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From the Winter 2009 Conservationist for Kids

Waterway Wildlife

Rivers are home to many different animals and birds. Below is a list of wildlife commonly found near rivers in New York State. How many of them have you seen before?

Hooded Merganser
Size: 16-19 inches, wingspan 26 inches
Excellent underwater vision; find their prey underwater by sight
Live along inland waterways across New York State
Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser

Bald Eagle
Size: 28-38 inches high; wingspan to 80 inches
Found across the state along the shorelines of ocean, lakes, reservoirs and rivers
Swoop down to scoop fish, their primary food, from near the water's surface
Listed as "threatened" on the endangered species list; through conservation efforts, have made a dramatic recovery

A beaver, the New York State mammal
A Beaver, the New York State mammal

Size: 36-42 inches
Live in and along New York's waterways, state-wide, except for Long Island
Were once hunted almost to extinction for their pelts, but are now thriving

River Otter
Size: 36-48 inches; weighs 10-30 pounds
Found mostly in the eastern half of the state
Playful, agile, swift swimmers as they search for food like crayfish and fish
Two river otters
River Otters


Size: 6-8 feet in length, occasionally 200 pounds
Lake sturgeon are in the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers, Lake Ontario and its tributaries; Atlantic and shortnosed sturgeon in the Hudson River
Look like creatures from the dinosaur age; trace their ancestry back to the days of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago

Size: Often longer than 20 inches; up to 10 pounds
Found in deeper areas of lakes, rivers and streams throughout New York, except Long Island
Have large, light-sensitive eyes for feeding in poor light
Very hungry predators

Wood Duck
Wood Duck

Wood Duck
Size: 19-21 inches; wingspan 28 inches
Found state-wide, in forested wetlands and along rivers, ponds and lakes
One of only a few species of North American ducks that nest in trees
Young jump from the tree to the water, sometimes from great heights

Belted Kingfisher
Size: 11-14 inches in length
Found state-wide along waterways
Often seen hovering over the water before plunging headfirst to catch a fish

Belted Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher

Size: adults 1-3.5 inches
Live along New York's waterways, state-wide
Juvenile or "nymph" phase is aquatic
Adults and nymphs eat insects, helping to keep mosquitoes under control

Size: 2-5 inches in length
Grows by molting, shedding its exoskeleton many times over its lifespan
Eaten by larger animals, including fish, raccoons, and otter