The small, short-tailed Sedge Wren is unusual in that birds apparently breed in two different regions of the U.S. in a single summer, once early in the summer farther north, and again later farther south. Moisture levels, vegetation changes, and human activities can all change habitats so much and so rapidly that Sedge Wrens have low site fidelity from year to year.
Sedge Wrens are well known for destroying the eggs of any birds nesting near them. They do this by puncturing the eggs with their bill, and both males and females participate. The male Sedge Wren defends a territory, though the boundaries often change during the nesting season.
Length: 4 inches
Wing span: 5 inches
Description of the Sedge Wren
The Sedge Wren has brown upperparts boldly streaked with black and white, pale buffy underparts, a whitish line above the eye, heavy black and white barring on the wings, and a short, barred tail that is usually held cocked upright.
Seasonal change in appearance
Juveniles are similar to adults.
Sedge Wrens inhabit sedge meadows and grassy marshes.
Sedge Wrens eat insects.
Sedge Wrens forage in dense grasses or sedges.
Sedge Wrens breed from southern Canada south to the Great Lakes region and mid-western U.S. They winter in the southeastern U.S. The population may be declining in the east but increasing in the Great Lakes region.
Sedge Wrens have a complex breeding distribution, perhaps moving south for a second brood each summer.
Male Sedge Wrens may build a number of “dummy” nests, from which the female chooses the one to be used.
The song consists of an opening “chap…chap…chap” followed by a more rapid series of “chap-chap-chap-chap-chap.”
The Sedge Wren’s nest is a ball of sedges or grasses with a side entrance. It is placed low in dense grasses or sedges.
Number: Usually lay 4-8 eggs.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 14 days and fledge at about 12-14 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for another several weeks.
Bent Life History of the Sedge Wren
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Seaside Sparrow – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
CISTOTHORUS PLATENSIS STELLARIS (Naumann)
This tiny wren is more of a meadow wren than a marsh wren, for it shuns the wettest marshes where the long-billed marsh wren loves to dwell among the tall, dense growths of cattails or buirushes and where the water is a foot or more deep. It prefers the drier marshes or wet meadows, where there is little water or where the ground is merely damp. These are what we call the sedge meadows, where the principal growth consists of various species of Carea~ and tall grasses, often growing in thick tufts, and various other plants that need a little moisture. Such marshes are often intersected by streams or ditches or are bordered by lower and wetter marshes where cattails and bulrushes flourish in the deeper water; the short-billed marsh wrens have often been seen among the cattails and have even been known to build their nests low down in these flags, but they much prefer to breed in the sedge and grass association. A large marsh of the latter type, near my home, has been a favorite breeding ground for these wrens for many years; there are some small willows, alders, and gray birches along the banks of the intersecting ditches; and small bushes scattered through the marsh serve as singing stations for the wrens; many flowering plants add color to the scene all through summer, and it is a glorious sight early in fall when the bur-marigold carpets the whole meadow with a blaze of yellow. A pair of marsh hawks may be seen here in spring performing their courtships; we have often seen the male in his spectacular flight and have flushed the female from her nest. This and other similar swamps in eastern Massachusetts are the favorite haunts of swamp sparrows, song sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, and northern yellowthroats.
L. McI. Terrill (1922), writing of the Montreal district, says: “In this locality the Short-billed Marsh Wren has a decided preference for sphagnum bogs: not so much the bog proper as the firmer ground about the bog margins, where there is a certain amount of free surface water and a fairly heavy growth of grasses and sedges. Here the silky tassels of the cotton-grass waving above the lesser growth, are a familjar sight and one is more apt to find swamp laurel in greater abundance than bushes of Labrador Tea, which appears to thrive better in the yielding sphagnum. Clumps of alders are also commonly found with an occasional tamarack sapling and sometimes beds of cattails, while often there is a thicket of poplars and birches in the background.”
