Look who’s in the birdbath!

What a surprise and a first time for this little beauty. At first, I thought that it was one of our many house sparrows but I’ve never seen a house sparrow tipping back and forth the way this bird was.

The genus for this bird’s species is “Seiurus”.  “Seiurus” translates as “tail wagger”. Tail wagging is an adaptation for birds which live near running water. It enables them to be seen and to keep track of others of the same species. The teetering is in strong contrast to the appearance of moving water. The spotted sandpiper is also a tail wagger.

On this mid-September warm day, I could clearly see the brown back and yellowish-white below with dark breast streaks. Our visitor was a northern waterthrush.

Northern Waterthrush (photo: Ken Sproule)

Northern Waterthrush (photo: Ken Sproule)

He (or she) was far from the more northern, swampy areas which served as home during the summer. They are found all over Canada in the right habitat during breeding. The one that I saw was on its way south to a winter home in the Bahamas or Mexico. They will travel as far as to northern South America.

I have heard the northern waterthrush song at least 1000 times but this was only the 4th or 5th that I have ever seen. My grandfather used to describe the song as: quoit – quoit – quoit – swee-wee-wee – wheat.” I know that many of you don’t think that birds “say” anything but it does help to have some phrase in mind when you are learning calls.

The Cornel Lab of Ornithology has a wonderful site at: http://www.birds.cornell.edu. Here you can hear first-rate recordings of all North American birds.

I enjoyed the waterthrush visit so much that I have just returned from giving the bath a good scrub and adding fresh, cool water.

Miles Hearn

northern watertrush

Northern Watertrush

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