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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

Sedge Wren -- Cistothorus platensis
(formerly Short-billed Marsh Wren)

RANGE: Breeds from extreme east-central Alberta and central Saskatchewan east to northern Michigan and southern New Brunswick, south to east-central Arkansas, central Kentucky, and southeastern Virginia, and west to central North Dakota and eastern Kansas. Winters from western Tennessee and Maryland to northeastern Mexico, Texas, the Gulf Coast, and Florida.

STATUS: Scarce and local; populations are declining in the Northeast and Midwest.

HABITAT: Inhabits wet meadows and the damp upper margins of marshes and sphagnum bogs. In the Northeast, commonly inhabits sedge meadows, shallow sedge marshes with scattered shrubs and little or no standing water, and coastal brackish marshes of marsh hay cordgrass with scattered low shrubs and herbs. In the Midwest, prefers wet meadows dominated by sedges, cottongrass, mannagrass, and reed grass, but also frequents emergent vegetation associated with marshes, and retired croplands and fields.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wet meadows or drier edges of marshes for nesting.

NEST: May be loosely colonial in good habitat, otherwise nests singly. Builds nest over land or water in dense vegetation such as canarygrass, sedges, or bulrushes, but shuns cattails; usually places nest 1 to 3 feet above the substrate. Males build many unlined dummy nests, but few are used by females.

FOOD: Gleans insects and spiders from the ground and surrounding marsh vegetation.

REFERENCES: Crawford 1977, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Mousley 1934b, Tate and Tate 1982, Vickery in Farrand 1983b, Walkinshaw 1935.

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