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More than 500 species of water bird have been identified in Florida, making it one of the most diverse states in the US. Of these hundreds of species, some are only visitors to the state, but nearly 200 are breeders, which means that they breed in Florida. Below, we have listed 30 of these species, concentrating on those that you are most likely to spot.
The Sandhill Crane is a large waterbird that is easy to spot because of its size. Its bright red forehead makes it easy to recognize and it has a loud trumpet of a call, so you are likely to hear it before you see it. It is also considered a relatively tame bird, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to view in the wild.
The American White Pelican has an unmistakable appearance thanks to its huge bill. They fish in a pack, which further improves your chances of spotting this magnificent bird. Spotted during winter, the Pelican is usually silent.
The Bald Eagle is not, in fact, bald, but it gets its name because the white feathers of the adult bird’s head are in stark contrast to the brown of its body. It looks bald. However, young Bald Eagles do not have this same appearance. The Bald Eagle will usually be found at lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water.
Related Read: 24 Fascinating & Fun Eagle Facts You Never Knew
The pink Roseate Spoonbill has red legs and darker red shoulders, as well as rose-colored feathers on the rest of the body. It gets its name from the unusual spoon-shaped tip of its bill, and it uses this by dipping it in the water and moving it from side to side.
The Great Blue Heron is a large waterbird that nests in trees and is found fishing in lakes and ponds. It has long legs that enable it to stand in the water and wait for prey to pass by.
One of the most easily distinguishable features of the Canvasback is the shape of its bill, which is perfectly in line with the forehead and slopes towards the end of the bill. The male has a chestnut neck and head on a white body. The female is brown with flecks of white.
The Muscovy Duck is not indigenous, but rather an introduced species of waterbird. It does not usually make any noise but can be recognized by a red face and it is easy to spot because it is found in ponds and lakes near towns and is considered a tame bird.
The Osprey fishes at the surface of the water and is found living and hunting near estuaries. This is a breeding species and can be seen at any time of the year. It has a brown body with a white belly and white legs.
The Mottled Duck is a common sight on ponds around the state. It has a yellow or olive-yellow beak and dredges food from the bottom of shallow when you will see its tail wiggling above the surface.
The Northern Shoveler is another common duck. It has a green head and black bill. Its body is a combination of brown and white, although the female looks very similar to the Mottled Duck. Both species are found in shallow wetlands so are often seen together.
It can be difficult to differentiate the Northern Shoveler from the Mallard, and the two species will interbreed, making it even more difficult to recognize the resulting birds.
The Limpkin has a similar build to a heron. It has a long bill and long legs, enabling it to easily fish for prey under the water while wading in shallow areas. This loud bird eats apple snails.
The American Bittern is a species of heron that has a unique pattern that consists of stripes, blotches, and spots. It has an orange tint to its color but it can be difficult to spot because it likes its privacy and will usually be found hiding in vegetation at the water’s edge.
One of several species of egret, the Great Egret is pure white with a bright yellow bill. It has a long neck which it has to crane to get down to the water and its prey. It is a large species and, as well as being found at ponds, it can be seen away from water.
Another species of egret, the Reddish Egret may be white with a brown bill or have a gray body with a red neck. The bird spreads its wings while charging around and can be found near various types of water.
The White Ibis is, as the name suggests, white, but it does have red legs and a red bill that curves downwards. Although it has black tips to its wings, these can only be seen when the bird is in flight.
The Black-bellied Whistling Duck is worthy of mention for the loud and unique call that it makes while flying. It is also an attractive water bird that has a gray head on top of a brown body. It can be seen in trees as well as on water.
The American Coot is a dark gray. It has a white bill and red eyes. It is usually found in freshwater and because it tends to gather in flocks, can be quite easy to spot even for the amateur birdwatcher.
This brown water bird’s most distinguishing feature is the shape of its bill which is short and somewhat round. The bill also has a black band in the middle. It can be difficult to find because the Pied Billed Grebe does not usually flock with others.
This nocturnal heron fishes at the edge of the water and feeds on fish and crustaceans. It has yellow legs, a black back, and a gray body.
The incredibly colored Gray-headed Swamphen has a blue body and a gray head. It has a red bill. The bird has been introduced to the wetlands of Florida and is taking hold in the area, where it can be found on lakes and ponds.
The Snail Kite is another water bird that feeds on apple snails and it has a hooked bill to help get in and fish the fleshy bits out.
The King Rail is a small brown water bird that has black streaks on its back and white streaks on its belly. This plump-looking bird is found in freshwater, while the similar-looking Clapper Rail prefers saltwater.
The Common Gallinule has green legs, a red forehead, and its body is brown and gray. You may spot one alone but you can also find flocks of the Common Gallinule.
By heron standards, the Green Heron is a small species. It is a shy bird so can be difficult to spot and even more difficult to study. Seeing the bird is made even more difficult by the fact that it fishes in among reeds and other vegetation at the edge of the water. It has orange legs, a chestnut breast, and tufted hair.
The male Least Bittern has an orange body and contrasting black back and head. The female is a little duller but still striking in appearance. It stalks fish by standing very still in among vegetation and waits for its prey to come close.
With its long, stilted legs, the Black-necked Stilt has a very long bill and a circular, almost disc-like head. It eats invertebrates, which it finds in the shallows of bodies of water. It makes a lot of noise when disturbed.
The tiny Belted Kingfisher dives for fish and is found in shallow water. It is blue with a white belly, and the female has a rusty-colored band around its middle.
In most species of bird, the male has a brighter and more prominent look, in order to attract the female. Unusually, both sexes of the Killdeer look the same with a brown back, white belly, and bands of black around the neck. It can be found in fields as well as near water, and it makes a lot of noise when taking off.
The female of this species is mottled brown, but the male is a very dark brown with bright red patches on the upper wing. Out of breeding season, the Red-winged Blackbird will form a large flock and although it does live in wet areas, this bird can also be found in fields and other areas.
Related Read: 8 Bird of Prey Species in Florida (With Pictures)
Florida is blessed with an abundance of waterbird species, including the 30 listed above. Look for bodies or stretches of water and see what you can find. With hundreds of different types of birds, there is a good chance you will find something of interest.
Featured Image Credit: PublicDomainImages, Pixabay
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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