When sighting a waterthrush during spring migration season, the most reliable way to tell the difference between the very similar-looking Louisiana and Northern waterthrushes is by their very different songs. 

In my own experience, the Louisiana Waterthrush is very vocal in Missouri at this time as it is already on its territory, and it's song is easily recognizable, similar to a Yellow-throated Warbler, slurring downward but with a chatter-like ending. 

In contrast, the Northern Waterthrush is rarely heard singing on its migratory path northward, and it's song is quite different from the Louisiana Waterthrush without the slurring downward pattern, and it's louder and more punctuated. 

A yellowish cast to the underbelly can occur on the Louisiana Waterthrush, especially under certain light conditions, and the other visible differences can appear indistinguishable at times. So if you're out in the field in Missouri during spring migration, and you're uncertain of which waterthrush it is, just wait around for a few minutes. The Louisiana should eventually start singing. If it doesn't sing, I'd place my odds on it being a Northern Waterthrush.

Bob Bailey 
St. Louis, MO 
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Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:35:22 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Northern waterthrush
To: [log in to unmask]

If the underparts were ‘quite yellow’, it was most definitely a Northern.

 

Chris Hobbs

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Lenexa, KS

 

 

 

From: Missouri Wild Bird Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of John Kamerud
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:35 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Northern waterthrush

 

Along Duckett's Creek in Weldon Springs this morning. I was thinking Louisiana Waterthrush, because he was along the stream bank and because I have seen LAWT there before. However, this bird was quite yellow underneath, and his tail was bobbing briskly the whole time. 
 
Also saw red-headed woodpecker, which is pretty reliable where the paved trail meets the Katy Trail.
 
John Kamerud
Lake St Louis


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The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
Archives / Subscription options / ASM Website / Email the list owners
ABA Birding Code of Ethics
ASM Spring Meeting: May 2-4, 2014 in Jefferson City Details and Online Registration


The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
Archives / Subscription options / ASM Website / Email the list owners

ABA Birding Code of Ethics

ASM Spring Meeting: May 2-4, 2014 in Jefferson City Details and Online Registration