Marsh Birds

Marshes are low-lying wetlands that provide a vibrant habitat for many different animals, including avifauna. Birds living in marshes are suited to living in an aquatic environment and have a diet primarily of fish and other water-dwelling creatures like amphibians, crustaceans, etc. Some of these, like the Great Blue Heron and the Greater Yellowlegs, have long legs for wading through the mud while foraging for food. Interestingly, marsh birds will not fly as often, preferring to swim or dive underwater when they feel threatened.

Many of these birds are generally classified as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN and are relatively common, but as marshes become scarce each year, almost all of them are at risk of habitat loss.

Marsh Birds

List of Birds That Live in Marshes

Bird SpeciesWhere Are They From?Notable Characteristics
American CootPacific and southwestern United States and MexicoDespite their similar appearances, these birds are not related to appearances
American OystercatcherThe Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United StatesAs its name suggests, it primarily feeds on oysters
AnhingaWorldwideWhile swimming, this bird’s head and neck are the only visible parts, giving it the appearance of a snake
Belted KingfisherThroughout North AmericaThis kingfisher makes a rattling call while active. This call has led to a group of these birds being called a ‘kerfuffle.’
Black-crowned Night-heronWorldwideThese birds are ambush predators and are even known to use bait to attract prey
Black TernCanada and the northern United States, western Asia, and most of EuropeThese birds stay very close to the water, with some even nesting on floating material
Clapper RailAtlantic coasts of North AmericaIt is rarely seen in flight, possibly due to its large size
Common GallinuleThroughout the AmericasIt remains the most common species of rail in North America
Common MoorhenEurasia and AfricaIt is the most common rail species in Europe
Eared GrebeAfrica, Eurasia, and the AmericasWhile this bird generally avoids flying, it will migrate to a saline lake after breeding to molt, with these journeys often covering distances close to 4000 miles
Forster’s TernCentral and North America, as well as the CaribbeanIt practices plunge diving over open water while hunting
Great Blue HeronThroughout the Americas, as well as the Caribbean and Galapagos IslandsIt is an apex predator and at the top of the food chain in its environment
Greater YellowlegsThroughout the AmericasAs its name indicates, this bird can be identified by its bright yellow legs
JabiruSouth America, except the west Andes and MexicoThis stork has a contrasting appearance, with a black head and white feathers
Least BitternThroughout the AmericasIt is one of the smallest bitterns alive today
LimpkinFrom Florida to northern ArgentinaIt gets its name from the way it walks, which looks like it is limping
Marsh WrenNorth AmericaMales will ‘gurgle’ to announce their territory
Northern JacanaMexico, the Caribbean, and PanamaThese birds can walk on floating vegetation in water bodies
OspreyWorldwideThese birds of prey predominantly feed on fish
Pied-billed GrebeThroughout the AmericasThey have a call similar to the Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Red-necked GrebeThroughout Eurasia and western North AmericaLike most grebes, it prefers swimming over flying and chooses to dive underwater when faced with danger
Red-winged BlackbirdNorth and Central AmericaThe males are covered entirely in black plumage, except for their wings which are bright red
Saltmarsh SparrowThe Atlantic coast of the United States, from North Carolina to FloridaIt is similar to the Nelson’s Sparrow but has a bigger beak
Sandhill CraneNorth America and SiberiaThese are social birds that undergo migrations over long distances
Seaside SparrowAtlantic and Gulf coasts, from New Hampshire to TexasIt has a song similar to the Red-winged Blackbird
Snowy EgretThroughout the AmericasThey get along with other birds in their surroundings and often forage in mixed groups
SoraThroughout North AmericaIts common name comes from one of the sounds it makes -‘sor-ah
Swamp SparrowEastern North AmericaIt is closely related to the Song Sparrow
Virginia RailCentral America and the Southern United StatesIt prefers to run away from predators rather than fly away
Western GrebeWestern North AmericaThis bird is known to perform a ‘rushing ceremony’ where the birds run on water as part of their mating rituals
Wilson’s PhalaropeWestern Canada to ArgentinaThis bird is halophilic, i.e., it loves saline environments
Wilson’s SnipeThroughout North AmericaThey fly in a zigzag pattern to confuse predators
Yellow RailCanada and part of the United States (Oklahoma, North Carolina)They are elusive and are hard to see, but their vocalizations are often heard
Yellow-headed BlackbirdCentral America and the United StatesIt is entirely black except for its head, which is bright yellow

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