Louisiana Waterthrush

Parkesia motacilla
Louisiana Waterthrush specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A large (6 inches) wood warbler, the Louisiana Waterthrush is most easily identified by its brown back and wings, whitish breast streaked with brown, and conspicuous white eye stripe. This species is physically similar to the related Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis), although that species is typically darker yellow and more streaked below and on the face. Male and female Louisiana Waterthrushes are similar to one another in all seasons. The Louisiana Waterthrush breeds across the eastern United States and southern Canada, being more or less absent from the southeastern coastal plain, upper New England, and parts of the Midwest. In winter, this species is found in the southern half of Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies. Many birds fly across the Gulf of Mexico twice a year while on migration. Louisiana Waterthrushes breed in a variety of woodland habitats along the edges of streams and creeks. In winter, this species is found in similar streamside areas in humid tropical forests. Unusually for a warbler, Louisiana Waterthrushes primarily eat aquatic invertebrates, including insects and larvae. Along streams in appropriate habitat, Louisiana Waterthrushes may be seen walking on the shoreline or wading in shallow water while foraging for food. This species’ characteristic tail wagging behavior, in which the rear half of the body is flicked up and down almost constantly while the bird is in motion, is highly unusual among wood warblers. Louisiana Waterthrushes are primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Common summer resident, near banks of wooded streams. Arrives early April, leaves mid-September. Nests from early April to mid-June. Sexes are alike.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31015 Parkesia motacilla (Louisiana Waterthrush)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31113 Parkesia motacilla (Louisiana Waterthrush)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC53853 Parkesia motacilla (Louisiana Waterthrush)