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Overview

Brief Summary

Parkesia noveboracensis

A large (6 inches) wood warbler, the Northern Waterthrush is most easily identified by its brown back and wings, yellowish breast streaked with brown, and yellowish eye stripe. This species is physically similar to the related Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla), although that species is typically paler and less streaked below and on the face. Male and female Northern Waterthrushes are similar to one another in all seasons. The Northern Waterthrush breeds across Alaska, Canada, and the northern tier of the United States. In winter, this species is primarily found in the southern half of Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies. Small numbers of Northern Waterthrushes winter in south Florida, mainly south of Miami. Northern Waterthrushes breed in a variety of cool woodland habitats along the edges of shallow bodies of water, including streams, ponds, and bogs. In winter, this species is found in wetland portions of humid tropical forests as well as in coastal mangrove forests. Unusually for a warbler, Northern Waterthrushes primarily eat aquatic invertebrates, including insects and larvae, although this species will also eat terrestrial insects, snails, and small crustaceans during the winter. Along bodies of water in appropriate habitat, Northern 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. Northern Waterthrushes are primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

Threat Status: Least Concern

  • Eaton, Stephen W. 1995. Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/182
  • Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
  • Peterson, Roger Tory. Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.
  • Seiurus noveboracensis. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
  • eBird Range Map - Northern Waterthrush. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
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Distribution

In the breeding season, the Northern Waterthrush is found in a belt stretching from north central Alaska, east across all of the Canadian provinces. In the winter season, the species is found in the tropical mangroves of Central and South America.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: BREEDING: western and north-central Alaska and northwestern Mackenzie to Labrador and Newfoundland, south to southeastern British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, North Dakota, Great Lakes, eastern West Virginia, northwestern Virginia, and Massachusetts (Eaton 1995, AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: southern Baja California, southern Sinaloa, San Luis Potosi, northern Veracruz, and southern Florida south through Mexico (including Yucatan peninsula), throughout Central America to Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, northern Brazil, northeastern Peru, and Surinam; also abundant throughout the West Indies (Raffaele 1983, Pashley 1988a, Pashley 1988b, Pashley and Hamilton 1990, Eaton 1995).

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Range

N North America; winters to West Indies and n South America.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Physical Description

Morphology

The Northern Waterthrush is a large, ground walking warbler with a brown back and a white or yellowish streaked breast. The breast, sides, and flanks are streaked with a dark olive or black. There is an olive-colored triangular spot in the front of the eye and a crescent shaped mark on the lower eyelid. The throat is also covered with small triangular marks.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average mass: 18.7 g.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.28391 W.

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Size

Length: 15 cm

Weight: 18 grams

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Type Information

Type for Seiurus noveboracensis
Catalog Number: USNM 381382
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): H. Peters & T. Burleigh
Year Collected: 1945
Locality: Topsail, Saint John'S, Newfoundland, Canada, North America
  • Type: Burleigh, T. D. & Peters, H. S. 16 Jun 1948 . Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington. 61: 120.
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Type for Seiurus noveboracensis
Catalog Number: USNM 370456
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: unknown; Adult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): S. Williston
Year Collected: 1878
Locality: Como, Carbon, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Type: Ridgway. April? 1880. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 3: 12.
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Type for Seiurus noveboracensis
Catalog Number: USNM 381382
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): H. Peters & T. Burleigh
Year Collected: 1945
Locality: Topsail, Saint John'S, Newfoundland, Canada, North America
  • Type: Burleigh, T. D. & Peters, H. S. 16 Jun 1948 . Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington. 61: 120.
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Type for Seiurus noveboracensis
Catalog Number: USNM 370456
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: unknown; Adult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): S. Williston
Year Collected: 1878
Locality: Como, Carbon, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Type: Ridgway. April? 1880. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 3: 12.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The Northern Waterthrush prefers cool, dark, wooded swamps, thickets of bogs, margins of northern lakes, and willow and alder bordered rivers. During the spring and fall migration, the bird can be found in thick cover along streams, in marshes, and by stagnant pools.

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

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Comments: BREEDING: Breeds in cool, wooded swamps, ponds and slow-moving rivers; thickets of bogs, and rivers bordered with willow (SALIX) and alder (ALNUS, Godfrey 1986, Peck and James 1987). Regional habitats differ slightly. Throughout Canada and Alaska, nests primarily in spruce (PICEA) bogs, along alder-and willow-bordered rivers; also along lakes, swamps, and wet woodlands (Godfrey 1986). However, on islands off Newfoundland, known to nest in areas without standing water and where understory is less dense than on mainland (Vassollo et al.1982).

