, including Ohio. These large birds are recognized by their characteristic honking calls and distinctive black necks and heads.

They are known for their V-shaped flight formations during migration. Canada Geese can often be seen in Ohio’s parks, lakes, and open fields, grazing on grassy areas near water sources. Their adaptability and sociable nature make them a common sight in the state.

Scientific NameBranta canadensis
Average length30 – 43 inches
HabitatLakes, rivers, fields
Feeding HabitsGrass, aquatic plants
Special FeaturesHonking calls, black neck and head

Pied-billed Grebe

The Pied-billed Grebe is a small water bird with a unique bill that gives it its name. It has a dark brown plumage and a distinctive black band across its bill.

These grebes can be found in Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and marshes, often diving beneath the water to catch small fish and invertebrates.

The Pied-billed Grebe is known for its ability to swim underwater for extended periods and its secretive nature, often staying hidden among vegetation.

pied billed grebe
Scientific NamePodilymbus podiceps
Average length12 – 15 inches
HabitatLakes, ponds, marshes
Feeding HabitsFish, invertebrates
Special FeaturesUnique pied bill, diving abilities

Double-crested Cormorant

The Double-crested Cormorant is a water bird known for its sleek black body, long neck, and bright blue eyes. These birds can be found in Ohio’s lakes and rivers, often seen perched on rocks or tree branches with their wings spread open to dry.

Double-crested Cormorants are skilled divers, diving underwater to catch fish. They have a voracious appetite and are highly social, often seen in large groups called colonies.

Scientific NamePhalacrocorax auritus
Average length28 – 35 inches
HabitatLakes, rivers
Feeding HabitsFish
Special FeaturesSleek black plumage, bright blue eyes

Ring-billed Gull

The Ring-billed Gull is a familiar sight around Ohio’s lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. These gulls are medium-sized with a white body, gray wings, and a distinctive black ring around their yellow bill.

They are opportunistic feeders and can be seen scavenging for food near water sources, as well as catching insects and small fish. Ring-billed Gulls are known for their raucous calls and their ability to adapt to both inland and coastal habitats.

Types of Water Birds Found in ohio
Scientific NameLarus delawarensis
Average length17 – 21 inches
HabitatLakes, rivers, coastal areas
Feeding HabitsScavengers, insects, fish
Special FeaturesBlack ring on yellow bill, opportunistic feeders

American Coot

The American Coot is a unique water bird with a dark gray body, a white bill, and distinctive lobed toes. It can be found in Ohio’s freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes.

American Coots are known for their ability to walk on land and swim gracefully in the water. They have a varied diet that includes aquatic plants, insects, and small fish. These birds are often seen in large flocks, creating a bustling and energetic atmosphere in their habitats.

Scientific NameFulica americana
Average length13 – 16 inches
HabitatFreshwater lakes, ponds, marshes
Feeding HabitsAquatic plants, insects, small fish
Special FeaturesLobed toes, versatile swimmers

Green Heron

The Green Heron is a small water bird known for its striking greenish-brown plumage and short, stout body. It can be found in Ohio’s wetlands, marshes, and along the edges of lakes and rivers.

The Green Heron is a patient hunter, using its sharp bill to catch fish, frogs, and insects. These herons are known for their unique hunting technique of dropping small objects or bait into the water to attract prey. Their secretive nature and exceptional camouflage make them a thrilling find for birdwatchers.

Scientific NameButorides virescens
Average length16 – 18 inches
HabitatWetlands, marshes, lake edges
Feeding HabitsFish, frogs, insects
Special FeaturesStriking greenish-brown plumage, unique hunting technique

Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher is a captivating water bird known for its distinctive appearance and unique hunting behavior. With its shaggy crest, blue-gray plumage, and white belly with a broad chestnut-colored band, it is easily recognizable.

Belted Kingfishers can be found along Ohio’s rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. They are expert divers, plunging headfirst into the water to catch fish. These birds are known for their loud rattling calls, adding to the charm of encountering them in the wild.

Scientific NameMegaceryle alcyon
Average Wingspan11 – 14 inches
HabitatRivers, lakes, waterways
Feeding HabitsFish
Special FeaturesShaggy crest, blue-gray plumage, rattling calls

American Bittern

The American Bittern is a secretive water bird known for its excellent camouflage and unique calling sounds. It can be found in Ohio’s marshes, wetlands, and grassy areas near water. The

American Bittern has a mottled brown plumage that blends perfectly with its surroundings, making it difficult to spot. When threatened, it stands tall with its bill pointed upwards, resembling the reeds and grasses around it.

The male bittern produces a distinct “booming” call during the breeding season, adding an element of mystery to their presence.

