25 Water Birds Found in Oklahoma

Discover the vibrant world of water birds in Oklahoma!

From the majestic American White Pelican to the elegant Great Blue Heron and the stunningly colorful Wood Duck, this article explores 25 Water Birds Found in Oklahoma.

With its diverse landscapes and abundant water sources, Oklahoma provides an ideal habitat for these captivating avian creatures.

Join us as we dive into their characteristics, habitats, and unique features, and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich biodiversity of Oklahoma’s water bird population.

Top 25 Water Birds Found in Oklahoma

There is a list of 25 common water birds that call Oklahoma home

Mallard

The Mallard is a medium-sized dabbling duck with a glossy green head, a brownish-gray body, and a yellow bill. The male, or drake, has a distinctive iridescent green head, a white collar, and a curly tail. The female, or hen, has a mottled brown plumage for camouflage.

mallard

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Mallard has a green head with a white ring around the neck, a yellow bill, a chestnut-colored breast, grayish body, and a curled black tail.

Female: The female Mallard has a mottled brown plumage, an orange and brown bill, and a streaked face.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameAnas platyrhynchos
Average Length50-65 cm (20-26 in)
Wingspan81-98 cm (32-39 in)
HabitatWetlands, ponds, lakes, and marshes
DietOmnivorous – aquatic plants, seeds, and insects
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

American Wigeon

The American Wigeon is a medium-sized dabbling duck with a distinctive white forehead patch and a green stripe extending from the eye to the back of the head. The male has a gray body, a white crown, and a bright green patch on the side of the head, while the female has a mottled brown plumage.

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male American Wigeon has a gray body with a white crown, a pinkish-brown breast, a bright green patch on the side of the head, and a white forehead patch.

Female: The female American Wigeon has a mottled brown plumage with a gray-brown head and a pale blue-gray bill.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameMareca americana
Average Length48-58 cm (19-23 in)
Wingspan76-91 cm (30-36 in)
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and flooded fields
DietHerbivorous – aquatic plants, grasses, and seeds
Conservation StatusLeast concern

Northern Pintail

The Northern Pintail is a slim and elegant duck with a long neck and a pointed tail. The male has a gray body, a white breast, a chocolate-brown head, and a long, thin, black tail. The female has a mottled brown plumage.

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Northern Pintail has a gray body, a white breast, a chocolate-brown head, a white stripe running up the neck, and a long, thin, black tail.

Female: The female Northern Pintail has a mottled brown plumage with a brown head and a pale bill.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameAnas acuta
Average Length51-76 cm (20-30 in)
Wingspan83-89 cm (33-35 in)
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and grassy areas
DietOmnivorous – seeds, grains, and aquatic invertebrates
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Northern Shoveler

The Northern Shoveler is a medium-sized duck with a distinctive oversized bill, which they use to filter small invertebrates and seeds from the water. The males have striking plumage with a green head and white chest.

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Northern Shoveler has a dark green head, a white breast, a rusty-orange body, and a large spatulate bill.

Female: The female Northern Shoveler has a mottled brown plumage with a pale blue-gray bill.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameSpatula clypeata
Average Length46-56 cm (18-22 in)
Wingspan71-76 cm (28-30 in)
Habitat               Wetlands, marshes, and shallow lakes
DietOmnivorous – aquatic plants, insects, and seeds
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Blue-winged Teal

The Blue-winged Teal is a small dabbling duck with a compact body. The male has a chestnut-colored head with a wide blue patch on the forewing, while the female has a mottled brown plumage.

blue winged teal

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Blue-winged Teal has a chestnut-colored head with a wide blue patch on the forewing, a grayish body, and a white stripe running from the eye to the neck.

Female: The female Blue-winged Teal has a mottled brown plumage with a pale blue-gray bill.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameSpatula discors
Average Length38-41 cm (15-16 in)
Wingspan58-64 cm (23-25 in)
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and shallow ponds
DietOmnivorous – seeds, plants, and invertebrates
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Green-winged Teal

The Green-winged Teal is a small dabbling duck similar in appearance to the Blue-winged Teal. The male has a chestnut head with a narrow green patch on the forewing, while the female has a mottled brown plumage.

green winged teal

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Green-winged Teal has a chestnut head with a narrow green patch on the forewing, a grayish body, and a vertical white stripe on the side of the breast.

Female: The female Green-winged Teal has a mottled brown plumage with a pale blue-gray bill.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameAnas crecca
Average Length33-38 cm (13-15 in)
Wingspan53-59 cm (21-23 in)
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and shallow ponds
DietOmnivorous – seeds, plants, and invertebrates
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Wood Duck

The Wood Duck is a medium-sized perching duck known for its vibrant and colorful plumage. The male has a metallic green head, a red eye, a white throat, and a chestnut breast. The female has a mottled brown plumage.

wood duck

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Wood Duck has a metallic green head with a white stripe around the eye, a red eye, a white throat, a chestnut breast, and a multicolored body.

