Northern WaterthrushParkesia noveboracensis

adult
Steve Mlodinow/VIREO
adult
Gerard Bailey/VIREO
adult
Doug Wechsler/VIREO

Family

Description

The Northern Waterthrush is likely to be found around bogs and streams inside the forest. Often shy and hard to approach, it draws attention with its odd "teetering" behavior -- bobbing the rear half of its body up and down constantly as it walks -- and with its loud metallic callnote. It has a wide distribution in both summer (Alaska to New Jersey) and winter (Florida to South America).

Habitat

Swampy or wet woods, streamsides, lake shores; in migration, also thickets. Breeds mostly in coniferous forests with standing or sluggish water, as found in shrubby bogs and edges of northern lakes, less often along swift streams. In migration, may appear in any habitat; more frequent in thickets along edges of water. In winter in tropics, often in coastal mangrove swamps.

Feeding Diet

Aquatic and terrestrial insects, crustaceans. Feeds mainly on insects, including water beetles, water bugs, flea beetles, damselflies, weevils, mosquitoes, ants, fly pupae, caterpillars, moths; also some slugs, snails, crustaceans, and occasionally small fish. Takes mostly insects in winter, also some small crustaceans and other invertebrates.

Feeding Behavior

Walks on ground and wades in shallow water. Often forages on half-submerged logs. Uncovers prey by tossing aside dead and soggy leaves found in rock crevices. Defends winter feeding territories against other waterthrushes.

Nesting

Males sing throughout the breeding season, not ceasing after pair formation; song apparently serves to defend territory. Sometimes sings in flight. Nest site is usually in a small hollow in a moss-covered stump, under a jutting bank, or 0-2' above the ground in roots of uprooted tree, typically very near water. Nest is in shape of open cup, often well hidden among ferns. Constructed by female of leaf skeletons, sphagnum moss, pine needles, twigs, inner bark, and lined with soft material such as red moss filaments. Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-6. Whitish, with brown, purple-gray spots and blotches. Incubation is by female, 12-13 days. In southern part of range, often parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest approximately 10 days after hatching, can fly well by about a week later.

Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. Whitish, with brown, purple-gray spots and blotches. Incubation is by female, 12-13 days. In southern part of range, often parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest approximately 10 days after hatching, can fly well by about a week later.

Young

Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest approximately 10 days after hatching, can fly well by about a week later.

Conservation

Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat, especially on wintering grounds, but surveys suggest that numbers are currently stable.

Range

Migrates mostly at night. Does not migrate north as early in spring as Louisiana Waterthrush. As a migrant, common in the East, scarce in most parts of the West.

Listen

songs #4
songs #2
calls
songs#1
songs #3

Similar Species

adult, Pacific

Hermit Thrush

A more hardy bird than the other brown-backed thrushes, the Hermit migrates north earlier in spring and lingers later in fall than the others; it is the only one likely to be seen in winter in North America. If startled from the ground in the forest interior it often perches low and stares at the observer, flicking its wings nervously and slowly raising and lowering its tail. In summer, its clear, pensive song is heard in forests of the mountains and the north.

adult

Wood Thrush

Seemingly not as shy as the other brown thrushes, not as bold as the Robin, the Wood Thrush seems intermediate between those two related groups. It sometimes nests in suburbs and city parks, and it is still common in many eastern woodlands, where its flutelike songs add music to summer mornings. However, numbers of Wood Thrushes have declined seriously in recent decades, focusing the attention of conservationists on the problems facing our migratory birds.

adult

Worm-eating Warbler

A dry trilled song in the undergrowth of deciduous woods in summer announces that the Worm-eating Warbler is at home. Less colorful than most of its relatives, it is also more sluggish, foraging deliberately in the woodland understory or on the ground, probing among dead leaves with its rather long bill. Despite the name, it does not feed on earthworms; it does eat caterpillars, but no more than many other warblers.

adult

Swainson's Warbler

A shy denizen of southern canebrakes, Swainson's Warbler is more often heard than seen. It spends most of its time on or near the ground in dense cover, walking about in search of insects. Quite plain in appearance, and with a relatively heavy bill, it does not suggest a warbler when it is glimpsed foraging in the undergrowth; however, it may be recognized by its rich musical song, audible from some distance away.

adult

Ovenbird

In shady woods, this odd warbler walks with deliberate steps on the forest floor, holding its short tail cocked up higher than its back. Although it is not especially shy, its choice of habitat often makes it hard to observe; its ringing chant of teacher, teacher is heard far more often than the bird is seen. The name "Ovenbird" is a reference to the bird's nest, a domed structure with the entrance on the side, like an old-fashioned oven.

adult

Louisiana Waterthrush

A thrush-like warbler that walks on the ground at the water's edge, bobbing the rear part of its body up and down. It is very similar to the Northern Waterthrush, but has a more restricted range in both summer and winter. The two species overlap in summer in parts of the northeast but tend to divide up by habitat there, the Louisiana living along flowing streams, the Northern favoring still waters and stagnant bogs.

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