Wintertime Waterfowl Wednesday!

Try saying that 5 times fast hah!

Before I became a birder I hated winter. Like seriously hated it. I wanted nothing to do with being cold and couldn’t wait until summer again.

But ever since I became a birder my opinion of winter has changed. I no longer dread it, but really look forward to it now. Why the change of heart? Because in the winter, new birds will arrive that you don’t get to see other times of that year. I especially love all the winter waterfowl that arrive in New Jersey.

I do really love waterfowl. Quick story: I once took a webinar about identifying waterfowl from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I’ll admit: I saved my confirmation e-mail because it addressed me as a “Waterfowl Enthusiast” and that made me super happy (yes, I’m a nerd). So to me, wintertime = wonderful waterfowl. What is waterfowl you ask? Ducks, geese, and swans. Here are some of my favorite winter visitors:

Northern Pintails

Male and Female Northern Pintails (Image by J.M. Garg via Wikipedia)

Look for long tail feathers pointing upwards. They are also dabbling ducks, so you will see them stick their tail feathers in the air to look for small invertebrates and plants. You can find them in salt marshes.

dabbling pintails
Dabbling Pintails pair (Image by David Horowitz)

Hooded Mergansers

Female and Male Hooded Mergansers (Image by Chris Paparo)

You can’t miss a Hooded Merganser. Males has large heads with a white crest and a golden eye while females have a cool brown crest. They are diving ducks. Look for them in marshes and lakes.


Male and female Buffledheads (Image by Rafal Kunka via

Can be found in saltwater bays, lakes, and ponds. Males have a white crest and greenish-purplish gloss while females are dark with a white spot on their cheeks. Another diving duck.

Northern Shovelers

Male and female Norther Shovelers (Image by Steve G via

Northern Shovelers have large, distinct bills that they use to strain food out of the water. They are dabbling ducks, and can be found in both freshwater and saltwater areas.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese with Blue Morphs in the foreground (Image by D. Gordon E. Robertson via Wikipedia)

Snow geese breed on the tundra and come here by the thousands in the winter. You can find huge flocks in salt marshes and coastal bays. They are all white with black wing tips and pink legs/bills. Look out for the blue morph geese mixed into the sea of white.

There are so many more species of waterfowl I love to see: Blue-winged Teals, Green-winged Teals, Common Mergansers, Tundra Swans, Brants…there are too many to fit in one blog post. One of my favorite places to see waterfowl is the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Brigantine, NJ. In winter I see flocks of thousands of birds, it’s amazing.

So if you want to make your day wonderful, go seek out some waterfowl. I guarantee they’ll make you smile :-).

Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily go birding in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but love to travel. I am currently a biology student with interests in conservation biology, ornithology, and environmental sciences. My dream is to go birding in all 50 states.

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