In New York state, breeds in hardwood swamps dominated by Red Maple (ACER RUBRUM) on the Great Lakes Plain, in Eastern Hemlock (TSUGA CANADENSIS)-northern hardwood swamps on the Allegheny Plateau, and in spruce-tamarack (LARIX)-balsam (ABIES) swamp valleys and uplands of the Adirondacks and Tug Hill Plateau (Eaton 1988). In Pennsylvania, found in RHODODENDRON swamps and a variety of wooded wetland types (Gross 1992). In Massachusetts, nests in locally in red maple swamps and white cedar and red maple swamps (Viet and Petersen 1993). In West Virginia, nests along rhododendron-bordered mountain streams, in spruce swamps and northern mixed forest to beech (FAGUS)-maple (ACER) forest (Brooks 1944).

Where sympatric with Louisiana Waterthrush, nests in areas with more forbs and ferns, with significantly more moss cover, hummocks, and conifers and with a higher density of shrubs; significantly more Eastern Hemlock and alder in Northern Waterthrush territories (Craig 1985).

NONBREEDING: Found mainly in damp tropical lowland forest, edges of pools and streams, mainly below 1,500 m. Mangroves (RHIZOPHORA, AVICENNIA, LABUNCULARIA) provide key habitat throughout much of range (Stotz et al. 1996, Bond 1971, Wetmore et al. 1984, Binford 1989, Lefebvre et al. 1992, Wunderle and Waide 1993). In Costa Rica, also found in open second growth or at wet spots in trails or roads (Stiles and Skutch 1989 Blake and Loiselle 1992). In northeast Nicaragua, in rain forest adjacent to pine habitat (Howell 1971). Tends to avoid disturbance, but may do well in second-growth tropical forest, edges, or woodlots (Ehrlich, et al. 1988).

Throughout its winter range found mainly below 1500 m (Curson et al. 1994). Highest recorded elevation in Columbia 3000m (Hilty and Brown 1986). In Costa Rica, ranges from lowlands to 1500 m, rarely higher, on both slopes, often extremely abundant in September along Caribbean coast; most numerous in Caribbean lowland and mangroves along the Pacific coast (Stiles and Skutch 1989). In Belize, most numerous in mangroves and gallery forest (Eaton 1995); occurs sparingly in cropland of cacao, rice, and citrus fruits (Robbins et al. 1992). In the West Indies, most often near the border of standing water, primarily saline and brackish, in or near mangroves and coastal scrub forest (Raffaele et al. 1998).

MIGRATION: Prefers damp woodlands with standing water, thick cover along streams, in marshes, and by stagnant pools, but is also found on lawns and in hedgerows and thickets (Winkler et al. 1992).

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

A neotropical migrant, traveling long distances nocturnally (Winkler et al. 1992). Migrates annually between breeding grounds in North America and wintering areas in West Indies and Central and South America, flying across or around Gulf of Mexico; a trans-gulf, circum-gulf, and trans-Caribbean migrant (Eaton 1995). Cannot carry enough fat to complete spring or fall migrations in one direct flight (est. 2,500 km) and must stop and eat (Winkler et al. 1992); migratory stopover habitat is especially important to this species.

Present in South America mainly September-April (Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Arrives in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in September, present through April (Raffaele 1983). Arrives in Costa Rica mid- to late-August, departs by mid-May; often abundant in September (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

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Trophic Strategy

During the breeding season, the basic diet consists of larval and adult insects, spiders, and snails. After leaf emergence in the spring, the bird feeds on primarily on butterfly larvae. On the winter grounds, the bird consumes a greater variety of food, adding minnows and decapod crustaceans to its diet. The Northern Waterthrush forages alone using such tactics as twig gleaning, flycatching, hovering, chasing, and a lot of pecking. Microhabitats for foraging include water, ground, foilage, and air. Before leaf emergence, the Waterthrush typically spends about 75% of the time feeding in water, alternating between wading and walking along logs, on branches, and the water's edge.

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Comments: On breeding grounds, eats various small invertebrates, primarily from muddy ground but also wades in shallow pools, gleans from foliage or soggy fallen leaves, and occasionally catches flying insects (Terres 1980, Lack 1976, Rappole and Warner 1980, Craig 1984). Takes larval and adult insects, spiders and snails. In the north, where associated with moving water, probably feeds on stoneflies (Plecoptera). After leaf emergence in spring, feeds extensively on Lepidoptera larvae (Eaton 1957, Craig 1987, Eaton 1995) In S. Carolina, known to have taken small minnows (Wayne 1910).

On non-breeding grounds, forages in mangroves, perching on fallen trees or pneumatophores, picking prey from substrates or near water surface, up to 3 m from ground but usually below 1 m (Lefebvre et al. 1992). Diet includes beetles, ants (Hymenoptera), flies, insect larvae, snails and decapod crustaceans found at water surface, on the ground, on fallen trees, or occasionally in low foliage. Typically forages alone, but sometimes in small groups probably only during migration when birds are immediately concerned with feeding (Schwartz 1964). In Cuba, small snails, small clams (Pelecypodia), snout beetles (Rhynchophora), small spiders and ants (Eaton 1995). Feeds on a greater variety of prey during migration.