Scientific NameBotaurus lentiginosus
Average length23 – 34 inches
HabitatMarshes, wetlands, grassy areas
Feeding HabitsFish, insects, amphibians
Special FeaturesExcellent camouflage, “booming” call

Mute Swan

The Mute Swan is a graceful and elegant water bird that can be found in Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers. Known for its striking white plumage, long neck, and bright orange bill, the Mute Swan is a captivating sight.

Despite its name, it produces a variety of vocalizations, including hissing and snorting sounds. Mute Swans are monogamous birds, often forming lifelong pair bonds. They are territorial and can display aggressive behavior to protect their nesting areas.

Scientific NameCygnus olor
Average length55 – 63 inches
HabitatLakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers
Feeding Habits               Aquatic plants, algae
Special FeaturesStriking white plumage, bright orange bill

Snow Goose

The Snow Goose is a migratory water bird that visits Ohio during its winter season. These geese are known for their distinctive white plumage, which is often accompanied by black wingtips.

They can form large flocks, creating a mesmerizing sight as they migrate across the sky. Snow Geese feed on grasses, grains, and aquatic plants. Spotting these beautiful birds in Ohio’s wetlands and fields is a testament to the wonders of migration.

Scientific NameAnser caerulescens
Average length25 – 32 inches
HabitatWetlands, fields
Feeding HabitsGrasses, grains, aquatic plants
Special FeaturesWhite plumage with black wingtips, migratory


The Osprey is a large and powerful raptor that can be found near Ohio’s bodies of water, including lakes and rivers. With its distinctive brown and white plumage, sharp talons, and wingspan reaching up to six feet, the Osprey is a formidable predator.

These birds are excellent fishermen, hovering over the water before diving feet-first to catch fish with their sharp talons. Ospreys build large nests on tall structures or tree snags, creating impressive nesting sites.

Scientific NamePandion haliaetus
Average Wingspan5 – 6 feet
HabitatLakes, rivers, coastal areas
Feeding HabitsFish
Special FeaturesBrown and white plumage, powerful talons

Hooded Merganser

The Hooded Merganser is a small and striking water bird found in Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and marshes. The male Hooded Merganser has a black-and-white body with a large white crest that can be raised or lowered.

Females have a cinnamon-brown body and a smaller crest. These diving ducks are skilled swimmers and feed on small fish, insects, and crustaceans. Spotting the elaborate courtship displays of Hooded Mergansers is a true delight for bird enthusiasts.

Scientific NameLophodytes cucullatus
Average Wingspan16 – 19 inches
HabitatLakes, ponds, marshes
Feeding HabitsFish, insects, crustaceans
Special FeaturesStriking plumage, raised crest (male)

Northern Shoveler

The Northern Shoveler is a distinctive water bird known for its unique shovel-like bill, which gives it its name. These ducks can be found in Ohio’s wetlands, marshes, and shallow ponds.

The male Northern Shoveler has striking plumage with a green head, white chest, and rusty sides. They use their specialized bill to filter out small invertebrates, seeds, and vegetation from the water. These ducks often feed in groups, creating a colorful spectacle as they swim and feed together.

Scientific NameSpatula clypeata
Average Wingspan19 – 21 inches
HabitatWetlands, marshes, shallow ponds
Feeding HabitsInvertebrates, seeds, vegetation
Special FeaturesShovel-like bill, colorful plumage (male)

Ruddy Duck

The Ruddy Duck is a small water bird that can be found in Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and marshes. These ducks have a compact body, a blue bill, and a distinctive bright chestnut body during the breeding season.

They are excellent divers, using their wings and feet to propel themselves underwater in search of aquatic invertebrates and plant matter. The male Ruddy Duck performs an elaborate courtship display, which includes raising its tail and making bubbling sounds in the water.

Scientific NameOxyura jamaicensis
Average Wingspan13 – 15 inches
HabitatLakes, ponds, marshes
Feeding HabitsAquatic invertebrates, plant matter
Special FeaturesCompact body, bright chestnut plumage (breeding season)

Black-crowned Night Heron

The Black-crowned Night Heron is a nocturnal water bird that can be found in Ohio’s wetlands, marshes, and wooded areas near water. These herons have a stocky body, a black crown, and a whitish-gray plumage.

They are skilled hunters, using their sharp bill to catch fish, crustaceans, and other small prey. Black-crowned Night Herons are predominantly active during the night, roosting in trees during the day and venturing out to hunt in the evening and early morning.

Scientific NameNycticorax nycticorax
Average length23 – 28 inches
HabitatWetlands, marshes, wooded areas
Feeding HabitsFish, crustaceans, small prey
Special FeaturesNocturnal, black crown, stocky body

American Wigeon

The American Wigeon is a medium-sized water bird known for its elegant appearance and striking coloration. These ducks can be found in Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and wetlands.

The male American Wigeon has a distinctive white forehead, a green band across the eye, and a gray body with a creamy-white patch on the side. They feed on aquatic plants, seeds, and insects. American Wigeons often form large flocks and are known for their vocal “whistling” calls.

