Wading Birds

American Bittern

Look for American bitterns are a plump, medium-seized wading bird with a stout neck and a bill that has a heavy base. Adults are brown above, with white underparts boldly streaked with dark brown, chestnut, and black. Their tails are short and rounded. The trailing areas of its broad wings are brownish black, contrasting with… See details »


Look for The limpkin is a large water bird with a heron-like body shape. It has distinct, stretched out proportions with a long neck, long legs, and a long, slightly curved bill. Its plumage is dark brown with intense white streaking on its head and neck that lessens as it continues down onto the body… See details »

Purple Gallinule

Look for The purple gallinule is medium-sized rail that is named for its bright, distinctive plumage. It has a deep bluish-purple head, neck, breast, and underparts that get darker as it reaches its rump. Its back is a dark iridescent green. It has a light blue patch on its forehead and a pointed, orange bill… See details »

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron, photo by Dori via Wiki Commons.

Look For The tricolored heron is a medium heron with a characteristically lithe body and a long, thin neck. It has a bluish-gray back, head, neck, and wings with yellow legs. It has a white strip down the center of its neck and a white belly. During the breeding season it has a distinctive white… See details »

Wood Stork

Wood stork by Billie Dodd

Look For A very large bird with a white body and wings that are starkly black and white. It stands over a meter tall at 40 inches. The large down-curved bill and gnarled, featherless head make the wood stork a candidate for “ugliest bird.” Wood storks are strong, if slow, fliers and are frequently seen… See details »

Reddish Egret

Reddish egret

Look For The reddish egret comes in two colors: white or grayish blue. The white morph (or variation) is white with a bicolored bill that is pink, tipped with black. It is much scarcer than the dark morph, which is grayish blue with reddish feathers on its head and neck; it also has a bicolored… See details »

Common Gallinule (Common Moorhen)

Common Gallinule (Photo by Jim Rathert/USFWS)

Look For A charcoal gray bird with a rusty back, white body striping, and a red bill, the common gallinule is equally at home swimming in water and walking on land. Both sexes have the bright red bill and forehead shield, although the male’s is brighter. Listen For Whinnying, squeaky notes in a series, slowing down… See details »

American Coot

American Coot (Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Look for What looks like a duck and acts like a duck, but is not a duck? It’s the American coot, of course. Coots are duck-like in many ways, but they are actually members of the rail family and are the most common (and most commonly seen) of all the rails. Like ducks, coots are… See details »


Learn how to identify soras birds. Photo by Elaine R. Wilson / Wikimedia

When and Where to Look The first requirement of successful rail watching is learning to identify suitable habitat. The sora, especially on migration and in winter, is often satisfied with small marshes, heavily vegetated ponds, and even grassy ditches. Simply walking the edges of such areas in April or September, or in more southerly areas… See details »

Whooping Crane

Identify the whooping crane! (Photo: USFWS)

The whooping crane is one of our most familiar birds because it has become the symbol of our efforts to save endangered species. Even observers who have never seen one are familiar with the field marks: They are striking, large, white birds with black wing tips. The bulk of the population breeds at Wood Buffalo… See details »

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