Get ready for a feast of fascinating feathered friends as this article unveils 27 water bird species commonly found in Kansas. Divided into three sections, the list encompasses ducks, geese, and swans; herons, ibises, and cranes; as well as grebes, loons, and other water birds. Each species is meticulously described, providing identifying features and range maps, and offering insights into their behavior, habitat preferences, and even the sounds they make. Whether you have a soft spot for the elegant Mallard or are intrigued by the striking Common Merganser, this article is sure to satisfy your curiosity and admiration for Kansas’ abundant water bird population.
Ducks, Geese, and Swans
Kansas is home to a variety of water birds, including ducks, geese, and swans. These birds can be found in ponds, lakes, and rivers throughout the state. In this section, we will explore some of the most common species found in Kansas.
One of the most recognizable water birds in North America, the Mallard is a familiar sight in Kansas. The male Mallard has a bright green head, a brown chest, and a gray body. The female Mallard is mottled brown in color. Both sexes have a distinctive white ring on their necks. Mallards are social birds and can often be seen in groups or pairs.
The American Wigeon is a medium-sized duck with a distinctive white patch on its wing. The male has a chestnut-colored head and a bright green eye patch. The female has a more subtle plumage, with a gray-brown body and a speckled brown head. American Wigeons are often found in shallow wetlands and grassy areas.
The Northern Pintail is a slender duck with a long, thin neck and a pointed tail. The male has a brown head, a white neck, and a gray body. The female is mottled brown in color. Both sexes have a distinctive white stripe running down their necks. Northern Pintails are graceful swimmers and can often be seen in small flocks.
The Northern Shoveler is easily identified by its large, spoon-shaped bill. The male has a green head, a white chest, and a chestnut-brown body. The female has a speckled brown plumage. Both sexes have distinctive yellow eyes. Northern Shovelers are often found in shallow waters, where they use their bills to filter small invertebrates from the water.
The Blue-winged Teal is a small dabbling duck with a blue-gray head and a distinctive white crescent on its face. The male has a reddish-brown body with black and white speckles. The female is mottled brown in color. Blue-winged Teals prefer shallow wetlands and can often be seen in large flocks.
Herons, Ibises, and Cranes
In addition to ducks, geese, and swans, Kansas is also home to a variety of herons, ibises, and cranes. These elegant birds can often be found near bodies of water, where they forage for fish and other small organisms. Let’s take a closer look at some of the species found in Kansas.
Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron is one of the largest herons in North America. It has a bluish-gray plumage, a long, S-shaped neck, and a sharp beak. Great Blue Herons are patient hunters and can often be seen standing motionless near the water, waiting for fish to swim by. They are also skilled fliers and can often be seen soaring high in the sky.
The Snowy Egret is a small, white heron with a delicate build and a flowing crest of feathers on its head. It has yellow feet and a sharply pointed black beak. Snowy Egrets are active hunters and can often be seen wading through shallow water, searching for fish and other small prey.
The Cattle Egret is a small, white heron with a yellow-orange bill and yellow legs. It is often seen in fields, pastures, and wetlands, where it forages for insects and other small invertebrates. Cattle Egrets are social birds and can often be seen in large flocks, particularly during the breeding season.
American White Pelican
The American White Pelican is a large water bird with white plumage, a long bill, and a distinctive pouch under its throat. It has black flight feathers, which are visible when it is in flight. American White Pelicans are skilled divers and can often be seen plunging headfirst into the water to catch fish.
The Sandhill Crane is a large, gray bird with a long neck and long legs. It has a red forehead and a loud, distinctive call. Sandhill Cranes are migratory birds and can often be seen in large flocks during the spring and fall migrations. They are known for their elaborate courtship dances, which involve intricate displays of dancing and calling.
Grebes, Loons, and Other Water Birds
The final section of our article explores grebes, loons, and other water birds that can be found in Kansas. These birds have adapted to life on and around the water and can often be seen diving for fish or floating gracefully on the surface. Let’s take a closer look at some of the species found in Kansas.
The Pied-billed Grebe is a small, stocky bird with a dark body and a white bill. It has a black band around its bill, which gives it its name. Pied-billed Grebes are excellent swimmers and can often be seen diving and swimming underwater in search of small fish and invertebrates.
The Horned Grebe is a small diving bird with a distinctive black-and-white plumage and golden-yellow “horns” on either side of its head during the breeding season. It has a slender body and a sharp bill. Horned Grebes are skilled divers and can often be seen diving underwater to catch fish.
The Western Grebe is a large water bird with a long neck, a slender body, and a long, straight bill. It has a black-and-white plumage and bright red eyes. Western Grebes are known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve synchronized swimming and calls. They can often be seen in large groups during the breeding season.
The Red-throated Loon is a large diving bird with a slender body, a long neck, and a sharp bill. It has a gray back, a white belly, and a red throat. Red-throated Loons are skilled swimmers and can often be seen diving deep underwater in search of fish.
The Common Loon is a large diving bird with a black-and-white plumage, a long neck, and a sharp bill. It has a distinctive black-and-white “necklace” on its throat. Common Loons are excellent swimmers and can often be seen floating on the water’s surface or diving underwater in search of fish.
In conclusion, Kansas is home to a diverse array of water birds. From ducks, geese, and swans to herons, ibises, and cranes, and grebes, loons, and other water birds, these species can be found in various habitats throughout the state. Understanding their characteristics, behavior, and habitat preferences allows us to appreciate and protect these beautiful creatures for generations to come. So next time you find yourself near a body of water in Kansas, keep an eye out for these fascinating water birds and enjoy observing them in their natural surroundings.