Female: The female Wood Duck has a mottled brown plumage with a grayish-brown head and a white eye-ring.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific Name               Aix sponsa
Average Length47-54 cm (19-21 in)
Wingspan66-73 cm (26-29 in)
HabitatWetlands, wooded swamps, and rivers
DietOmnivorous – acorns, seeds, insects, and small fish
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Bufflehead

The Bufflehead is a small diving duck known for its striking black and white plumage. The male has a black head with a large white patch, a black back, and a white breast. The female has a mostly grayish-brown plumage.

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Bufflehead has a black head with a large white patch, a black back, a white breast, and a compact body.

Female: The female Bufflehead has a mostly grayish-brown plumage with a white patch behind the eye.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameBucephala albeola
Average Length32-39 cm (13-15 in)
Wingspan51-58 cm (20-23 in)
HabitatLakes, rivers, and coastal areas
DietCarnivorous – aquatic invertebrates, small fish
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Hooded Merganser

The Hooded Merganser is a small diving duck with a distinctive fan-shaped crest on the head. The male has a black head with a large white patch, a black back, and a rusty-brown body. The female has a mostly grayish-brown plumage.

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Hooded Merganser has a black head with a large white patch, a black back, a rusty-brown body, and a fan-shaped crest.

Female: The female Hooded Merganser has a mostly grayish-brown plumage with a reddish-brown crest.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameLophodytes cucullatus
Average Length41-49 cm (16-19 in)
Wingspan59-64 cm (23-25 in)
HabitatWooded swamps, lakes, and rivers
DietCarnivorous – fish, insects, and crustaceans
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Common Merganser

The Common Merganser is a large diving duck with a long, slender body and a serrated bill. The male has a dark green head, a white body, and a rusty-brown breast. The female has a mostly grayish-brown plumage.

common merganser

Physical Appearance:

Male: The male Common Merganser has a dark green head, a white body, a rusty-brown breast, and a long, serrated bill.

Female: The female Common Merganser has a mostly grayish-brown plumage with a reddish-brown head and a slender bill.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameMergus merganser
Average Length58-72 cm (23-28 in)
Wingspan82-100 cm (32-39 in)
HabitatRivers, lakes, and coastal waters
DietCarnivorous – fish, crustaceans, and insects
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Canada Goose

Description: The Canada Goose is a large waterfowl species known for its distinctive black head and neck, white cheeks, and brownish-gray body. They have a characteristic honking call and are often seen in V-shaped formations during migration.

canada goose

Physical Appearance:

Male and Female: The Canada Goose has a black head, a white chinstrap, a brownish-gray body, a long black neck, and a white chest and underbelly.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameBranta canadensis
Average Length76-110 cm (30-43 in)
Wingspan127-170 cm (50-67 in)
HabitatLakes, rivers, and grassy fields
DietHerbivorous – grasses, leaves, and aquatic plants
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Snow Goose

The Snow Goose is a medium-sized goose known for its white plumage, with some individuals having blue-gray markings. They are known for their long migrations and their large flocks, often seen in V-shaped formations.

snow goose

Physical Appearance:

Male and Female: The Snow Goose has a white plumage, with some individuals having blue-gray markings on the head and neck. Their bills are pinkish and their legs are orange.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameAnser caerulescens
Average Length64-81 cm (25-32 in)
Wingspan135-165 cm (53-65 in)
HabitatTundra, marshes, and wetlands
DietHerbivorous – grasses, grains, and roots
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Tundra Swan

Description: The Tundra Swan is a large swan species known for its pure white plumage and a long, graceful neck. They breed in the Arctic tundra and migrate to other regions during the winter.

tundra swan

Physical Appearance:

Male and Female: The Tundra Swan has a white plumage, a long neck, a black bill with a yellow spot near the base, and black legs and feet.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameCygnus columbianus
Average Length               115-140 cm (45-55 in)
Wingspan168-211 cm (66-83 in)
HabitatTundra, wetlands, and shallow lakes
DietHerbivorous – aquatic plants and grasses
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Mute Swan

Description: The Mute Swan is a large and elegant swan species known for its distinctive curved neck and orange bill. They have a white plumage and are often found in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers.

