Overview

Brief Summary

Cistothorus palustris

Slightly smaller than the similarly-shaped Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), the Marsh Wren is most easily identified by its size (5 inches), white eye-stripes, and white-striped back. Other field marks include a curved bill, short tail, and short wings. Male and female Marsh Wrens are similar to one another in all seasons. The Marsh Wren has two distinct breeding populations, mainly differentiated by differences in song patterns. One breeds in the eastern U.S., south-central Canada, and along the Gulf Coast. The other breeds from the Pacific coast of the U.S.east to the western Plains. Most birds breeding in the northeastern U.S.and Canada migrate to coastal areas of the southeastern U.S.in winter, while some western birds winter in the desert southwest and in Mexico. Most western Marsh Wrens, as well as coastal-breeding birds in the east, are non-migratory. Appropriately, the Marsh Wren inhabits a variety of marshland and wet grassland habitats across North America. The majority of Marsh Wrens breed in freshwater marshes, but coastal birds inhabit brackish or saltwater marshes as well. This species eats a variety of insects found in the water, on the blades of marsh grasses, or in the air. Due to this species’ preference for heavily-vegetated marshland habitats, the Marsh Wren is often more easily heard than seen. Male Marsh Wrens may be seen singing while perched atop marsh vegetation. With the aid of binoculars, Marsh Wrens may be seen while partially hidden in the undergrowth, climbing stalks of grasses while foraging for food. Marsh Wrens may also be seen undertaking short flights above the grass. This species is primarily active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

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The marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris) is a common bird inhabiting freshwater cattail marshes and salt marshes. Marsh wrens breed throughout most of the northern half of the United States and in coastal areas as far south as Florida; they winter in the southern United States and into Mexico, particularly in coastal areas. Marsh wrens eat mostly insects, and occasionally snails, which they glean from the surface of vegetation. This species was formerly known as the long-billed marsh wren (Telmatodytes palustris).

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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: BREEDS: central British Columbia across southern Canada to New Brunswick, south to southern California, northern Mexico, Texas, Gulf Coast, and Florida; local breeder in interior. WINTERS: coastal areas throughout breeding range and in interior from southern U.S. to southern Mexico.

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Geographic Range

The breeding range of the Marsh Wren (Cistothorus_palustris) extends west from the Atlantic coast to Nebraska and North from southern Illinois to northwestern. In the western United States Cistothorus palustris is a year round resident. There are also breeding and resident populations along coasts of the southern Atlantic and Gulf states. The wintering range extends south from the southwestern states of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas and into Mexico; Florida is also a wintering ground for Marsh Wrens (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Geographic Range

The breeding range of the Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) extends west from the Atlantic coast to Nebraska and North from southern Illinois to northwestern. In the western United States C. palustris is a year round resident. There are also breeding and resident populations along coasts of the southern Atlantic and Gulf states. The wintering range extends south from the southwestern states of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas and into Mexico; Florida is also a wintering ground for Marsh Wrens (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The Marsh Wren is a small wren, ranging from 10.4 and 14.0 cm in total length and weighing between 9.0 and 14.0 grams. Males and females have similar plumage. This species has a black crown, white superciliary stripes, warm-brown upperparts with faint black bars, a black and white striped triangular region on the upper back, buffy sides and breast, whitish below, and dark barring on the tail. Marsh Wrens have brown eyes, pale brown feet and legs, and a brownish bill. Males are larger than females, though body size varies geographically. Juvenile plumage is similar to adult plumage except there are fewer black markings on back, the superciliary stripe is faint or absent, and wings are only faintly barred (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

Range mass: 9 to 14 g.

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Physical Description

The Marsh Wren is a small wren, ranging from 10.4 and 14.0 cm in total length and weighing between 9.0 and 14.0 grams. Males and females have similar plumage. This species has a black crown, white superciliary stripes, warm-brown upperparts with faint black bars, a black and white striped triangular region on the upper back, buffy sides and breast, whitish below, and dark barring on the tail. Marsh Wrens have brown eyes, pale brown feet and legs, and a brownish bill. Males are larger than females, though body size varies geographically. Juvenile plumage is similar to adult plumage except there are fewer black markings on back, the superciliary stripe is faint or absent, and wings are only faintly barred (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

Range mass: 9 to 14 g.

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Size

Length: 13 cm

Weight: 12 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Freshwater and brackish marshes in cattails, tule, bulrush, and reeds (AOU 1983). Nests in marsh vegetation; female finishes one of several nests started by male; male may continue to build nests even after female begins incubation. Nesting success may be greatest in marshes with relatively dense vegetation and deep water (Leonard and Picman 1987).

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Marsh Wrens use a variety of wetland habitats. Cattails and bulbrush is the vegetation that dominates most Marsh Wren habitat. This wren occurs in salt and brackish marshes in addition to freshwater sites. The habitat of the winter range is similar to that of the breeding range (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

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Marsh Wrens use a variety of wetland habitats. Cattails and bulbrush is the vegetation that dominates most Marsh Wren habitat. This wren occurs in salt and brackish marshes in addition to freshwater sites. The habitat of the winter range is similar to that of the breeding range (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

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Marsh wrens inhabit freshwater and saltwater marshes, usually nesting in association with bulrushes, cattails, and sedges or on occasion in mangroves (Welter, 1935; Bent, 1948; Kale, 1965; Verner, 1965). Standing water from several centimeters to nearly a meter is typical of the areas selected (Bent, 1948). Permanent water is necessary to provide a food supply of insects necessary to maintain the birds and as a defense against predation (Verner and Engelsen, 1970). Deeper water and denser vegetation are associated with reduced predation rates (Leonard and Picman, 1987).

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Northern interior breeding populations highly migratory, coastal and southern populations resident or locally migratory.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats mainly insects and other invertebrates.

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Food Habits

Marsh Wrens mainly eat invertebrates, especially insects (e.g. bees, ants, wasps, beetles, and moths) and spiders as well as aquatic invertebrates in freshwater marshes. Foraging occurs on or near the marsh floor; Marsh Wrens glean insects from stems and leaves of vegetation and the water's surface. Some birds may forage in thickets or shrub patches that occur near the marsh (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

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Food Habits

Marsh Wrens mainly eat invertebrates, especially insects (e.g. bees, ants, wasps, beetles, and moths) and spiders as well as aquatic invertebrates in freshwater marshes. Foraging occurs on or near the marsh floor; Marsh Wrens glean insects from stems and leaves of vegetation and the water's surface. Some birds may forage in thickets or shrub patches that occur near the marsh (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

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Food Habits

Marsh wrens consume aquatic invertebrates, other insects, and spiders, which they glean from the water surface, on stems and leaves of emergent vegetation, and the marsh floor (Kale, 1965; Welter, 1935). They sometimes also feed by flycatching (Welter, 1935). The insect orders most commonly taken include Coleoptera (both adults and larvae), Diptera (adults and larvae), Hemiptera (juveniles and adults), Lepidoptera (larvae most commonly fed to nestlings); and Odonata (newly emerged) (Bent, 1948; Kale, 1964). When feeding the young, at first the parents bring mosquito adults and larvae, midges, larval tipulids, and other small insects (Welter, 1935).

As the young mature, the parents bring larger insects such as ground beetles, diving beetles, long- horned beetles, caterpillars, dragonflies, and sawflies to the nestlings (Welter, 1935). In a population in Georgia, spiders (usually 1 to 3 mm in size, sometimes 12 to 15 mm), small crabs (5 to 7 mm), small snails (1 to 3 mm), and insect eggs also were consumed and fed to nestlings (Kale, 1965). Thus, organisms that are aquatic for all or part of their lives are an important component of the diet of marsh wren adults and nestlings.

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Associations

Known prey organisms

Cistothorus palustris preys on:
Agelaius phoeniceus

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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General Ecology

Adults may destroy eggs and young of conspecifics and of other marsh-nesting passerines (see Leonard and Picman 1987). May be excluded from areas of marsh by yellow-headed blackbird (Leonard and Picman 1986). Territory size small, generally less than 0.2 hectares (Verner 1965, Verner and Engelsen 1970, Kale 1965).

