Seiurus motacilla
Louisiana waterthrush

Key Characteristics

The Louisiana waterthrush is a large, brownish warbler, with average length and wingspan of 6 inches (15.5 cm) and 9.5 inches (24.5 cm), respectively. Its upper parts are brown, its breast is white with brown streaks and its flanks have a faint buffy (not yellow) tint. It has a bold white line extending over its eye to the back of its head, flaring somewhat farther back. Tail bobbing is common and is more exaggerated than the similar looking Northern Waterthrush. The two waterthrushes are easily separated by their song.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: T - Threatened (legally protected)
  • State Rank: S2S3 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from imperiled to vulnerable
  • Global Rank: G5 - Secure


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
St. Clair12011
Map Distribution Alcona Alger Allegan Alpena Antrim Arenac Baraga Barry Bay Benzie Berrien Branch Calhoun Cass Charlevoix Cheboygan Chippewa Clare Clinton Crawford Delta Dickinson Eaton Emmet Genesee Gladwin Gogebic Grand_Traverse Gratiot Hillsdale Houghton Huron Ingham Ionia Iosco Iron Isabella Jackson Kalamazoo Kalkaska Kent Keweenaw Lake Lapeer Leelanau Lenawee Livingston Luce Mackinac Macomb Manistee Marquette Mason Mecosta Menominee Midland Missaukee Monroe Montcalm Montmorency Muskegon Oakland Oceana Ogemaw Ontonagon Osceola Oscoda Otsego Ottawa Presque_Isle Roscommon Saginaw St__Clair St__Joseph Sanilac Schoolcraft Shiawassee Tuscola Van_Buren Washtenaw Wayne Wexford

Updated 9/4/2014. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Louisiana waterthrushes prefer broad forested areas along clear streams and may nest right on the stream bank in exposed roots.

Natural Community Types


Waterthrushes need natural substrates along forested streams and rivers. Logging, forest fragmentation and shoreline hardening all harm this species. Do not remove fallen trees along the shoreline whenever possible. Do not mow, remove brush, trees, use herbicides, or insecticides in areas known or likely to support nesting pairs of waterthrushes.

Active Period

Migration from fourth week of March to first week of May

Nesting from first week of May to fourth week of June

Migration from fourth week of July to first week of September

Survey Methods

Surveys for this species are typically point counts or transects through suitable habitat during the breeding season.

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Sep 2, 2014]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract


Survey References

Technical References