Birds

Hundreds of species of birds live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Some birds live here year-round, while others migrate to the region to feed or nest.

Birds are some of the region’s most beautiful, but vulnerable, species. While each bird has a distinct behavior and habitat need, they all serve as important links in the Bay food web. But birds are sensitive to pollution and habitat loss.

American black duck

American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)

The American black duck (Anas rubripes) is a dusky brown dabbling duck that appears black from a distance. It lives year-round along the quiet, isolated tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, and it serves as a symbol of healthy coastal habitats. American black ducks prefer quiet, forested areas and eat seeds, bay grasses, aquatic plants and small invertebrates. You can find it feeding on the water’s surface or by “tipping up” its tail and submerging its head to reach food underwater. More than 200,000 black ducks used to winter in the Chesapeake region. Today, fewer than 50,000 visit the region each winter. Scientists believe this is due to loss of food and habitat, as well as heavy hunting pressure and interbreeding with mallards.

Great blue heron

Image courtesy Mike Baird/Flickr

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

The great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is a tall, bluish-gray wading bird with a long, pointed bill and a graceful, S-shaped neck. It lives year-round in marshes and wetlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, and can often be seen wading silently in shallow water. Great blue herons eat mostly fish, but will also feed on insects, amphibians, crustaceans and other small animals.

Tundra swan

Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)

The tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus) is a large, white bird that visits the shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal rivers and wetlands from autumn through spring. It is one of only two native swan species in North America, and it tends to live and travel in flocks and migrate to and from the Arctic tundra. Tundra swans can be confused with the invasive mute swan, but can be distinguished by its black bill and straight neck.