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Clutch size is 3-10 (commonly 5-6). Two broods per year, sometimes 3. Incubation, by female, lasts 12-16 days. Young leave nest at 11-16 days but are still fed. Males in most populations are polygynous (Leonard and Picman 1987).

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Marsh Wrens are polygynous, but the percentage of males mating with more than one female varies among populations (e.g. in Georgia 5% of males had more than one mate, while 41-54% of males in Manitoba had more than one female). Timing of pair formation is variable depending on population and year. Males begin singing within one to two days of their arrival on the breeding grounds. In migrant populations females usually arrive on breeding grounds seven to ten days after males and then mate with males a few days after their arrival.

Males build numerous, single-opening dome-shaped nests on their territory prior to female arrival. Female choice is dependent upon territory quality and nesting status of other females (i.e. females tend to prefer unmated males). When a female approaches a male's territory he flies over to her and sings. If she enters his territory the male will show her several nests he has constructed, and if she chooses to mate with the male she may line a nest with strips of grass, small stems, cattail downs, feathers and rootlets or she may build an entirely new nest (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

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Marsh Wrens are polygynous, but the percentage of males mating with more than one female varies among populations (e.g. in Georgia 5% of males had more than one mate, while 41-54% of males in Manitoba had more than one female). Timing of pair formation is variable depending on population and year. Males begin singing within one to two days of their arrival on the breeding grounds. In migrant populations females usually arrive on breeding grounds seven to ten days after males and then mate with males a few days after their arrival.

Males build numerous, single-opening dome-shaped nests on their territory prior to female arrival. Female choice is dependent upon territory quality and nesting status of other females (i.e. females tend to prefer unmated males). When a female approaches a male's territory he flies over to her and sings. If she enters his territory the male will show her several nests he has constructed, and if she chooses to mate with the male she may line a nest with strips of grass, small stems, cattail downs, feathers and rootlets or she may build an entirely new nest (Kroodsma and Verner 1997).

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Breeding activities and social organization

Many populations of marsh wren are polygynous, with some males mating with two, occasionally three, females in a season, while the remaining males have one mate or remain bachelors. For example, Leonard and Picman (1987) found 5 to 11 percent bachelor males, 41 to 48 percent monogamous males, 37 to 43 percent bigamous males, and 5 to 12 percent trigamous males in two marshes in Manitoba, Canada. Similarly, Verner and Engelsen (1970) found 16 percent bachelors, 57 percent monogamous, and 25 percent bigamous males in eastern Washington state. In contrast, Kale (1965) found most males to be monogamous through 4 years of study in Georgia.

Males arrive at the breeding marshes before the females to establish territories that include both nest sites and foraging areas (Kale, 1965; Verner, 1965; Welter, 1935). Males build several nests in their territories throughout the breeding season (Kale, 1965; Verner, 1965). The female usually only adds lining material to a nest of her choice, although some may help construct the breeding nest (Kale, 1965). Breeding nests are oblong in shape, with a side opening, and are woven of cattails, reeds, and grasses and lashed to standing vegetation, generally 30 cm to 1 m above standing water or high tide (Bent, 1948; Verner, 1965). Incubation lasts approximately 2 weeks, as does the nestling period (Kale, 1965; Verner, 1965). After fledging, one or both parents continue to feed the young for about 12 days (Verner, 1965). Many populations typically rear two broods per year, although some may rear three (Kale, 1965; Verner, 1965). In the more monogamous populations, both parents regularly feed young, but in the more polygynous ones, the females may provide most of the food, with males assisting only toward the end of the nestling period (Leonard and Picman, 1988; Verner, 1965).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Cistothorus palustris

