Little gull


 Larus minutus 


The smallest gull in the world, the little gull is common across Eurasia. A few pairs have been nesting in North America since the 1960s, and the species is now a rare, but regular, visitor to the East Coast and the Great Lakes.

Bonaparte's gull


Chroicocephalus philadelphia 


 A small, graceful gull with bright white patches in its wings, the Bonaparte's Gull winters near people, but breeds in the isolated taiga and boreal forest.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Sabine's gull


Xema sabini  


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

Black-legged kittiwake


 Rissa tridactyla


A small, cliff-nesting gull, the black-legged kittiwake breeds along northern coasts and winters out at sea.

Laughing gull


Leucophaeus atricilla 

Crow-sized, slightly 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 Kerry Hardy

Ivory gull


Pagophila eburnea

Between a crow and a goose

A medium-sized white gull of the high Arctic, the ivory gull only rarely comes south of the Bering Sea or the Maritime Provinces. In fact, it rarely is found away from pack ice, spending the winter on the ice north of Newfoundland.

Ring-billed gull


Larus delawarensis 

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

Iceland gull


 Larus glaucoides

Larger than a ring-billed gull, smaller than a herring gull

Iceland Gulls breed on narrow cliff ledges in the Arctic and forage gracefully over the water, often plucking fish from the surface without landing. Many winter in ice-choked Arctic waters, but some come south to the Northeast, Great Lakes, and West Coast. Their plumage is variable, especially the adults’ wingtips, which can range from pure white in the east to black in the west. The darker-winged “Thayer’s” gull of the west used to be considered a different species; the two were lumped in 2017.

Herring gull


Larus argentatus

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

Lesser black-backed gull


Larus fuscus

Between a crow and a goose

This medium to large-sized gull is common across Europe, and an uncommon, but regular visitor to eastern North America.  At a lesser black-backed gull breeding colony, immatures, non-breeding adults, and failed and off-duty breeders form "clubs" near the colony, where they spend time "loafing," resting, and preening. In colonies where other gull species are mixed in, clubs tend to be composed of one species only.

Glaucous gull


Larus hyperboreus

Between a crow and a goose

A huge gull of the frozen north, the glaucous gull breeds across most of the high Arctic. It winters farther north than most gulls, but it does turn up as far south as California and Virginia. The glaucous gull is an active predator at seabird nesting colonies. It will walk into colonies and take eggs and chicks left unprotected.

Great black-backed gull


Larus marinus

Between a crow and a goose, larger than a herring Gull, smaller than a brown pelican


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

Photo by John Drury


Green-winged teal


 Anas crecca 



 Bucephala albeola

Harlequin duck


Histrionicus histrionicus


A medium-sized diving duck of fast-moving water, the Harlequin duck breeds on fast-flowing streams and winters along rocky coastlines in the crashing surf. More than half of eastern North American population of Harlequin ducks winters in coastal Maine, particularly outer reaches of Penobscot and Jericho bays.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Blue-winged teal


 Aanas discors 

Long-tailed duck


  Clagnula hyemalis 

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Ring-necked duck


 Aythya collaris 

Greater scaup


 Aythya marila 

Common goldeneye


 Bucephala clangua 

Black scoter


 Melanitta nigra 

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 Kirk Gentalen

Surf scoter


Melanitta perspicillata

A black-and-white, large, stocky diving duck, the surf scoter is common on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts in winter, and has a boldly patterned head that is the basis for its colloquial name "skunk-headed coot."

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

King eider


Somateria spectabilis

Between a crow and a goose

A large duck of Arctic coastal waters, the King Eider is one of North America's most spectacular waterfowl species. Highly gregarious for most of the year, it forms prodigious flocks during spring migration, sometimes exceeding 10,000 individuals.

White-winged scoter


 Melanitta fusca 

Northern pintail


 Anas acuta 

Red-breasted merganser


 Mergus serrator 



Anas platyrhynchos

A fairly large duck, noticeably larger than teal but much smaller than a Canada goose

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

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 occasionally 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



Branta bernicla

An abundant small goose of the ocean shores, the Brant breeds in the high Arctic tundra and winters along both coasts. They have a black head, neck, and chest with a white, partly broken collar.


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.

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

Larger and longer-bodied than a mallard, smaller and shorter-necked than a Canada goose

The eerie calls of Common Loons echo across clear lakes of the northern wilderness. Summer adults are regally patterned in black and white. In winter, they are plain gray above and white below, and you’ll find them close to shore on most seacoasts and a good many inland reservoirs and lakes. Common Loons are powerful, agile divers that catch small fish in fast underwater chases. They are less suited to land, and typically come ashore only to nest.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Yellow-nosed albatross


Thalassarche chlororhynchos



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.

Grebes and Shearwaters

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

Manx shearwater


Puffinus puffinus 

Photo by John Drury

Sooty Shearwater


Ardenna grisea

Photo by John Drury

Greater Shearwater


Ardenna gravis

Photo by John Drury

Leach's petrel


 Oceanodroma leucorhoa 

Wilson's storm petrel


Oceanites oceanicus 

Photo by John Drury

Leach's petrel


 Oceanodroma leucorhoa 

Northern Gannet


Morus bassanus

Goose-sized or larger

Breeding in only a few large colonies along the North Atlantic, the Northern Gannet spends most of its life at sea. Flocks engage in spectacular bouts of plunge-diving for fish, with hundreds of birds diving into the ocean from heights of up to 40 meters (130 feet).

Photo by John Drury

Great Cormorant


Phalacrocorax carbo

Between a crow and a goose

The Great Cormorant is the most widely distributed of all the cormorants, breeding in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. In North America, however, it is restricted to just the Atlantic Coast, breeding in only a few colonies from Maine to Greenland.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Double-crested cormorant


Phalacrocorax auritus

The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin. Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigate birds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America—perhaps attracting the most attention when they stand on docks, rocky islands, and channel markers, their wings spread out to dry. These solid, heavy-boned birds are experts at diving to catch small fish.

Auks, Murres, and Puffins



Alca torda


A large auk of the northern Atlantic Ocean, the Razorbill can be found offshore in winter as far south as New Jersey, and occasionally Virginia.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Common murre


 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

Thick-billed murre


Uria lomvia


 A common bird of the far northern oceans, the Thick-billed Murre is found in Arctic waters all across the globe. It remains up to the limits of pack ice in winter, using its wings to swim underwater to find its fish and invertebrate prey.



Alle alle

Between a robin and a crow

A small, chunky black-and-white bird of the open Atlantic ocean, the Dovekie breeds along high arctic coasts and only makes its way southward in winter as far as New England. It is the smallest of the auks (the puffin family) in the Atlantic.

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

Atlantic puffin


Fratercula arctica

Larger than a dovekie, smaller than a common murre


A sharply dressed black-and-white seabird with a huge, multicolored bill, the Atlantic Puffin is often called the clown of the sea. It breeds in burrows on islands in the North Atlantic, and winters at sea. In flight, puffins flap their small wings frantically to stay aloft—but underwater those wings become powerful flippers that allow the birds to catch small fish one by one until they have a beak full.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen