Photo courtesy Charles Martinez
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the northern water thrush.
Here’s a bird which doesn’t fit the mold. Despite its name, it does not belong to the family of birds known as thrushes, which includes the familiar American robin, western and mountain bluebirds, and the Townsend’s solitaire. Instead, it is classified with the warblers, many of whom are colorful birds found flitting around in the forest canopy.
Don’t look for this bird high in the trees. Most often it is found foraging at the water’s edge searching for larval and adult insects, spiders, clams, snails, small fish or salamanders. On long legs, it walks in shallow water snatching prey from the surface or the bottom, and on vegetation, rocks or logs. Characteristically, it bobs its rear like a sandpiper as it walks along.
The northern waterthrush is a bird of wet habitats with dense ground cover: wooded swamps, bogs and thickets. While it is most often found in areas of standing water, in migration, it stops at any wetland area as long as there is ground cover to duck into.
This warbler breeds across Canada and Alaska and spends the winter from Florida south to South America. It is among the first birds to move south during fall migration, and that is the best time to look for it here.
With its brown back, long body and heavily streaked yellowish belly, it does resemble some members of the thrush family. A prominent white or buffy-colored streak sits above its eye.
In some areas the northern waterthrush population has grown in number, but in its winter range, rising sea levels and forest clearing will impact the mangrove forests where it lives.
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