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General Ecology

Territorial throughout the year. Thought to defend non-breeding foraging areas against intraspecific intrusion, occasionally violently. Mean territory size on breeding grounds from 0.5-1.0 ha by location and is similar on wintering grounds (Eaton 1995, Curson et al. 1994). Some indication that individuals may show changing preferences for habitat throughout non-breeding season despite other studies showing strong winter territoriality. Lefebvre et al. (1994) considered this species to be non-territorial in winter in northeastern Venezuela mangroves. Arrivals in Venezuela near end of rainy season occupy higher slopes, descending to humid lowlands in the dry season (Schwartz 1964). In northern Colombia, inhabits thornscrub in October but disappears in November as leaves wilt; unrecorded there in spring (Russell 1980). In addition, birds occupying coastal mangroves in Panama may migrate between habitat types mid-winter in response to prey availability. Abundance of Panamanian birds followed patterns of arthropod abundance and increased rainfall; species was more abundant in Pacific mangrove forests during the first part of the wintering period and more abundant in the Caribbean mangroves during the second part of the wintering season when rainfall and arthropod prey items increase there (Lefebvre and Poulin 1996).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
107 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 8.9 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Pair bonding begins immediately after the female arrives on the breeding site. Males perch in trees that are standing near water while females are below usually feeding along the edge of the water. Males vibrate their wings and raise their crown feathers and sing. The female may answer with a chink. The pair bond is broken shortly after successful fledging. The male selects the general area of the nesting site, but the female chooses the actual nest site. Nests are usually in the cavity of a root system of wind-blown trees in a wooded swamp, on the side of a fern clump or under cover along the banks of a lake or a river. There is typically covering above the nest and an opening to one side. The exterior of the nest is mainly moss and liverwort gametophytes. The interior of the nest cup is constructed with grass stems, twigs, or pine needles, and then lined with the hair of deer, caribou, cow, and rabbit. Average clutch is composed of four white ovate eggs spotted with browns and greys. The female is solely responsible for incubation, which lasts 12 days. Both parents, however, share feeding responsibilities. After four to five weeks the chicks begin feeding themselves.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average eggs per season: 4.

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Essentially monogamous. Pair bond maintained from shortly after male arrives to 3-4 days after successful fledging. Favors nest sites in cavities of root systems of wind-blown trees in wooded swamps, or on sides of fern clumps or under cover on the banks of lakes or rivers. Nest typically hidden from above (Eaton 1995, Baicich and Harrison 1997). Nest a bowl of moss and liverwort gametophytes with a few leaves on the outside, lined with grass stems, twigs or pine needles, moss sporophytes or small rootlets and hair. May have an entranceway of leaves (Eaton 1995, Baicich and Harrison 1997).

Clutch size four to five eggs, sometimes three to six. Distinctly smaller than cowbird eggs. Female incubates and will lure potential predators away from nest. (Eaton 1995). Eggs are laid in late May-June. Young are altricial, brooded by female until day five. Both parents feed young. Departure from nest at day nine. Young unable to fly and hide for 2-3 days under dense vegetation (Baicich and Harrison 1997). Parents split brood for feeding. One brood per season (Eaton 1995).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Seiurus noveboracensis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 26 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNCCAANTCTACAACGTCGTTGTTACGGCCCATGCCTTCGTAATAATTTTCTTTATAGTTATGCCGATTATAATCGGAGGGTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTAATAATCGGAGCCCCAGACATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTACCACCATCATTCCTTCTCCTCCTAGCCTCCTCCACTGTCGAAGCAGGTGTTGGCACAGGCTGAACGGTGTACCCCCCACTAGCTGGCAATCTAGCCCATGCCGGAGCCTCAGTCGACCTAGCAATCTTCTCCCTACACCTGGCCGGTATTTCTTCAATCCTAGGAGCGATTAACTTCATCACAACAGCAATTAACATGAAACCTCCTGCTCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCCCTATTCGTTTGATCAGTCCTAATCACTGCAGTCCTACTACTCCTGTCTCTCCCAGTCCTAGCCGCAGGAATCACAATGCTTCTCACAGACCGCAACCTCAACACCACATTCTTCGACCCTGCTGGAGGGGGAGATCCAGTCCTATATCAACATCTCTTCTGATTCTTCGGCCACCCAGAAGTATACATCCTAATTCTT
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Seiurus noveboracensis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 27
Specimens with Barcodes: 36
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2015

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • 2012
    Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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