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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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

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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

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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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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