Living Bird Magazine
Marsh WrenCistothorus palustris
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Troglodytidae
The pugnacious Marsh Wren clings to wetland vegetation, tail cocked and legs splayed, often with each foot wrapped around a different stalk. This rusty-brown wren has black-and-white streaks down its back and a white eyebrow. It sings a rapid-fire gurgling, trilling, and buzzy song from the depths of the marsh where its secretive life unfolds. Under the cover of reeds, males build multiple nests and breed with more than one female. They also destroy eggs and nestlings of other Marsh Wrens and marsh-nesting birds.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Seeing a Marsh Wren in its often impenetrable marsh habitat can be tough, but these few tips might help. First, find a marsh with an elevated boardwalk. These provide more of a bird's-eye view of the cattails, allowing you to scan across more of the marsh and look down into it. Second, be there at the right time. Marsh Wrens are more vocal at dawn and dusk, and in the spring males are more likely to pop out of the marsh to sing from a taller cattail. Third, have your hands on your binoculars to quickly check out any movement you spot in the reeds.
- Cucarachero Pantanero (Spanish)
- Troglodyte des marais (French)
- Cool Facts
- The secret life of the Marsh Wren plays out under the cover of reeds. Here, males routinely mate with 2 or more females and build at least 6 dummy nests for every female they mate with. One male built 22 nests on his territory.
- Marsh Wrens are tiny but fierce. They fight for resources and regularly pierce eggs and kill nestlings of Marsh Wrens and other birds.
- Eastern and western populations of the Marsh Wren show slight differences in appearance, but large differences in song. In general, western birds are paler and drabber, and sing less musical songs. The differences may mean that the two forms are separate species.
- Marsh Wrens are boisterous songsters that sing not only at dawn and dusk, but sometimes throughout the night.