21 Different Types of Water Birds in Missouri

Different Types of Water Birds in Missouri
Bird on Water” by BLM Oregon & Washington is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you live in or plan to visit Missouri, you may be interested to know about the different types of water birds in Missouri.

From egrets and herons to swans and ducks, a wide variety of water birds inhabit the lakes, rivers, and other waterways in Missouri. 

In our blog post, we will discuss the different types of water birds in Missouri and some interesting facts about each species.

We hope our post will provide a helpful overview of Missouri’s different types of water birds.

1. Eared Grebe

The most abundant grebe in the world, the Eared Grebe, is first on our list of Types of water birds in Missouri, with a very thin bill and a bright red eye. In the summer months, golden wisps fan out from their cheeks as they dance and run across the water, courting. 

They breed in colonies in shallow wetlands in western North America and head by the hundreds and thousands to salty inland waters to feast on brine shrimp before heading farther south. In winter, they lose the golden wisps, turning gray and white.

2. Mallard

The Mallard is one of Missouri’s most common types of water birds. These types of water birds in Missouri are found in wetland areas, lakes and rivers, and marshes. 

These types of water birds in Missouri have green heads with white collars, yellow beaks, and brownish-gray wings. Their tails are black, and their bodies are brownish in color. 

The male Mallard has a distinctive black patch on his wings and tail feathers. The female is slightly lighter in color and has a blue-gray bill. Mallards are omnivorous and feed on various plant materials, as well as aquatic insects, crustaceans, amphibians, small fish, and snails.

3. American Wigeon

The American Wigeon is a species of dabbling duck that can be found in Missouri. They are easily recognizable due to their distinctive bright white forehead and buffy-brown head and neck. 

This species of waterfowl are typically found around wetlands and marshes, particularly during the spring and fall migration seasons. While they are quite common in Missouri, they are not as populous as the other ducks in the area. 

The American Wigeon is often seen in small flocks and pairs, making it easy to spot in the wild. They feed on various plants, invertebrates, and aquatic insects, making them an important part of the local ecosystem.

4. Northern Pintail

The Northern Pintail is a long and slender waterfowl that is easily recognizable by its long neck and pointed tail. This duck species can be found throughout Missouri in the spring and fall but typically only during migrations as it is a migratory species. 

It prefers shallow bodies of water such as wetlands, marshes, shallow ponds, and fields or croplands with standing water. The Northern Pintail feeds on various plants and aquatic invertebrates, which it obtains by dabbling in the water or grazing on the shoreline. 

Males have a unique gray-brown and white feathers pattern, while females are generally more brownish with a paler chest. Both genders have a prominent black stripe along the sides of their heads and a distinct white stripe extending down the middle of their backs.

5. Northern Shoveler

The Northern Shoveler is a large, migratory duck commonly found in Missouri’s wetlands and lakes. They have an unmistakable long, wide bill which they use to sift through mud or shallow water in search of food. 

They typically eat aquatic invertebrates, like insect larvae and mollusks, and plant matter, like algae. Northern Shovelers can be seen throughout the state during their migration season from March to October. 

During the winter, they head further south to warmer climates. With their unique bill shape and vibrant plumage, these Types of water birds in Missouri are sure to add color and excitement to any Missouri waterway.

6. Blue-Winged Teal

The Blue-winged Teal is a small dabbling duck found in wetlands throughout Missouri. It is easily recognizable by its brown head, white belly, and distinctive blue wing patches. 

The blue wing patches may be seen when the bird is flying or diving. They are most commonly found in wetlands, marshes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Blue-winged Teal feed on plant material, insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. 

They can often be seen in large flocks as they migrate from summer breeding grounds to wintering areas. In Missouri, Blue-winged Teal can be seen from mid-April through mid-May and again from early October to late November.

7. Green-Winged Teal

The Green-winged Teal is a species of dabbling duck that is native to North America. It is one of Missouri’s most widespread and common waterfowl, with an estimated breeding population of about 65,000 birds. 

The Green-winged Teal can be found in freshwater wetlands, particularly shallow marshes and ponds, where it feeds on aquatic vegetation, insects, and small mollusks. During the breeding season, males display an orange-and-white patch on each side of their heads, while the females are mostly gray-brown with paler underparts. The Green-winged Teal is a popular game bird and can often be seen in Missouri’s public parks and wildlife refuges.

