Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr Creative Commons

Sedge Wren

Cistothorus platensis

Related to the Marsh Wren but different in some key habits, the Sedge Wren is a rather mysterious creature for many birders. It is often hard to see as it creeps about in damp sedge meadows of the east and midwest, occasionally coming up to give its dry rattling song. As a summer resident it is oddly erratic in many areas, showing up and breeding one summer and then vanishing again. Overall, its numbers seem to be gradually declining.
Conservation status Local numbers vary from year to year; overall population in North America apparently has been declining in recent decades, but reasons are poorly understood.
Family Wrens
Habitat Grassy marshes, sedgy meadows. Breeds mostly in damp meadows of grass or sedges, also in lush hayfields and other fields with dense low growth and scattered bushes. Generally not in deep-water marsh, but may be along their grassy edges. Winters in rank weedy meadows, coastal prairies.
Related to the Marsh Wren but different in some key habits, the Sedge Wren is a rather mysterious creature for many birders. It is often hard to see as it creeps about in damp sedge meadows of the east and midwest, occasionally coming up to give its dry rattling song. As a summer resident it is oddly erratic in many areas, showing up and breeding one summer and then vanishing again. Overall, its numbers seem to be gradually declining.
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  • adult
  • juvenile
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages very low in dense low growth of sedges and grass, creeping about and searching for insects among the vegetation and on the ground. May sometimes make short flights to catch insects in the air.


Eggs

4-8. White, unmarked. Incubation is by female only, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed young but female may do more. Young leave nest about 12-14 days after hatching.


Young

Both parents feed young but female may do more. Young leave nest about 12-14 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects. Diet is not known in detail, but feeds on a wide variety of insects including true bugs, beetles, moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants, flies, and many others. Also eats many spiders.


Nesting

Very erratic in its choice of nesting territory, little colonies springing up one year and vacated the next. One male may have more than one mate. Adults often puncture the eggs of other birds nesting nearby (including those of other Sedge Wrens). Nest: Male may build several incomplete "dummy" nests that are never used. Real nest is built very low among standing grass or sedges in wet meadow, up to 3' above the ground, usually hard to find. Nest is a round globular ball woven of sedges and grasses, with a small entrance on the side. The inside is lined with fine grass, plant down, animal hair, feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Somewhat nomadic in summer, appearing and breeding where habitat conditions are favorable in a given year.

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Migration

Somewhat nomadic in summer, appearing and breeding where habitat conditions are favorable in a given year.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A series of harsh notes, sounding like two pebbles tapping together; often heard at night.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Wrens Perching Birds

Sedge Wren

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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