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Northern Waterthrushes Singing

northern waterthrush 276If it is not singing, the Northern Waterthrush, a large wood warbler and not a thrush, can be recognized by its bobbing body and wagging tail. However, its loud, ringing song is the most diagnostic characteristic of this species, and allows one to distinguish it from its look-alike relative, the Louisiana Waterthrush. The primary song of the Northern Waterthrush has three parts, which are said to sound like a vigorous, rapid “sweet sweet swee wee wee chew chew chew chew.”

The Northern Waterthrush also has a flight song which is given on its breeding ground, typically in the evening. This song usually starts with loud, sharp, chips of increasing frequency, delivered from the ground or a low perch. The bird then flies upward through and above the canopy, singing snatches of primary song but quicker and longer, framed in a hurried jumble of half-call/half-song notes.

To hear the primary song of the Northern Waterthrush, go to http://langelliott.com/mary-holland/northern_waterthrush_1_NY.mp3. (Sound recording © Lang Elliott – langelliott.com & miracleofnature.org)

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10 responses

  1. Patsy Mathews

    Do you think that is an actual thrush singing in the background?

    >

    June 1, 2015 at 10:48 am

    • Yes, that’s a wood thrush in the background!

      June 1, 2015 at 10:52 am

  2. I think that’s a veery in the background.

    June 1, 2015 at 10:52 am

    • You’re very close, Melody — it’s a veery’s cousin, the wood thrush!

      June 1, 2015 at 10:54 am

  3. Michael

    Your blog has been a source of great pleasure since I discovered it a month or two ago.

    June 1, 2015 at 11:09 am

  4. ELi & Tucker

    Great photo!

    June 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

  5. teachdad46

    This is always our most favorite sign of the arrival of late spring/summer.

    June 1, 2015 at 12:03 pm

  6. Cindy

    As soon as I played the recording, my cocktiel started singing in my foreground!
    Very nice post on a very dreary day. Thanks!

    June 1, 2015 at 12:58 pm

  7. Beautiful capture in full-throated song, Mary!

    June 1, 2015 at 5:09 pm

  8. Tom Durkin

    Louisiana Waterthrush has a very similar call but with more ups and downs. The call matches its habitat. I likes land with ups and downs and is usually found near fast moving streams.

    The Northern Water Thrush has a flatter call in terms of pitch variation and is usually found near flat water streams and marshes.

    June 2, 2015 at 11:50 am

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