8. Wood Duck

The Wood Duck is a common type of water bird found throughout Missouri. It can be seen in the state’s wetland areas, rivers, and ponds. 

It is a medium-sized duck, usually found in pairs or small groups. Its distinct plumage of bright colors, including vibrant reds and greens, makes it easy to identify among other species. The males are especially showy, with dark green heads and white stripes down their chests. The females are more mottled in color and less flashy. 

The Wood Duck is an active species, often seen swimming and diving in shallow water. They are also adept fliers and can be seen flying over wetlands in search of food.

9. Bufflehead

The Bufflehead is next on our list of Types of water birds in Missouri. They are small, with the male being about 18 inches long and the female being slightly smaller. 

These types of water birds in Missouri have black and white plumage with a characteristic white head that distinguishes them from other ducks. The Bufflehead can often be found on the open water of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs throughout the state. 

They primarily feed on aquatic invertebrates, fish, and small crustaceans. During the breeding season, these birds typically nest in cavities or hollows in trees near wetlands.

10. Hooded Merganser

The Hooded Merganser is a species of water bird found in Missouri. These water birds in Missouri have a black and white crest on the back of their heads that gives them their name. 

They have a reddish-brown body with white, gray, and brown markings. The males are larger than the females and can reach a length of up to 14 inches. They prefer shallow, quiet ponds and streams with abundant vegetation, where they feed on insects, small fish, crustaceans, and frogs. 

In the winter months, they are often seen congregating on larger bodies of water, such as lakes and reservoirs. They are generally quiet birds, but males will perform a distinctive head-bobbing display during the breeding season to attract potential mates.

11. Common Merganser

The Common Merganser, or the Goosander, is a large duck native to North America that can often be found in Missouri. It’s identifiable by its glossy black head and neck, white body, and serrated bill. 

This fish-eating species can be found in lakes and rivers, swimming along the water surface while searching for food. The Common Merganser migrates south during the winter and back north in the spring. Although they are large, they are actually very shy Types of water birds in Missouri, so it may take patience to catch sight of one.

12. Canada Goose

The Canada Goose is a common sight in Missouri, especially near bodies of water like ponds and lakes. These large, majestic Types of water birds in Missouri can often be seen in large flocks flying in formation, making for a spectacular sight. 

They have grayish-brown feathers with a white patch on their chests and are usually between 28 and 43 inches long. Canada geese feed mainly on grasses, grains, and aquatic plants and can be found in urban areas and remote parts of the state. During the winter months, they migrate to warmer climates but return to Missouri when temperatures rise again.

13. Snow Goose

Snow geese are some of Missouri’s most iconic types of water birds. With their signature white feathers and black beaks, these majestic birds can often be seen in large flocks flying overhead or landing in wetlands. 

These types of water birds in Missouri typically inhabit shallow, flooded areas near rivers and ponds, where they feed on aquatic plants, insects, and grains. During the winter months, snow geese migrate south to warmer climates, returning to Missouri in the spring for the mating season.

To observe snow geese in Missouri, the best time of year is typically late February to early March. The best places to spot them are wetlands, shallow lakes, and agricultural areas with large fields. 

If you’re lucky, you may even get a chance to see a flock of snow geese flying high in the sky as they make their journey north. So if you’re looking to witness some of Missouri’s stunning water birds, the snow goose should be at the top of your list.

14. Tundra Swan

The Tundra Swan is a medium-sized swan that is mostly white in color with some gray patches on its head and neck. It is found in wetlands and shallow lakes, often in large flocks of several hundred birds. 

They are mainly winter visitors to Missouri, arriving in October or November and staying until March or April. These types of water birds in Missouri typically travel in small family groups of two or three adults with their young. 

The male Tundra Swan is larger than the female and has a curved, black bill. They feed mainly on aquatic vegetation but will also consume small insects and crustaceans. The Tundra Swan is a beautiful sight to behold and is a joy to watch as they migrate in and out of Missouri each year.

15. Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is one of Missouri’s most iconic and easily recognizable types of water birds. This majestic bird stands up to four feet tall with a wingspan of up to seven feet, making it one of the largest birds in North America. 

It has a slate-gray body, a white head and neck, and a long yellow beak. The Great Blue Heron can often be seen stalking the shorelines of Missouri’s lakes and rivers, looking for its next meal. 

These water birds in Missouri will hunt for fish, frogs, snakes, and other small animals found in the water. In addition to these hunting grounds, Great Blue Herons are commonly seen in wetlands, estuaries, and fields, where they can be found wading in shallow water or roosting in trees.