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 9 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNCCTTANACTCCTCATCCGAGCAGAGCTAGGCCAACCTGGCGCCCTACTTGGAGACGACCAAGTCTACAATGTTNTCGTCACAGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTTATACCTATCANGATCGGAGGCTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCACTAATAATCGGAGCCCCTGACATAGCATTCCCCCGAATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTCCTCCCTCCCTCCTTCCTGCTCCTACTAGCCTCCTCCACCGTTGAAGCAGGAGTCGGAACAGGCTGAACAGTATACCCTCCCCTAGCAGGTAACCTAGCCCACGCTGGAGCATCAGTTGACCTAGCCATCTTCTCCCTCCACCTAGCAGGCATCTCCTCCATCTTAGGCGCAATCAACTTCATTACAACAGCAATCAACATAAAACCCCCTGCCCTATCCCAATACCAAACACCCCTATTCGTCTGATCTGTCCTAATTACTGCAGTCCTTCTACTACTCTCCCTCCCCGTTCTTGCCGCAGGCATCACCATGCTACTAACGGACCGAAACCTCAACACCACATTCTTTGACCCCGCAGGGGGAGGCGACCCTGTCCTCTACCAACACCTATTCTGATTCTTTGGACACCCAGAGGTATACATCCTAATCCTC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cistothorus palustris

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 10
Specimens with Barcodes: 11
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B,N5N : N5B: Secure - Breeding, N5N: Secure - Nonbreeding

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Habitat degradation is the greatest threat to Marsh Wren vitality, although some migrants are killed every year in collisions with communication towers and other structures. Destruction of marshes and wetlands used by Marsh Wrens as breeding or wintering grounds results in a great reduction in numbers in the area. Marsh Wrens readily colonize newly created or restored wetland habitats, however, resulting in increasing population sizes in some areas (e.g. high numbers of Marsh Wrens were found in marshes created by dam construction along the Colorado River) (Kroodsma and Verner 1997). Marsh wrens are a species of special concern in Michigan.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: special concern

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Habitat degradation is the greatest threat to Marsh Wren vitality, although some migrants are killed every year in collisions with communication towers and other structures. Destruction of marshes and wetlands used by Marsh Wrens as breeding or wintering grounds results in a great reduction in numbers in the area. Marsh Wrens readily colonize newly created or restored wetland habitats, however, resulting in increasing population sizes in some areas (e.g. high numbers of Marsh Wrens were found in marshes created by dam construction along the Colorado River) (Kroodsma and Verner 1997). Marsh wrens are a species of special concern in Michigan.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: special concern

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population Trend
Increasing
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Conservation concerns may prevent development of wetland habitat.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Unknown.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Conservation concerns may prevent development of wetland habitat.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Unknown.

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Wikipedia

Marsh wren

The marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris) is a small North American songbird of the wren family. It is sometimes called long-billed marsh wren to distinguish it from the sedge wren, also known as short-billed marsh wren.

Adults have brown upperparts with a light brown belly and flanks and a white throat and breast. The back is black with white stripes. They have a dark cap with a white line over the eyes and a short thin bill.

The male's song is a loud gurgle used to declare ownership of territory; western males have a more varied repertoire.

A marsh wren singing in Typha marsh in Minnesota

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Their breeding habitat is marshes with tall vegetation such as cattails across North America. In the western United States, some birds are permanent residents. Other birds migrate to marshes and salt marshes in the southern United States and Mexico.

These birds forage actively in vegetation, sometimes flying up to catch insects in flight. They mainly eat insects, also spiders and snails.

The nest is an oval lump attached to marsh vegetation, entered from the side. The clutch is normally four to six eggs, though the number can range from three to ten.[2] The male builds many unused nests in his territory. He may puncture the eggs and fatally peck the nestlings of other birds nesting nearby, including his own species (even his own offspring) and red-winged blackbirds, yellow-headed blackbirds, and least bitterns.[3]

This bird is still common, although its numbers have declined with the loss of suitable wetland habitat. Wholesale draining of marshes will lead to local extinction. Still, this species is widespread enough not to qualify as threatened according to the IUCN.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Cistothorus palustris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "All About Birds: Marsh Wren". Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  3. ^ Kroodsma, Donald E.; Verner, Jared (1997). "Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)". In A. Poole, Ed. The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Formerly known as Long-billed Marsh-Wren. Placed in monotypic genus Telmatodytes by many authors (AOU 1983). Composed of two groups which may represent separate species: paludicola of western North America (Western Marsh-Wren) and palustris of eastern North America (Eastern Marsh-Wren) (Kroodsma 1989, AOU 1998). As yet not known if differences in song and plumage types are correlated, or if marsh wrens care about the song difference and what this means in terms of gene exchange (DeBenedictis, 1990, Birding 22:98-100).

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