Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Louisiana Waterthrush

Parkesia motacilla

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.
Conservation status Undoubtedly has declined with loss of habitat in its range. Surveys suggest that current populations are stable.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Brooks, ravines, wooded swamps. In southern areas, nests in bottomlands, borders of lagoons and swamps, or near sluggish or fast-moving streams. In northern part of range (where it overlaps the range of Northern Waterthrush), favors rapid-flowing, gravel-bottomed streams flowing through hilly, deciduous forest. In winter in the tropics, near streams in lowland woods, occasionally in coastal mangroves.
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.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Walks on ground while foraging, usually along edge or in water, over stones and moss. Turns over dead or wet leaves to find prey. Also flies out over streams to catch flying insects. Defends winter feeding territories against other waterthrushes.


Eggs

3-6, normally 5. Creamy white, with brown and purple-gray spots. Incubation by female only, 12-14 days. Frequently parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10 days after hatching. 1 brood per year.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10 days after hatching. 1 brood per year.

Diet

Aquatic and terrestrial insects, crustaceans. Eats many insects including beetles, bugs, adult and larval mayflies, dragonflies, crane-fly larvae, ants, caterpillars, scale insects; also small crustaceans, snails, a few small fish and seeds. Tends to take larger items than Northern Waterthrush.


Nesting

Males defend long narrow territories along streams. Each male defends by chasing intruding males, and by singing; sometimes sings in flight, as well as from perches and the ground. Male sings persistently only up until eggs are laid, then sings infrequently. Nest site is concealed in roots of upturned tree, near water, under overhanging banks of streams, or in hollow of rocky ravine. Nest is an open cup, probably built by female, made of leaves, moss, twigs, bark; and lined with fine rootlets, ferns, grass stems, and hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Moves north very early in spring, arriving on nesting grounds in March and April; in fall, many have left nesting areas before the end of August.

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Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Moves north very early in spring, arriving on nesting grounds in March and April; in fall, many have left nesting areas before the end of August.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song is 3 clear notes followed by a descending jumble.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Wood Warblers Perching Birds

Louisiana Waterthrush

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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