Oystercatchers use their strong bills to pry open mollusks or oysters.

Oystercatchers use their strong bills to pry open mollusks or oysters.

Male frigatebirds have a red pouch. They inflate them to attract females.

Male frigatebirds have a red pouch. They inflate them to attract females.

Great blue herons wade slowly in the water. Then they strike lightning-fast at prey.

Great blue herons wade slowly in the water. Then they strike lightning-fast at prey.

Flamingos wade in a salt lake in Larnaca, Cyprus. Flamingos get their pink or red color from orange and red pigments in their diet. (AP/Petros Karadjias)

Flamingos wade in a salt lake in Larnaca, Cyprus. Flamingos get their pink or red color from orange and red pigments in their diet. (AP/Petros Karadjias)

Wood ducks have crests of feathers on their heads. Males, like this one, have colorful plumage.

Wood ducks have crests of feathers on their heads. Males, like this one, have colorful plumage.

Birds in the Water

Posted: January 1, 2022

Birds fly. Fish swim. A toddler could tell you that! But birds fancy water too. Lots of birds do. Take a tour of some of the world’s water birds.

Shorebirds. Shorebirds live on . . . the shore! That might mean seashore, or inland shores like lakes and marshlands. These birds like to be near their food sources—crustaceans, tadpoles, worms, and bugs. The Creator equipped them with bills that can dig through mud or sand for prey. Examples: oystercatchers, plovers, sandpipers.

Seabirds. Seabirds get their food from farther out to sea. God gave them waterproof feathers and layers of fat to protect them from cold. Their bodies can even filter out extra salt from ocean water. Examples: albatross, puffins, frigatebirds, penguins.

Water birds also belong to groups with more scientific names. Do you recognize any birds from the following two families?

Ciconiiformes (pronounced SIC-oh-NEE-uh-FORM-ees) These graceful birds usually catch fish or amphibians with their long bills. God gave them legs suited to wading in water. They live all over the world. Examples: herons, storks, spoonbills. Are flamingos ciconiiformes? Most scientists today say yes. But for a long time, ornithologists (people who study birds) weren’t sure. Flamingos have webbed feet like anseriformes, but long legs for wading too. So scientists often put flamingos in a group all by themselves.

Anseriformes (pronounced ann-SER-uh-FORM-ees) For many of us, this class of birds is a little closer to home. Anseriformes have webbed feet and swim well. Examples: ducks, geese, swans.