Types of Water Birds
Scientific NameMareca americana
Average length17 – 23 inches
HabitatLakes, ponds, wetlands
Feeding HabitsAquatic plants, seeds, insects
Special FeaturesStriking coloration (male), white forehead, green eye band

Common Goldeneye

The Common Goldeneye is a striking water bird that can be found in Ohio’s lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. These diving ducks have a black and white plumage, with the male sporting a distinctive round white patch on the face.

The female has a brownish head and a gray body. Common Goldeneyes are expert divers, using their strong wings to propel themselves underwater in search of fish and aquatic invertebrates. They are known for their fast and agile flight, often seen flying in small groups.

Scientific NameBucephala clangula
Average length16 – 20 inches
HabitatLakes, rivers, coastal areas
Feeding HabitsFish, aquatic invertebrates
Special FeaturesBlack and white plumage, round white patch on face (male)

Least Bittern

The Least Bittern is a small and elusive water bird that can be found in Ohio’s marshes, wetlands, and dense vegetation near water. These herons have a brownish plumage with a distinctive buff-colored throat and a long neck.

Least Bitterns are known for their secretive behavior, often hiding among the reeds and vegetation. They have a unique hunting technique of standing still and extending their neck to catch small fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.

Scientific NameIxobrychus exilis
Average Wingspan11 – 14 inches
Habitat               Marshes, wetlands, dense vegetation
Feeding HabitsFish, amphibians, invertebrates
Special FeaturesElusive, buff-colored throat, unique hunting technique

Red-breasted Merganser

The Red-breasted Merganser is a diving water bird known for its vibrant appearance and remarkable diving skills. These ducks can be found in Ohio’s coastal areas, lakes, and rivers. The male Red-breasted Merganser has a striking combination of dark green head, white neck, and rusty-red breast.

They have long, slender bills with serrated edges, which help them catch fish underwater. Red-breasted Mergansers are highly migratory and can be seen in large flocks during the winter months.

red breasted marganser
Scientific NameMergus serrator
Average length19 – 25 inches
HabitatCoastal areas, lakes, rivers
Feeding HabitsFish, crustaceans, invertebrates
Special FeaturesVibrant plumage (male), slender bill with serrated edges

Pied-billed Grebe

The Pied-billed Grebe is a small and secretive water bird that can be found in Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and marshes. These grebes have a compact body, a short tail, and a distinctive black bill with a white band.

They are excellent divers and can disappear underwater with just a slight bob of their head. Pied-billed Grebes feed on small fish, insects, and aquatic invertebrates. They are known for their unique vocalizations, including various trills, whinnies, and croaks.

Types of Water Birds Found in Minnesota
Scientific NamePodilymbus podiceps
Average length11 – 15 inches
HabitatLakes, ponds, marshes
Feeding HabitsFish, insects, aquatic invertebrates
Special FeaturesCompact body, black bill with white band, unique vocalizations


A wide variety of water birds can be found in Ohio, which enhances the state’s lakes, rivers, wetlands, and marshes with beauty and vibrancy.

Each bird has its own distinct traits and appeal, from the imposing American White Pelican and the patient Great Blue Heron to the bright Wood Duck and the adaptable Mallard. The diverse habitats, feeding strategies, and plumage of Ohio’s water birds reflect the state’s abundant biodiversity.

Both bird aficionados and nature lovers can benefit from seeing these aquatic birds in their natural environments. There is always something new to learn about these engaging birds, whether it is observing the soaring flight of the Canada Goose, the eerie call of the Common Loon, or the covert hunting methods of the Green Heron.

Also Read: 25 Types of Water Birds Found in Minnesota

25 Types of Water Birds Found in Louisiana

Are these water birds migratory or resident in Ohio?

Some of the water birds mentioned in this article, such as the Snow Goose and the Osprey, are migratory, while others, like the Mallard and the American Coot, are resident birds found year-round in Ohio.

Can I feed these water birds in parks and lakes?

It is generally recommended not to feed water birds, as human food can be harmful to their health and disrupt their natural foraging behaviors. Instead, enjoy observing them in their natural habitat.

How can I identify different water bird species in Ohio?

Field guides, online resources, and birding apps can help you identify different water bird species based on their physical characteristics, behavior, and habitat preferences. Additionally, joining local birding groups or participating in guided birdwatching tours can enhance your identification skills.

Are these water birds protected by law in Ohio?

Many water bird species are protected by state and federal laws, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is important to respect their protected status and avoid disturbing their nests or habitats.

Can I attract water birds to my backyard?

Creating a bird-friendly habitat with water features, native vegetation, and nesting boxes can attract certain water bird species to your backyard. However, it’s important to research specific requirements and ensure that any attractants provided are in accordance with local regulations.

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