Physical Appearance:

Male and Female: The Mute Swan has a white plumage, a long neck, an orange bill with a black knob at the base, and black legs and feet.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameCygnus olor
Average Length125-170 cm (49-67 in)
Wingspan200-240 cm (79-94 in)
HabitatLakes, ponds, and rivers
DietHerbivorous – aquatic plants, grasses, and grains
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is a tall wading bird with a bluish-gray plumage, a long neck, and long legs. They have a distinctive S-shaped neck and are known for their slow and deliberate movements while hunting for fish.

great blue heron

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The Great Blue Heron has a bluish-gray plumage, a white face, a long neck, a dagger-like yellow bill, and long legs.

Juvenile: Juvenile Great Blue Herons have a mottled brown and white plumage, and their bills are shorter and darker.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameArdea Herodias
Average Length97-137 cm (38-54 in)
Wingspan167-201 cm (66-79 in)
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and coastal areas
DietCarnivorous – fish, frogs, and small mammals
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

American Bittern

Description: The American Bittern is a medium-sized heron species known for its camouflage plumage that helps it blend into reeds and wetland vegetation. They have a unique booming call during the breeding season.

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The American Bittern has a streaked brown plumage with vertical stripes, a pale belly, a long neck, a pointed bill, and yellow eyes.

Juvenile: Juvenile American Bitterns have a mottled brown and white plumage, providing additional camouflage.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific Name               Botaurus lentiginosus
Average Length58-76 cm (23-30 in)
Wingspan91-104 cm (36-41 in)
HabitatMarshes, wetlands, and reed beds
DietCarnivorous – fish, amphibians, and invertebrates
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Green Heron

The Green Heron is a small heron known for its greenish-black cap, a chestnut-colored neck, and a compact body. They are skilled at hunting and can often be seen standing motionless at the water’s edge waiting for prey.

green heron

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The Green Heron has a greenish-black cap, a chestnut-colored neck, a greenish-gray back, a white throat, and a compact body. They have a long, sharp bill and yellow eyes.

Juvenile: Juvenile Green Herons have a mottled brown plumage with a streaked chestnut-colored neck.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameButorides virescens
Average Length45-55 cm (18-22 in)
Wingspan63-73 cm (25-29 in)
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and forested streams
DietCarnivorous – fish, insects, and small invertebrates
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Great Egret

Description: The Great Egret is a large and elegant wading bird with all-white plumage, a long neck, and a yellow bill. They are often found in shallow water, patiently waiting to catch fish and other prey.

great egret

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The Great Egret has a white plumage, a yellow bill, a long black leg, and black feet. During the breeding season, they develop long, wispy plumes on their back.

Juvenile: Juvenile Great Egrets have a mottled grayish-brown plumage and a duller bill.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameArdea alba
Average Length81-104 cm (32-41 in)
Wingspan131-170 cm (52-67 in)
HabitatWetlands, marshes, and coastal areas
DietCarnivorous – fish, amphibians, and invertebrates
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Sandhill Crane

The Sandhill Crane is a large crane species known for its gray plumage, long legs, and a distinctive red crown. They have a loud, trumpeting call and are often seen in wetland habitats.

sandhill crane

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The Sandhill Crane has a grayish plumage, a red crown, a long neck, long legs, and a long, pointed bill. They have bare red skin on the face.

Juvenile: Juvenile Sandhill Cranes have a cinnamon-brown plumage and lack the red crown.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameAntigone canadensis
Average Length100-150 cm (39-59 in)
Wingspan180-240 cm (71-94 in)
HabitatWetlands, grasslands, and agricultural fields
DietOmnivorous – plants, seeds, insects, and small vertebrates
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

White-faced Ibis

Description: The White-faced Ibis is a medium-sized wading bird with dark brown plumage, iridescent green wings, and a white face. They have long, curved bills and are commonly found in marshes and wetlands.

white face ibis

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The White-faced Ibis has a dark, iridescent plumage with shades of purple, green, and bronze. They have a long, downcurved bill, red eyes, and a white face.

Juvenile: Juvenile White-faced Ibises have a mottled brown plumage and lack the iridescent colors.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NamePlegadis chihi
Average Length48-65 cm (19-26 in)
Wingspan80-95 cm (31-37 in)
HabitatMarshes, wetlands, and flooded fields
DietOmnivorous – invertebrates, small fish, and plants
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Common Loon

The Common Loon is a large diving bird known for its striking black and white plumage and its haunting, yodel-like calls. They have a sleek body and are excellent swimmers.

common loon

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The Common Loon has a black head, a black and white checkered back, a white breast, and a dagger-like bill. Their eyes are red.

