Birds – Northern Water Thrush

(Seiurus noveboracensis) Wood Warbler family


Length—5 to 6 inches. A trifle smaller than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—Uniform olive or grayish brown above. Pale buff line over the eye. Underneath, white tinged with sulphur-yellow, and streaked like a thrush with very dark brown arrow-headed or oblong spots that are also seen underneath wings.

Range—United States, westward to Rockies and northward through British provinces. Winters from Gulf States southward.

Migrations—Late April. October. Summer resident.

According to the books we have before us, a warbler; but who, to look at his speckled throat and breast, would ever take him for anything but a diminutive thrush; or, studying him from some distance through the opera-glasses as he runs in and out of the little waves along the brook or river shore, would not name him a baby sandpiper ? The rather unsteady motion of his legs, balancing of the tail, and sudden jerking of the head suggest an aquatic bird rather than a bird of the woods. But to really know either man or beast, you must follow him to his home, and if you have pluck enough to brave the swamp and the almost impenetrable tangle of undergrowth where the water thrush chooses to nest, there “In the swamp in secluded recesses, a shy and hidden bird is warbling a song; ” and this warbled song that Walt Whit-man so adored gives you your first clue to the proper classification of the bird. It has nothing in common with the serene, hymn-like voices of the true thrushes ; the bird has no flute-like notes, but an emphatic smacking or chucking kind of warble. For a few days only is this song heard about the gardens and roadsides of our country places. Like the Louisiana water thrush, this bird never ventures near the homes of men after the spring and autumn migrations, but, on the contrary, goes as far away from them as possible, preferably to some mountain region, beside a cool and dashing brook, where a party of adventurous young climbers from a summer hotel or the lonely trout fisherman may startle it from its mossy nest on the ground.