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… Read more


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… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

Common Gallinule

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… Read more

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… Read more


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… Read more

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… Read more

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill cranes flying at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, United States. Photo by M. Kainickara / Wikimedia.

Look For The sandhill crane is a tall, mostly gray bird with a red patch on the head and a white patch on each cheek. Sandhill cranes range from 42 to 46 inches in length. In flight, sandhills show both a long neck and long legs. Young sandhills lack the red crown, and in summer… Read more

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate spoonbill photo by Mathias Appel / Wikimedia

Look For The roseate spoonbill is hard to confuse with anything else. Its rose pink coloration is stunning, and its spoon-shaped bill is unlike that of any other North American bird. Young birds are light pink, attaining the more intense adult colors by their third year. An upclose look at its massive bill, bald head, and… Read more

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