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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Marsh Wren -- Cistothorus palustris
(formerly Long-billed Marsh Wren)

RANGE: Breeds from southwestern and east-central British Columbia and northern Alberta east to northern Michigan and eastern New Brunswick, south to Baja California, southwestern Arizona, extreme western and southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and east-central Florida. Generally very local in interior North America. Winters in coastal areas throughout the breeding range, and in the interior from the southern United States to Mexico.

STATUS: Locally common.

HABITAT: Prefers large fresh or brackish marshes with an abundance of tall emergent vegetation such as cattails, loosestrife, sedges, or rushes. Also frequents prairie sloughs, pond and sluggish river shores, marsh-fringed lakes, and the banks of tidal rivers bordered with tall emergent vegetation. Prefers large marshes grown with narrow-leaved cattails to those with broad-leaved cattails.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Marshy habitats with tall emergent vegetation.

NEST: Builds domed elliptical nest preferably in cattail stands of moderate density, 3 to 5 feet above the marsh substrate, which is generally shallow water. Usually attaches to cattails or other tall emergent vegetation, but may place it in small bushes or trees. Constructs many dummy nests and uses some for roosting.

FOOD: Gleans insects and spiders from surrounding marsh vegetation and the surface of the water; also hawks for insects and eats a few snails.

REFERENCES: Bent 1948, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Low and Mansell 1983, Verner 1965, Verner and Engelsen 1970, Vickery in Farrand 1983b, Welter 1935.

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