Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Northern Waterthrush - Parkesia noveboracensis
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments The Northern Waterthrush is one of the few warblers that nests from coast to coast, though this range lies primarily in Canada, as well as Alaska and the states just south of Canada. It does nest down the Appalachian chain, but only to West Virginia and very rarely to Virginia. It winters mainly in the tropics, and thus is a pure migrant through North Carolina, occurring in all counties in spring and/or fall. Unlike its close relative, the Louisiana Waterthrush, the Northern is found only along more sluggish, standing water in hardwood areas, such as wooded pools, slow-moving streams, swampy places, margins of beaver ponds, and margins of lakes and ponds. In recent years, a few birds have lingered near the state's coast into early and mid-winter, though it is far from being a winter resident.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient, and a very sparse early winter straggler. In spring, generally uncommon in the western half of the region, but is less numerous eastward, and rare to very uncommon near the coast. In fall, somewhat more numerous; uncommon to fairly common over the region as a whole. Mainly late Apr to mid-May, and early Aug to mid-Oct. Winter records: at least 5 reports in Dec, 1 for 4 Jan, 1 for 23 Jan, and most significantly, 1 at Mattamuskeet NWR on 1 Feb 2009* (photo). Peak counts:
Piedmont Transient. Uncommon to fairly common essentially across the entire region, in both spring and fall; presumably less numerous in the foothills (uncommon), where suitable habitat is less frequent than farther east. Mainly late Apr to mid-May, and mid-Aug to early Oct. Winter record: 1, Chapel Hill area, 17 Jan 1982. Peak counts:
Mountains Transient. Mostly uncommon, at lower to middle elevations; presumably quite scarce over about 4,500 feet, due to scarcity of suitable habitat. Mainly late Apr to late May, and mid-Aug to early Oct. One winter record: at Beaver Lake (Buncombe), late fall into 12 Dec 2016. One photographed at Brevard College (Transylvania) from 7 Mar - 1 Apr 2022 suggests a possibly overwintering bird. Peak counts: 13, Jackson Park (Henderson), 17 May 1996.
Finding Tips If you bird in suitable damp wooded areas over a several-day period in early May, or in Sep, you stand a decent chance of seeing it. Places such as Mason Farm near Chapel Hill, Howell Woods (Johnston), and Jackson Park in Hendersonville are suitable sites for finding it, though you can never expect to see or hear one on a given day.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-04-03], LeGrand[2022-09-14], LeGrand[2021-05-17]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.