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Marsh Wren - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Skean
Plum Island, Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA, June 2005
Cistothorus palustris


Subspecies thryophilus
Photo by Stanley Jones
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Chambers County, Texas, USA, December 2017

11·5–12·5 cm (4½-5 in); A small, stocky wren with a relatively long bill and relatively bright, contrasting markings.

  • Brown upperparts
  • Light brown belly and flanks
  • White throat and breast
  • Black back with white stripes
  • Dark cap
  • White supercilium
  • Short thin bill
  • Relatively long, pinkish legs adapted for grasping vertical reeds


Back Plumage
Photo © by jrcummins84
Horicon Marsh State - National Wildlife Refuge
Mayville, Wisconsin, USA, 14 May 2021

United States and Mexico. See Taxonomy section for detailed distribution of subspecies.


Photo © by DJ ODonnell
Loveland, Colorado, USA, 23 May 2021


Fourteen or fifteen subspecies are recognized:[1]

A study shows genetic divisions within this species possibly indicating a future split.

Subspecies deserticola is not recognised by all authorities.[2]


This species occurs almost exclusively in marshes with tall vegetation.


Solitary or in pairs. Tends to remain hidden in tall reed grasses; most often heard rather than seen. Forages within the reeds for food. The males often appear perched on vertical reeds and singing emphatically. Has been known to destroy the eggs of other birds nesting in the grasses, and having its own eggs vandalized in turn.


Polygamous. The male builds several globular nests attached to the reeds with side doors; the female chooses one and finishes construction, lining it with feathers and plant material. The nests can be in colonies if the breeding population is dense enough. Incubation of eggs is 12-16 days, by the female. Young stay in nest 11-16 days. Two broods per year.


Includes insects, spiders and snails, and sometimes other birds' eggs.


Song: Complex trilling and gurgling songs, with a wide repertoire, especially among the western subspecies. Also sings at night.
Call: An abrasive tuk, similar to the flight calls of some blackbirds, or te-suk-te-suk. Other rattling or chirring calls are possible from within the wide vocal range of this species.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Paper describing genetic findings with this species

Recommended Citation

External Links

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