Kenn Kaufman’s column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. In our April 2015 issue, Kenn’s tips were all about recognizing Northern Waterthrush (pictured above) and Louisiana Waterthrush. He also included the following discussion of the loudness of the warblers’ songs:
The two species of waterthrush have distinctly different songs, but both are strikingly loud compared with most warblers. There’s a reason why it would be an advantage for the birds to turn up the volume: Their habitat is often dominated by rushing water. The sound would drown out lesser vocalists. Similarly loud voices are characteristic of other birds that live in this kind of habitat. One is American Dipper, which blasts out its loud song and metallic calls over the din of streams flowing in our western mountains.
Louisiana Waterthrushes living along streams do more than just make birders happy; they also serve as indicators of environmental quality. Studies in locations as diverse as Pennsylvania, Georgia, and southeastern Minnesota have found a clear connection between the presence of the species and the health of ecosystems. In places where pollution or acid runoff from mines had affected the streams, the birds were absent or present in reduced numbers with reduced breeding success. Since the species sings so loudly, it can be surveyed quickly and easily, with much less effort than taking numerous water samples from streams and rivers. In fact, the National Park Service is now using data on the distribution of Louisiana Waterthrush as one way of monitoring eastern watersheds. — Kenn Kaufman, Contributing Editor
Kenn Kaufman’s column “ID Tips,” featuring the photographs of Brian E. Small, appears in every issue of BirdWatching. The article above is an excerpt of a column that ran in our April 2015 issue. Subscribe.
Attention, warbler photographers!
If you take a picture of Louisiana or Northern Waterthrush, please share it in one of our photo galleries. Be sure to indicate not only the city, state or province, and country where you found the bird but also the month and date on which you took your picture.