16. American Bittern

The American Bittern is a large wading bird native to Missouri. Its feathers are gray-brown and streaky, helping it blend in with its marshy habitats. 

The American Bittern is usually seen around wetlands or swamps but can also be spotted in shallow water or wet meadows. It is a solitary species and hunts small fish, frogs, and other small animals. 

It is an impressive sight when flying; its wingspan can reach up to four feet! The American Bittern is a protected species in Missouri, and populations are closely monitored to ensure their safety.

17. White-Faced Ibis

The White-faced Ibis is a stunning waterbird that is found in Missouri. It has a stunning metallic purple body and a white face with red around the eyes. 

These types of water birds in Missouri can be found mainly in wetlands and are often seen in large flocks. They feed on insects, crustaceans, worms, and aquatic plant material. 

The White-faced Ibis nests in trees near wetlands, usually laying two to four eggs. This species is classified as the least concern, although it has suffered from habitat destruction, pollution, and hunting.

18. Common Loon

The Common Loon is one of the most iconic types of water birds in Missouri and can be found throughout the state. It is recognizable for its striking black-and-white plumage and haunting call, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the “Spirit of the Wilderness.” 

In Missouri, Common Loons are commonly seen in large lakes, reservoirs, and rivers throughout the state. These types of water birds in Missouri feed mainly on small fish such as minnows, darters, and catfish. They can also be seen in marshes, where they feed on aquatic insects and other invertebrates. 

In the winter months, these birds will migrate south to warmer climates and return in the springtime. With their beautiful plumage and unique call, Common Loons are an amazing sight to see in Missouri.

19. American Coot

The American Coot, also known as the Mud Hen, is a common water bird found in Missouri. It is a medium-sized bird and can be identified by its black body, white bill, and white forehead. Its feet are red, and its wings have a black band near the tip. 

These types of water birds in Missouri are often seen swimming in small groups and eating aquatic vegetation. They make their nests among the reeds near the edges of shallow lakes, ponds, or rivers. During the breeding season, they are territorial and will chase away any intruders. American Coots are an important part of Missouri’s ecosystem, providing food for many other species. 

These water birds in Missouri are omnivores and will eat plant matter and small fish. They are also known to eat amphibians and invertebrates when available. During the winter months, they migrate south to warmer climates. 

They are found year-round in southern parts of Missouri but can also be seen during migration in northern areas. If you’re looking for a chance to spot an American Coot in Missouri, your best bet is to visit a marshy area near a lake or river.

20. Double-Crested Cormorant

The Double-crested Cormorant is a cormorant species found in Missouri’s lakes and rivers. They are large dark birds, typically between 24 and 34 inches in length, with a wingspan of 44-54 inches. 

The plumage is mostly black or brown, and they have bright yellow eyes and a long hooked bill. In the summer months, these Types of water birds in Missouri have a distinctive crest of white feathers on their head and neck. 

Double-crested cormorants often swim in shallow water, searching for fish or crustaceans to eat. They have a diet composed mainly of fish, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. They may also consume some vegetation, such as algae or aquatic plants. 

They are often seen perched on rocks, docks, or power lines when they are not feeding. They nest in colonies, typically near water, and can be seen in large numbers during the breeding season.

21. Pied-Billed Grebe

Lastly, on our list of Types of water birds in Missouri is the Pied-billed Grebe. It is a medium-sized, stocky water bird found throughout Missouri. They have dark gray to brown feathers on their backs and wings, with white and tan markings on their chests. 

Their bills are yellowish-brown, and they have a distinctive white stripe down the middle. They feed on aquatic invertebrates, small fish, frogs, and salamanders. Pied-billed Grebes are usually seen near wetlands such as marshes, ponds, and lakes but can also be seen in rivers. They breed in Missouri from late April through early July, and you can usually see them in small groups. 

They are great swimmers and divers, able to submerge underwater for up to 30 seconds to search for food. The Pied-billed Grebe is an important part of Missouri’s avian population and is fun to watch as it dives and searches for food.


Missouri is a great place for birdwatching, and there are many different kinds of water birds in Missouri state. From majestic swans to colorful kingfishers, you can find a variety of water birds in Missouri’s wetlands, rivers, lakes, and ponds. 

In our blog post, we have explored some of Missouri’s most common types of water birds. So get started as we have helped you explore the different types of water birds in Missouri!

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