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Most Popular Lake and River Birds

Lake and River birds

Are you ready to explore the coolest creatures that call our lakes and rivers home? Then you’re in luck, because today we’re taking a deep dive into the world of the most popular lake and river birds!

These birds are the ultimate water warriors, with amazing adaptations that let them thrive in their aquatic habitats. From the sleek and speedy Kingfisher to the majestic and graceful Heron.

In this article, we’re going to explore the most popular lake and river birds, from their unique physical characteristics to their fascinating behaviors and habitats.

You’ll learn about the incredible ways these birds have evolved to survive in the water, and discover some of the challenges they face in their daily lives.

So, whether you’re a bird enthusiast or just curious about the amazing creatures that live in and around our waterways, get ready to be blown away by the incredible world of the most popular lake and river birds!

Let’s dive in!

Ducks, Geese and Swans – Family Anatidae

If you are trying to identify a duck and it is not shown here, visit the Birdzilla Bird Guide and search under Family – Ducks. You will have to select each one individually but you will be able to find all North American Ducks.


Mallard male. Widespread and common

The Mallard is a common and widespread species of duck that is found in nearly every part of the world. It is a member of the Anatidae family and is commonly found in wetlands, ponds, and lakes.

You can spot them by its distinctive green head, brown body, and white neck ring. The male Mallard has a bright green head, a chestnut brown chest, and a dark brown back.


Female Mallard

 The female Mallard is generally more muted in color, with a brown head, neck, and back, and a cream-colored chest. Both sexes have a blue-grey bill, brown eyes, and a distinctive white neck ring.

northern pintail

Northern Pintail. Widespread, male (above) is distinctive. Female is drab brown.

The Northern Pintail is a species of duck that is native to North America and Eurasia. It is a member of the Anatidae family and is commonly found in wetlands, ponds, and lakes.

The male Northern Pintail has a brown head and neck, a white chest, and a black back. The female Northern Pintail is generally more muted in color, with a brown head and neck, a grey chest, and a brown back. Both sexes have a long, slender bill that is dark at the tip and lighter at the base.

northern shoveler

Northern Shoveler. Widespread with large bill. Female is brown.

blue-winged teal

Blue-winged Teal, male in right. Breeds in large sections of the United States and Canada.


Canvasback male. Female is brown but shares the slopping forehead to a long bill. Compare with Redhead.

lesser scaup

Lesser Scaup, male. Note peaked look to the crown of the head with hint of a tuft. Compare to very similar Greater Scaup.

lesser scaup

Lesser Scaup, female. Compare with similar Greater Scaup.

Cormorants – Family Phalacrocoracidae

double-crested cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant. Widespread, found in both fresh and salt water. Compare with Neotropic Cormorant in Texas.

Herons, Egrets and Bitterns – Family Ardeidae

black-crowned night-heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron. Widespread, winters along coastal areas. Roosts in trees.

green heron

Green Heron. Breeds across much of the eastern half of the United States and parts of the west coast.

great egret

Great Egret. Our largest all white egret. Note yellow bill. Compare with Snowy Egret and immature Little Blue Heron.


The large Great Blue Heron is found throughout the United States and nests as far north as Canada.

Rails, Gallinules and Coots – Family Rallidae

american coot

The American Coot looks like a duck, but is more closely related to rails. Note the white bill and shield on the forehead.

Kingfishers – Family Alcedinidae

belted kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher is always found near water, where it dives for small fish. Female shown here, male lacks the red breast band. Compare with Ringed Kingfisher in south Texas.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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