Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis)

Northern Waterthrush

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Parulidae | [latin] Seiurus noveboracensis | [UK] Northern Waterthrush | [FR] Sylvette des ruisseaux | [DE] Drossel-Waldsanger | [ES] Chipe de Agua Norteno | [NL] Noordse Waterlijster


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized, plump but sleek Nearctic wood warbler adapted to ground-feeding on moist ground, where its horizontal posture, walking gait, and teetering of body and tail recall Common Sandpiper. Plumage markedly pipit-like but upperparts unstreaked; long narrow yellowish supercilium distinctive.

Listen to the sound of Northern Waterthrush

[audio: Waterthrush.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 21 cm wingspan max.: 24 cm
size min.: 12 cm size max.: 15 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 9 days fledging max.: 13 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America : North, Central


Breeds in temperate Nearctic lowlands, in woodlands, foraging on forest floor. Favours well-drained bottomland, deciduous forest, not too thick with undergrowth. In winter in South America, inhabits deciduous forest, forest edge, and other wooded areas near sea-level.


Pairs typically form as soon as females arrive on the nesting grounds. Monogamous pairs are the norm, but males with multiple mates are not unheard of. The male selects a general area for nesting, and the female chooses the exact nest site and builds the nest. The nest is usually on the ground, tucked under an upturned tree root, along a bank, in a fern clump, or up to two feet off the ground in a moss-covered stump. The nest is usually covered and has a side entrance. It is built of moss, pine needles, leaves, twigs, bark, and other plant material, and lined with hair. The female incubates 4 to 5 eggs for 12 to 13 days, and then broods the young for about 5 days after they hatch. Both parents feed the young. Nine to 10 days after hatching, the young leave the nest, and the parents divide the brood, each taking half. The young can fly well within a week or so of leaving the nest, but remain with the parent. The parents provide food for at least four weeks after the young fledge. Each pair raises only one brood a season.

Feeding habits

Northern Waterthrushes eat large aquatic and terrestrial insects, small crustaceans, and other invertebrates.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 7,600,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 13,000,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2003). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Breeds in North America from north-east British Columbia and southern Mackenzie east to Newfoundland, south to eastern Colorado, eastern Oklahoma, northern Alabama, and South Carolina.
Accidental. Britain: Shetland, October 1973; Devon, freshly dead, October 1985; Merseyside, tideline wing found, January 1969. Ireland: Lough Carra forest (Mayo), freshly dead, December 1977; Dursey Island (Cork), September 1990.
Northern Waterthrush status Least Concern


Migrant. Breeding and winter ranges approach within 200 km in south-east USA, but most birds migrate over 1000 km. Winters mainly Florida, West Indies, and from northern Mexico south to Panama. Migration on broad front in both seasons, mainly east of Rockies, and from eastern Mexico to southern Florida.

Distribution map

Northern Waterthrush distribution range map

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