• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Northern Waterthrush


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A bird of northern forests, the Northern Waterthrush sings its loud, ringing song from wooded swamps and bogs. It can be seen on migration bobbing its tail near wet spots in parks or back yards.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
4.7–5.5 in
12–14 cm
8.3–9.4 in
21–24 cm
0.5–0.9 oz
13–25 g
Other Names
  • Paruline des ruisseaux (French)
  • Verdin charquero (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Northern Waterthrush is territorial in both winter and summer. On the breeding grounds the male proclaims its territory with its loud, ringing song. On the wintering grounds it uses its "chink" calls, together with chasing and fighting, to keep out intruders.
  • The Louisiana and Northern waterthrushes are very similar species whose breeding ranges overlap slightly. Their songs and their habitats, while similar, differ significantly. The pitch of the beginning notes of the Louisiana's song usually descend, just as does the hilly stream that is its preferred habitat. The Northern Waterthrush prefers bogs and waters that are flat, just as its beginning notes stay on the same pitch.
  • The oldest recorded Northern Waterthrush was at least 8 years, 11 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Michigan in 1987. It had been banded in Ontario in 1978.



Breeds in thickets near slow-moving streams, ponds, swamps, and bogs; in migration and winter, uses a variety of wooded habitats, generally near water, often in mangroves.



Insects. Also other arthropods, snails, and occasionally small fish.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–6 eggs
Egg Description
White with dark spots and scrawls concentrated around large end.
Nest Description

Open cup of moss and leaves, lined with fine plant stems, rootlets, hair, and moss. May construct entranceway of whole dead leaves. Nest placed in small hollow or cavity under fallen log, or within roots of an upturned tree.

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Feeds mainly on ground, wades in shallow water.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Northern Waterthrush are common and widespread. However, U.S. populations experienced a small decline between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 19 million with 28% spending part of the year in the U.S., 72% in Canada, and 25% in Mexico. They rate a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not listed in the 2014 State of the Birds Report.


Range Map Help

Northern Waterthrush Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.