Dr. Lawrence H. Walkinshaw (1935) says that in Michigan “the favorite habitat of the Short-billed Marsh Wren is not among the large groups of cattails with several feet of standing water, but rather in the higher part of the marshes, in the intermediate portion between the bordering meadow and the deepest part of the swamp itself. There is generally very little and often no water at all where they nest.” He says that “these marshes are the favorite habitat for the saudhill crane * * ¶ Yellow Rail * * ~, Greater Prairie Chicken * * Savannah Sparrow * * ¶ Henslow’s Sparrow * * ~, Leconte’s Sparrow * * *, Swamp Sparrow * * *, and Song Sparrow * * ~ Among the plants growing in the marsh, he lists royal, sensitive, and marsh ferns, cattails, wood bulrush, showy ladyslipper, calopogon, some of the smaller willows, fringed and closed gentians, climbing wild cucumber, tall ironweed, joepyeweed, blue vervain, Canada goldenrod, beggarticks, nodding bur-marigold, New England aster, Yellow dock, and turtlehead. “In the early part of the summer grasses and sedges predominate, and later the appearance of the marsh takes on the gay colors, the yellows and blues, of the goldenrods, asters, and vervains.”
Wendell Taber tells me that in a marsh in New Hampshire, at an elevation of 1,020 feet, he has found this wren in June for four seasons in succession; he usually hears olive-sided and alder flycatchers and once a winter wren singing while he was listening to the marsh wren.
The short-billed marsh wren is widely distributed over the central and eastern parts of southern Canada and a large part of the northern half of the United States. But it does not seem to be evenly distributed and seems to be rare or unknown in many portions of this wide range. It is common only where it can find suitable marshes; some of these marshes may contain only one or two pairs, while others may support populous colonies. Perhaps it is commoner in many places than is generally supposed, because of its small size and shy, retiring habits. Furthermore, the marshes where it lives are not as carefully explored by bird lovers as some other places.
Nesting: This wren not only lives in a different type of habitat from that of the long-billed species, but its nesting habits are quite different.
It has been said by some authors to build a nest like that of the longbilled marsh wren and in similar situations; I have seen such supposed nests of this species in collections. These nests all contained white eggs and were naturally taken to be short-billed marsh wrens’ nests. But, as the long-billed marsh wren sometimes lays white eggs, perhaps oftener than we realize, I suspect that some of, if not all, these nests may have belonged to the latter species.
It has been my experience, and I find that most authors agree with me, that the short-billed marsh wren builds its nest almost, if not quite, always in the types of habitat described above and not in the dense, deep-water cattail swamps; the nest is placed in sedges or grass, or other low herbage, close to the ground, mud, or very shallow water, not more than a foot or two above it at the most, and never at the heights favored by the long-billed species in cattails and bulrushes; the nest is globular in shape and not oval, ovate, or coconut-shaped; it is well hidden deep down in the thick sedges or grasses, very different from the conspicuous domiciles of the other species; it is a ball of dry and green grasses, with a well-concealed opening on the side; generally the growing green grasses are woven into the ball, making it inconspicuous, and often the growing grasses are arched over it, helping still further to conceal it. It is a very difficult nest to find, most easily overlooked, and the bird usually sneaks away from it without betraying its location.
Three of the nests described in my notes illustrate the slight variations I have noted in Massachusetts nests, all of which were found in fresh-water marshes near Boston. One, in a marsh where the water was nearly knee deep, was in plain sight on the side of a tussock of tall grass on the edge of an open place, about 2 feet above the water; it was, however, almost invisible and could have been easily overlooked, as it was made of green grass woven into a neat ball and so plased as to blend perfectly into the surrounding grasses. Another was beautifully hidden on the side of a large tuft of tall grass, the opening looking out to the northward across a little shallow open water between the tufts; the bottom of the nest was 12 inches above the water, and the tallest grass tops were about 12 inches above the top of the nest; the concealment of the nest was made more effective by wrapping around it many blades of green growing grass, giving it the appearance of being made of green grass. The third, in a meadow that was not very wet, was placed near the base of a tuft of tall grass only a few inches from the damp ground; it was made entirely of coarse dry grasses and was lined with fine grass, feathers, and fur. One found in the same marsh by my companion, Owen Durfee, was in shorter green grass, not tufted, near a ditch; the bottom of this nest was only 4 inches above the mud.
A nest found by Mr. Terrill (1922) in the locality near Montreal, described above, was “almost resting on the [sphagnum] moss at the base of a low kalmia bush. It was very loosely fastened to the bush and was fairly well hidden by surrounding grasses. In respect of being globular and having a side entrance it resembled the nest of the Long-billed Marsh Wren. Otherwise the loose construction and composition of very old grasses and sedges recalled nests of the shrew. Also it was resting practically on the ground, or moss. It contained two newly hatched young and three addled eggs, two of which were cracked. As far as I could discover the lining tonsisted of down from poplar (?) catkins, a piece of fur-covered hare skin, and a few chickadee feathers.”
