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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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 Will Reshape the Range of the Sedge Wren

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Sedge Wren

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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