Abstract Contamination of recreational water by bird feces is a main concern of water managers. It is important to understand the sources of Escherichia coli contamination since the organism is frequently used as a water hygiene parameter. Here, we address presence and levels of E. coli in fecal shedding from several waterfowl (25 geese, 20 coots, and 40 gulls) and demonstrate that there is a bird species variation. Results indicate that gull feces contain a greater average concentration of E. coli per gram than do geese or coot feces. However, contamination risks also depends on bird abundance. These are important aspects for effective water bird management.