Wetlands - The Birds

Wetlands (plural) - is often used by birders to define large parts of the countryside which may include areas of wetland, shallow water pools, inland water bodies, mud-flats, marshland and swampland. These areas, inland or coastal, may be permanent features or may arise periodically due to seasonal flooding. Differentiating between them is all about the depth of the water:-

1. Wetland – is ground which has become saturated with water, fresh or saline, to the extent that pools of standing water develop. To distinguish this situation from Shallow water pools and Inland water bodies the water in the pools should be too deep to walk through but not deep enough to swim in.

Wetland habitats are favoured by:-Cranes (15), Ibis (27) and Spoonbills (6), Limpkin(1).

2. Shallow waters – deeper than the standing water mentioned above but not deep enough to attract birds which dive for prey. Such areas may occur around the margins of large inland water bodies.

This habitat favours long legged waders because they like to avoid getting their under-body feathers wet. They include:-Stilts (6), Avocets (4), Jacanas (8).

3. Inland water bodies – may be fresh water or saline in the form of ponds, lakes, lagoons, reservoirs etc. The water depth may be sufficient to attract surface or plunge divers. The area covered may be large or even vast.

This habitat is favoured by plant eating birds which feed on submerged or surrounding vegetation. They include:-Magpie Goose (1), Screamers (3).
Waterfowl - Swans (7), Geese (29), Whistling Ducks (9), Shelducks(6), Ducks (100), Loons (5), Grebes (21), Flamingos (6), Coots (11).
Cormorants (38), Anhingas (2).

4. Marshland - areas are dominated by sedges, reeds and rushes. Reed beds occur at the margins of lakes, ponds, reservoirs etc in water which is generally less than 1 metre deep.

Birds which favour this habitat wait patiently to spear prey in the marshland margins using their dagger beaks. They include:-Herons, Egrets and Bitterns (66) as well as Snipe (20), Moorhens (3), Swamphens (6), Rails and Crakes (103).

5. Swampland - usually has deeper water than marshes with more wooded growth. Mangrove swamps have trees and shrubs which grow in saline, coastal waters in the tropics and sub-tropics.

Birds such as the Agami Heron, Boat-billed Heron are found in this habitat in the tropical regions of the world.

6. Coasts and Shores - these birds are seen along the edges of water rather than in the water. Their plumage often provides camouflage which makes them a little less obvious when seen against pebbles on a beach. I separate them as follows:-

  • Sight, pursue, catch - the larger birds such as Lapwings (23), Plovers (45), Killdeer and Dotterel.
  • Shoreline foragers - Oystercatchers(10). Sheathbills (3).
  • Shoreline Gleaners - (15 species) - Sanderlings and small Sandpipers, Stints, Turnstones etc.
  • Shore and mud-flat probers - (45 species) - Dowitchers, Godwits, Curlews, Shanks, Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, Sandpipers, Knot, Dunlin, Ruff.

7. Rivers and Streams

  • River birds / perch & dive / dagger beak – WW - Kingfishers - one third of (95) species. Click on Kingfishers.
  • River birds / forage under water - Europe, America - Dippers (5).
  • Forage banks of streams – Central America - Sunbittern (1), Europe - Ibis bill (1).
  • Fast flowing rivers – Costa Rica – S. America – Bare-throated & Fasciated Tiger Herons.

In total about 750 species can be regarded as Wetland Birds.

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