3 Types of Waterbirds

Waterbirds are a bird species that spend a good portion of their life in the water or surrounding it. Some people define waterbirds as those who hover around freshwater. There are also water birds who show up around water bodies depending on the season and spend the rest of the year on terrain. Then, there are some water birds that are full-time residents whose biological makeup has undergone changes to adapt to aquatic life. Primarily, there are three types of water birds. Let’s take a look at the waterbird species to strengthen your journey as a birdwatcher.

Types of Water Birds Based on Where They Live

True Aquatic Creatures

True aquatic creatures include both shorebirds and freshwater birds. The main criteria is that the bird species primarily live in bodies of water. They raise their young in wetlands and have a fish and crustacean diet. There are small water birds that can’t consume anything bigger than insects. In some cases, their physiology and anatomy have been altered, so the water actually works to their advantage. They breed in Wetlands, and it is pretty much their home. This type of waterbird includes Cormorants, Egrets, and Ibises.

There are also water birds that have a fat, thick body and dense plumage. One example of this is Penguins because they receive a small amount of blood supply to their feet. This way, the rest of their body is at a warmer temperature to survive the cold waters. In addition, Cormorants have evolved enough to secrete a type of substance from their preen gland that allows them to shield themselves from water.

  • Cattle Egret Picture

Semi Aquatic Waterbirds

The list of Semi Aquatic Waterbirds consists of waterfowls, waterhens, and Rails. Semi Aquatic Waterbirds might not
be completely reliant on water, but they spend their time around water bodies seasonally. They might nest and feed their young close to the wetlands. The physiology of the wetland accelerates their chances of survival.

Migratory Aquatic Waterbirds

Some shorebirds can not live anywhere but on wetlands. However, they never stick to one wetland. Instead, they change their nesting space depending on the season. As a result, they travel from the northern hemisphere to the south or vice versa.

Types of Waterbirds Based on Their Behaviors

Biological Waterbirds

These waterbirds not only nest and breed in water, but even their biology has deemed them fit for water. Their bodies are optimal for swimming, and they can take deep dives to catch fish. A common waterbird we are all acquainted with is ducks. Recently, some people have been keeping ducks as pets.

Then, there is the Rock Shag species of Cormorants. Even though we assume all Cormorants are aquatic birds, that is not necessarily the case. Black-necked Grebes have wings perfect for diving headfirst into the water and swooping out their prey.


Seabirds are always linked to the sea or the coastlines in some way. They are always flying around and over the sea catching their food. Most of their lives are spent around the sea, they rarely come to the land. Their bodies have adapted to suit the sea, enough so they can swim, dive and stay underwater for a while. Due to the high amount of saline found in the ocean, some of them develop special glands. These glands help them weed out the extra salt entering their system. Kelp Gulls, Great White Pelicans, and European Storm Petrels are some examples.

Wading Birds

There are bird species that enjoy all kinds of aquatic environments. They feel just as comfortable in mangroves as they do on rocky shores. These birds are usually small or medium in size. Their legs are long to help them wade through the water. Their beaks could be wide and small in length or long, sharp ones. It is common to confuse wading birds and shorebirds with each other. People in North America tend to refer to Herons as Shorebirds. Yet, the rest of the world does not seem to think this way.


In theory, wading birds are not that different from aquatic birds. The reason they are categorized separately is mostly due to where they live. These bird species are also capable of gliding on water. Only shorebirds appear to have both long necks and beaks. Generally, they are large in size.

Aquatic Raptors

This bird species is not exactly aquatic. They do not nest near water or choose to swim in it. However, they do look for their food in the water. They circle bodies of water, and the moment they find their prey, they don’t hesitate to snatch it up.

Final Thoughts

While feeding and nesting are the primary reasons bird species wander around wetlands, some use those areas to rest. There are migratory birds that have set out on long journeys. It is a given that they have to fly over bodies of water. There are times when they don’t see anything but water in their journey. No sight of terrain of any kind. These species have adapted to wetlands and have become capable of feeding and drinking whatever is available at sea.

Over the years, there have been lots of waterbirds that have become endangered. Many birds have lost their lives due to the pollution level at sea, lack of food, and oil spills. Therefore, when you observe this bird species, please remember to maintain a respectful distance.


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Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Waterbirds

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Waterbirds are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

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