Juvenile: Juvenile Common Loons have a grayish-brown plumage with a striped head and neck.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameGavia immer
Average Length               66-91 cm (26-36 in)
Wingspan122-152 cm (48-60 in)
HabitatFreshwater lakes, rivers, and coastlines
DietCarnivorous – fish, crustaceans, and insects
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

American Coot

Description: The American Coot is a small water bird with a compact body, lobed toes, and a white bill with a dark spot. They have dark plumage and are often seen swimming or walking on floating vegetation.

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The American Coot has a dark grayish-black plumage, a white bill with a dark spot near the base, and lobed toes. They have a small white patch on the forehead.

Juvenile: Juvenile American Coots have a mottled grayish-brown plumage.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NameFulica americana
Average Length34-43 cm (13-17 in)
Wingspan58-71 cm (23-28 in)
Habitat               Wetlands, marshes, and lakes
Diet               Omnivorous – aquatic plants, invertebrates, and seeds
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Double-crested Cormorant

The Double-crested Cormorant is a medium-sized diving bird with a long neck, a long hooked bill, and a dark plumage. They are skilled swimmers and often seen drying their wings in a spread-out position.

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The Double-crested Cormorant has a dark plumage, a long neck, a long hooked bill, and bright blue eyes. During the breeding season, they develop double crests of black feathers on their head.

Juvenile: Juvenile Double-crested Cormorants have a mottled brown plumage.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NamePhalacrocorax auritus
Average Length77-94 cm (30-37 in)
Wingspan114-123 cm (45-48 in)
HabitatCoastal areas, lakes, and rivers
DietCarnivorous – fish, crustaceans, and small vertebrates
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

Pied-billed Grebe

The Pied-billed Grebe is a small diving bird with a chunky body, a short neck, and a distinctive bill with a black band. They have a brownish-gray plumage and are excellent divers and swimmers.

pied billed grebe

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The Pied-billed Grebe has a brownish-gray plumage, a short neck, a chunky body, and a black band around its bill. During the breeding season, the bill becomes paler and loses the band.

Juvenile: Juvenile Pied-billed Grebes have a mottled brown plumage.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NamePodilymbus podiceps
Average Length28-38 cm (11-15 in)
Wingspan40-48 cm (16-19 in)
HabitatMarshes, lakes, and ponds
DietCarnivorous – small fish, invertebrates, and plants
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

American White Pelican

The American White Pelican is a large bird with a white plumage, a long neck, and a distinctive pouched bill. They are known for their impressive wingspan and their ability to glide gracefully in the air.

Physical Appearance:

Adult: The American White Pelican has a white plumage, a long neck, a large pouched bill, and black flight feathers. During the breeding season, they develop a yellow crest on the bill.

Juvenile: Juvenile American White Pelicans have a brownish-gray plumage with a paler neck and a smaller bill pouch.

CharacteristicsDetails
Scientific NamePelecanus erythrorhynchos
Average Length130-180 cm (51-71 in)
Wingspan244-305 cm (96-120 in)
HabitatLakes, rivers, and coastal areas
DietPiscivorous – fish
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

These are some of the birds commonly found in wetland and water habitats. Remember to enjoy observing them from a safe and respectful distance to avoid disturbing their natural behavior.

Conclusion

Oklahoma is home to a diverse array of water birds, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. From elegant swans and majestic herons to colorful ducks and graceful pelicans, the state offers a rich variety of avian species to admire and study.

The wetlands, lakes, and rivers of Oklahoma provide essential habitats for these water birds, ensuring their survival and contributing to the ecological balance of the region. Whether you’re exploring the serene marshes or observing the aerial acrobatics of diving birds, Oklahoma’s water birds offer a captivating glimpse into the beauty and diversity of the natural world.

Are these water birds found in Oklahoma year-round?

While some water bird species are present in Oklahoma throughout the year, others are migratory and may visit the state during specific seasons. It’s important to note that bird migration patterns can vary from year to year.

Where are the best locations in Oklahoma to spot water birds?

Oklahoma boasts several excellent locations for birdwatching, including wildlife refuges, wetlands, and lakes such as the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, Great Salt Plains State Park, and Red Slough Wildlife Management Area.

Do water birds in Oklahoma face any conservation challenges?

Like many bird species, water birds in Oklahoma face various conservation challenges, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Efforts are being made to protect and preserve their habitats and raise awareness about the importance of conservation.

Can I feed water birds in Oklahoma?

Feeding water birds in their natural habitats is generally discouraged. It’s best to allow them to forage for their natural food sources and avoid creating dependence on human-provided food.

Are there any endangered water bird species in Oklahoma?

While none of the mentioned water bird species are currently classified as endangered, some species, such as the American Bittern and the Sandhill Crane, may face localized threats or have vulnerable populations. Conservation efforts are crucial to ensuring their long-term survival.

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