Family New World Warblers (Parulidae)

Least Concern

Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis)


French: Paruline des ruisseaux German: Drosselwaldsänger Spanish: Reinita charquera norteña

Motacilla noveboracensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Louisiana and New York, USA


Forms a species pair with P. motacilla, with ranges overlapping in S Canada (S Ontario) and NE USA. Geographical variation perhaps mostly clinal, and racial differences somewhat obscured by individual variation; species sometimes treated as monotypic. Birds from Newfoundland described as race uliginosus, but considered inseparable from nominate. Reported hybrid with Setophaga striata now thought probably to have involved S. tigrina and present species. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. n. notabilis (Ridgway, 1881) – Alaska and NW Canada S to NW USA (EC Oregon to extreme NW Wyoming), and E to N Ontario and Great Lakes. Winters in Mexico (from S Baja California, Sonora and Tamaulipas) S through Central America and Caribbean to N South America.
  • P. n. limnaea (McCabe & A. H. Miller, 1933) – C British Columbia (W Canada).
  • P. n. noveboracensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – SE Canada (E Ontario E to Newfoundland) and NE USA (S to N West Virginia). Winters to Central America, Caribbean and N South America.
  • Descriptive notes

    12·5–14 cm; 13·8–24·4 g. Distinctive parulid; constantly bobs tail up and down in characteristic manner. Nominate race has head and... read more


    Song begins with 3–4 short but loud emphatic notes and ends with downslurred flourish; can be... read more


    Breeds in wide variety of woodlands, and in willow (Salix) and alder (Alnus)... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds mainly on insects and other arthropods, molluscs and small crustaceans; occasionally takes small fish such as minnows (Leuciscinae),... read more


    Season May–Aug, egg-laying May–Jul. Nest a cup of grass, twigs, leaves and moss, lined with hair and blossom, placed low down... read more


    Long-distance migrant; wintering grounds of this species in Middle America, Caribbean and N South... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common throughout range. Study at Long Point, in Ontario, indicated steady decline in recent years; Breeding Bird Surveys... read more

    Recommended citation

    Curson, J. (2019). Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 September 2019).