Waterfowl Guide: Birds of Pond, Marsh, and Lake
Author: Terry Newhaven
There are many kinds of waterfowls found in ponds, marshes, and lakes. For casual bird watchers, the experience would be much more enriching if they knew something about these birds. Cranes, herons, egrets, ducks, swans, geese, and kingfishers are some of the more well-known waterfowls but there are many more. Let’s look at some of these fascinating birds in more detail.
A large bird, the crane has a long neck and long legs. Found in almost all parts of the world, some of the species are endangered, threatened by hunting and the destruction of their habitats. Cranes usually feed on fish, insects, grains, plants, and rodents. During mating, they are known to be monogamous. Cranes are social birds so they like to stay with their flock. In some culture, cranes are considered to be sacred, symbolizing good luck. Some species of cranes are the Common Crane, Blue Crane, Hooded Crane, Red-crowned Crane, and Sarus Crane.
The heron is similar to the crane in terms of physical characteristics. Usually found in tropical and sub tropical regions, herons are different from other birds when they fly in the sense that their necks are folded on the shoulder. Solitary in nature, herons are known to hunt and eat alone. There are different types of herons, namely, Grey Heron, Night Heron, and Pond Heron. Night herons are middle sized birds and they usually catch their prey during the night. Pond Herons are the most docile and their natural habitats are found in secluded areas.
- Great Blue Heron: Find out more about the Great Blue Heron here.
- Grey Heron: Discover the world of this heron.
- Kotuku: Comprehensive information on the White Heron.
The egret belongs to the heron and stork family. They have long necks, long bills, and short tails. A special feature about egrets is that their necks can be folded into the S-shape due to the structure of the sixth vertebra. Many egrets have lace-like feathers so they are amazing to look at. Most egrets are white in color, making it easy to see them. Their diets vary from fish, snakes, and amphibians. Snowy Egrets have special feet which can be used to collect food. Some other species of egrets are Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Chinese Egret, and Reddish Egret.
- Great Egret: National Geographic presents information on the Great Egret.
- Snowy Egret: A look at this majestic water bird.
- Little Egret: A lot of information on the Little Egrets in Southend.
In the wild, ducks can be found living in ponds, streams, and river. Belonging to the Anatidae family with geese and swans, ducks are smallest in size. The duck has a short neck and a stout body. The life span of ducks is about 12 years, depending on the species. They have webbed feet that act like paddles. There are no nerve cells in their feet so they can swim even in the coldest waters. During winter season, ducks migrate just to breed and return to their habitats when it’s warm again. Normally, they travel to warm areas so they can take care of their offspring. Some duck species are Ancona Duck, Cayuga Duck, Golden Cascade, and Wood Duck.
Swans are graceful and elegant birds with long necks and webbed feet. Their natural habitats are wetlands, lakes or ponds. In botanical gardens, parks, and zoos, swans are commonly known as “ornamental birds”, floating on some pond, without a care in the world. Among all birds, swans have the longest necks with about 23 to 25 vertebrae. In the wild, swans can live up to 20 years but in captivity, they can live up to 50 years. Some species of swans include Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, and Black-necked Swan.
Geese are one of the largest waterfowls. They have long necks and webbed feet. While they are known as waterfowls, they like to be on land. Anser and Branta Geese are the two major classifications. Anser Geese have pink, orange, and gray legs and bill. On the other hand, Brenta Geese have black bills. Geese spend most of their time looking for food. In the wild, they live in short grasslands, next to a body of water. Geese use more than ten different sounds to communicate with one another.
- Canada Goose: An introduction and description of the Canada Goose.
- Branta Species: Excellent resource center on the Branta species.
- Anser Species: Almost everything you want to know about Anser Geese.
Kingfishers are characterized as small and medium in size. Usually found living close to water, they are very colorful. There are about 100 species of kingfishers found in all parts of the world. The smallest kingfisher is the African Dwarf and the largest is called the Giant Kingfisher. All of the species have large heads, long bills, short legs, and tails. Kingfishers live in tree hollows and holes. As implied by their names, kingfishers are excellent in hunting fish but they also feed on frogs, insects, centipedes, spiders, reptiles, and even mammals.
Ospreys are medium size bird that predominantly feed on fish, though they also hunt amphibians, hares, rabbits, rodents, and small reptiles. Also known as the fish hawk, the osprey has powerful legs and its beak is shaped like a strong hook which is useful for capturing its prey. Ospreys are usually found in coastal and lake areas but they also thrive in tropical areas.
- Osprey: The page provides detailed information about this bird.
- Information: An overview of the osprey.
The plover is described as a small shorebird. These birds are commonly found in Australia and other coastal areas. They migrate during winter and move back again after the season is over. Plovers feed on insects and seeds. Some species of plovers are Eurasian Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Piping Plover, Javan Plover, Collared Plover, and Puna Plover.
Sandpipers have long legs, a long bill, and small body. When feeding, they move gracefully. The breeding ground for sandpipers is usually found in east of Europe and Siberia. Mostly, they live in fresh waters, meadows, lagoons, and swamps. Sandpipers eat insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Some species of sandpipers are the Spotted Sandpiper, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, and Upland Sandpiper.
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