Water Birds

Pied-billed Grebe


 Poilymbus podiceps 

Between a Robin and a Crow, smaller than an American Coot; about the size of a Green-winged Teal

Part bird, part submarine, the Pied-billed Grebe is common across much of North America. These small brown birds have unusually thick bills that turn silver and black in summer. These expert divers inhabit sluggish rivers, freshwater marshes, lakes, and estuaries. They use their chunky bills to kill and eat large crustaceans along with a great variety of fish, amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates. Rarely seen in flight and often hidden amid vegetation, Pied-billed Grebes announce their presence with loud, far-reaching calls.

Photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Red-necked Grebe


 Podiceps grisegena 


The Red-necked Grebe breeds on small inland lakes in Canada and Alaska, and winters along both coasts of North America. Boldly marked, vocal, and aggressive during the breeding season, it is quiet and subtly attired in winter.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Horned Grebe


 Podiceps auritus 

Between a Robin and a Crow

Familiar to most North American birders in its black-and-white winter plumage, the Horned Grebe is more striking in its red-and-black breeding feathers. Its "horns" are yellowish patches of feathers behind its eyes that it can raise and lower at will.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Northern Fulmar


 Fulmarus glacialis 

Medium-sized seabird; gull-sized.Shaped like a gull, glides like a shearwater

A gull-like relative of albatrosses and shearwaters, the Northern Fulmar is a bird of the northern oceans. It breeds in a few dozen scattered locations off Alaska and Canada, but is more abundant and widespread elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, especially in the northeast Atlantic.

Sooty Shearwater


Ardenna grisea

Photo by John Drury

Greater Shearwater


Ardenna gravis

Photo by John Drury

Water Birds

Wilson's storm petrel


Oceanites oceanicus 

Photo by John Drury

Black Guillemot


 Cepphus grylle 

Crow sized


Black guillemots breed along the coasts of Canada and Greenland. Unlike other members of the puffin family, it prefers to forage in relatively shallow near-shore waters. 

Photo by John Drury

Sabine's Gull


Xema sabini  

Crow sized

Sabine's Gull is an unusual and distinctive arctic gull that breeds at high latitudes but winters near the tropics. A striking bird in all plumages with a bold upper wing pattern, long pointed wings, a notched tail, and a short black bill with a yellow tip. 

Photo by John Drury

Common Tern


  Sterna hirundo 

Between a robin and a crow, larger than a Least Tern


The common tern is the most widespread tern in North America. It can be seen plunging from the air into water to catch small fish along rivers, lakes, and oceans. 

Photo by John Drury

Arctic Tern


Sterna paradisaea 

Between a robin and a crow, larger than a Least Tern


Well known for its long yearly migration. Its travel from its Arctic breeding grounds to its wintering grounds off of Antarctica may cover perhaps 40,000 km (25,000 mi), and is the farthest yearly journey of any bird. 

Photo by John Drury

Laughing Gull

Leucophaeus atricilla 

Crow sized, slighly smaller than a Ring-billed Gull


Laughing gulls eat almost anything, including food they catch or steal, handouts, garbage, and discards from fishing boats. They often congregate in parking lots, sandy beaches, and mud bars. 

Photo by John Drury

Water Birds

Ring-billed Gull


Larus delawarensis 20"

Crow sized, smaller than a Herring Gull

 These sociable gulls often fly overhead by the hundreds or feed together at a golf course, beach, or field. Strong, nimble flyers and opportunistic feeders, ring-billed gulls circle and hover acrobatically looking for food; they also forage afloat and on foot.

Photo by John Drury

Wood Duck


Aix sponsa

Between a crow and a goose

Unlike most waterfowl, Wood Ducks perch and nest in trees and are comfortable flying through woods.

Their broad tail and short, broad wings help make them maneuverable. When swimming, the head jerks back and forth much as a walking pigeon's does.

Photo by Linnell Mather

American Black Duck


Anas rubripes

Between a crow and a goose, about the same as a Mallard

A dabbling duck, they tip up instead of dive in while foraging. They eat aquatic plants, invertebrates, and occaissionally small fish in shallow water. Look for them mixed into flocks with other "puddle ducks" such as Gadwells and Mallards.

Photo by John Drury

Common Eider


Somateria mollissima 

Between a crow and a goose


The common eider is the largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere. The male's bright white, black, and green plumage contrasts markedly with the female's camouflaging dull striped brown.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Herring Gull


 Larus argentatus

Bewteen a crow and a goose, larger than a Ring-billed Gull and smaller than a  Great Black-backed Gull


These gulls patrol shorelines and open ocean, picking scraps off the surface. They rally around fishing boats or refuse dumps, loud and competitive scavengers, they are happy to snatch another bird's meal. 

Photo by Kerry Hardy



 Anas platyrhynchos

Between a crow and a goose

A "dabbling duck", they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive.

Water Birds

Great Black-backed Gull


 Larus marinus

Between a crow and a goose, larger than a Herring Gull


The king of the Atlantic waterfront, the largest gull in the world with a powerful build and a domineering attitude.

Photo by John Drury

Red-throated Loon


 Gavia stellata 

Between a Crow and a Goose

The smallest of the loons, the Red-throated Loon breeds at high latitudes in North America and Eurasia. It is distinctive among loons not only in size, but also in behavior, vocalizations, locomotion, and other aspects of life history.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Common Loon


Gavia immer

Between a crow and a goose, larger and longer-bodied than a mallard, smaller and shorter-necked than a Canada Goose

Powerful, agile divers that catch small fish in fast underwater chases. They are less suited to land, and typically come ashore only to nest. In flight, notice their shallow wingbeats and unwavering, bee-lined flight path.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Canada Goose


 Branta canadensis

Larger than a Mallard, smaller than a Mute Swan

Geese feed by dabbling in the water or grazing in fields and large lawns. They are often seen in flight moving in pairs or flocks, often in a V formation. 

Double-crested Cormorant


Phalacrocorax auritus

The size of a small goose, smaller than a Great Cormorant


They float low on the surface of  water and dive to catch small fish. After fishing, they stand on rocks, docks and tree limbs with wings spread open to dry. In flight, they often travel in v-shaped flocks that shift and reform as the birds alternate bursts of choppy flapping with short glides. 

Great Cormorant