8 Types of Water Birds in Michigan (Birds of Lake Michigan)

Michigan has been home to more than 450 different bird species.

Provided the state’s size as well as the vicinity to 4 of the Great Lakes, as well as the truth that it supports a variety of exceptional bird habitats, such as boreal and hardwood woodlands, great plains, dunes, and marine habitats, including the open waters of the Great Lakes, such amazing diversity is only natural. 

Northern PintailNorthern Pintail
Blue-winged tealBlue-winged teal
Wood DuckWood Duck
American WigeonAmerican Wigeon
Buffle HeadBuffle Head
Hooded MerganserHooded Merganser
Green HeronGreen Heron

Types of Water Birds in Michigan

1. Northern Pintail


Long-necked, slender ducks with a beak that has a light black-gray color.

Males have a grey body, a white neck, and a head that is cinnamon-brown in color.

Females have rufous-brown body feathers and simple tan heads.

Southern Pintails have a large head that, when in flight, emphasizes their very pointed tail.

Its head protrudes more from its stomach than its tail, even while it is floating on water.

All females and non-breeding males have shortened but still noticeable pintails.

Wetland area away from populated areas is the greatest spot in Michigan to discover such water birds.

Refuges for wildlife are excellent starting points.


They frequently remain in shallower places close to lakes and ponds’ margins.

It’s interesting to note that they can walk on land. As a result, you may find them clearing away leftover grain, wheat, rice, and maize from farm fields.

Males have a distinctive cry that is almost like a railroad whistle.

The voices of females are low-pitched quacks.

2. Blue-winged Teal


The front part of the eye is surrounded by a white band on the bluish-colored skull of males.

Black wings and a black bill Black dots dot the brown body.

The bodies of females are brown. Look for a crest on their head and black eyeliner.

In Michigan, shallow wetlands are where you may see teals.

The gorgeous blue wing spot that is only seen in flight gave these aquatic birds their name.

The green feathering on the wing underneath the blue is equally lovely.

These stunning ducks, second only to the Mallard in terms of population density in North America, may surprise you.

Hunters frequently target the Blue-winged Teal, although the number of birds taken each year is rigorously watched to ensure.

The population continues to grow. Males emit a high whistled sound.

3. Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Males have extremely detailed plumage. The brown breast with white flecks, crimson eyes, and the green crested head is to be sought for.

Females have brown bodies and grey, somewhat crested heads. A blue patch on the wing with a white teardrop eye patch.

Few birds have taken Walt Disney’s adage that “the world is a carnival of color” more than that to heart than the masculine Wood Duck.

In reality, it appears as though an artist painted a duck with emerald, red, orange, lime, and all other colors.

There are colors that are yellow, white, rosy, brown, brown, black, white, grey, purple, and blue.

One of the rare aquatic bird genera in Michigan that you could spot in a tree is this one! Although Wood Ducks like to nest in abandoned tree holes, they also readily use raised nesting boxes.

4. Mallard


Males have an intensely colored green head, a narrow white collar, a dark reddish-brown breast, a yellow beak, as well as black buttocks with a white tail tip.

Females have brown bills that are striped in orange and brown. Both sexes have additional plumes on their wing that are purple-blue in color and are most noticeable while they are sitting or flying.

In Michigan, these ducks are, without a doubt, the most prevalent waterfowl.

These adaptive ducks are so common because mallards are very at ease among people.


No matter where a wetland environment is located, they may be found there.

Every summer, we even discover such aquatic birds in our pool and have to shoo them out to prevent a mess on our deck!

5. American Wigeon

Credits – ebird

Round-headed waterbirds with compact bodies. Bills with a black tip and a blue background.

The majority of males are brown, but they have a unique green band below their eyes as well as a white crown. Females have grayer heads and overall browner bodies.

There are many American Wigeons, but they like serene lakes and marshes apart from people.

Compared to other ducks, they eat a larger percentage of plant stuff, and like geese, they will even forage in agricultural fields.

Their powerful, short bill makes it easy to remove plants easily.

6. Buffle Head


Ducks with little bodies and big heads. Males have a sizable white patch on their forehead, as well as white chests and sides.

Their face has iridescent purple-green plumage.

Females have darker heads and are often brownish. Watch for the recognizable white cheek patch.

When spotted in Michigan, these imposing waterbirds are difficult to misidentify.

To find aquatic species and crustaceans to consume while remaining submerged, they spend up to half of their time foraging underwater.

Be patient as they dive and keep looking all around the area for these tiny birds to come back to the surface.

Buffleheads only nest in cavities, and they are fastidious nesters; they won’t deposit eggs anywhere else.

They nearly exclusively utilize the holes created by Pileated Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers.

7. Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

The beak of this little aquatic bird is long and thin.

Breeding males are distinguished by a distinctively big, black crest with a sizable white patch on either side. Orange eyes.

Females possess dark brown eyes and are mostly brown with a crest that resembles a mohawk and is slightly lighter in color. 

Males who don’t reproduce resemble females, with the exception of their yellow eyes. Hooded Mergansers are among my favorite aquatic birds in terms of appearance.

It is stunning to see a spawning male with his distinctive black and white crown up.

Habitat & Food

In the summer, look for such ducks in rivers and shallow ponds; in the winter, they travel to bays or lakes that aren’t frozen over.

Common Mergansers may readily be distinguished from the majority of many other waterfowl in Michigan by their narrow beak.

With the aid of its serrated bill, they catch fish, which is their preferred meal, but they also eat aquatic invertebrates, including crabs, snails, insects, and worms.

8. Green Heron

Green Heron

A little falcon with a long, sharp beak. They have a gray-green back. Other than the knit cap on the head, the neck and head are both chestnut brown.

Frequently, their necks are dragged into their bodies.

This little water bird may be located in Michigan in just about any damp environment with a lot of foliage since it offers hiding places.

As birds prefer to keep hidden for the majority of the day, you will most frequently encounter them foraging around dawn or dusk.

Having seemed to have no idea what I was hearing when I first heard the “skew” call of an agitated Green Heron inside the swamp behind my house since it was so unusual.

But fortunately, I can recognize those herons when I visit most wetlands since their noises are simple to learn.


Michigan is home to some of the most exquisite species of water birds.

You should keep your eyes open to discover some exciting species of birds.


Where do ducks from Michigan migrate to?

The ducks migrate from Michigan to Mexico.

Which Michigan bird has an orange beak?

The American Robin has an orange beak.

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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