A nest studied by Henry Mousley (1934) near St. Hubert, Quebec, in the same general region, is thus described: “The nest, an almost globular structure with a small entrance hole on one side, was composed outwardly of narrow strips of dry cattail leaves whilst the inside lining consisted of a thick layer of cattail down and five white feathers of a domestic fowl. It was only 2 inches above the ground, at the foot of a clump of the common or soft rush (Juncus effusus), this being the more or less general situation. Its height was 6 inches, width 5 inches, whilst the inside diameter was 3 inches.” The surrounding herbage consisted principally of goldenrods, intermixed with rushes and sedges, as well as clusters of asters, spiked purple loosestrife, meadowsweet, beggarticks,.and Roman wormwood.
The nests observed in Michigan by Dr. Walkinshaw (1935) were apparently similar in location and construction to the Massachusetts nests described above, “all in dense thick masses of small-leafed sedge, or in a combination of sedges and finer grasses.” The birds usually build several nests, “and the used nest is often a little closer to the ground than the false ones. * * * Often the false nests of one pair will be located almost to the territory of another pair, in large meadows where they seem to congregate in colonies. In the marsh studied in Calhoun County, during 1934, in an area of about 10 acres, there were as many as 35 or 40 males singing at the same time, while in other places of smaller size only one pair could be found.”
I have no firsthand knowledge of the number of false, or dummy, nests usually built by this wren, but many observers have referred to the universal habit. These nests are presumably built by the male, but this does not seem to have been definitely proved; they are usually unlined and not so well built as the brood nest. Forbush (1929) says: “It is a great nest builder. Just how many unlined nests one ambitious male will build nobody seems to know, but where there is a large colony of these wrens, the nests are ‘legion,’ and ‘where few birds are breeding the occupied nests are difficult to find.”
Eggs: The commonest number of eggs in the nest of the shortbilled marsh wren seems to be 7, but as few as 4 and as many as 8 have been recorded. The eggs are ovate or pointed-ovate, the shells are thin and very fragile, and the color is pure white and unmarked. The measurements of 50 eggs in the United States National Museum average 16.0 by 12.0 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 17.3 by 12.7, 17.0 by 12.7, 14.4 by 11.3, and 15.2 by 11.2 millimeters.
Young: The period of incubation has been stated as from 12 to 14 days, and is apparently performed by the female alone. Dr. Walkinshaw (1935) writes:
The young of the Marsh Wren remain in the nest from 12 to 14 days. They are fed by the female almost entirely but the male occasionally will stop to feed them. Excreta are carried away by the mother bird on her feeding trips to the nest.
When the weather was very warm, the young peered out through the opening, breathing very fast with mouths wide open. They showed little fear of man until they were about 12 to 14 days old, thea when one approached the nest they watched very dubiously.
Alter they leave the nest the young move about among the sedge and bushes of the marsh like little mice, except that they occasionally move up to secure food from their parents which feed them until they are able to take care of themselves, even then they move about In small groups until migration time.
At the nest watched by Mr. Mousley (1934), “altogether, the young were fed 28 times in the 6 hours, or at the rate of once in every 13 minutes, and this by the female alone, her partner contenting himself by always singing from his favourite station on the thorn bush, whenever she approached the nest:’ Several observers have stated that two broods are raised in a season. Fresh eggs have been found at such early and late dates that this seems to be indicated.
Plumages: I have not seen the natal down. Dr. Walkinshaw (1935) describes some very young birds as follows:
The young have legs and bill pink, the latter a little darker near the tip of the maxilla. The young when they leave the nest are from 55 to 70 mm. in length. The top of the hcad on one specimen of 58 mm. In length, had no stripes, being dark brown changing to a lighter brown on the forehead. The hack, rump and upper tail coverts were uniform hair brown, the wings a deeper brown, and the breast very similar but a little lighter, than that of the adult. The tnll was 10 mm. in length, hair brown with one black hand about two mm. in width at the tip. A bird 66 mm. in length had the coloration much the same, but there were indications of black on the wings and nape. In a bird 69 mm. long the head was colored the same, bat the wings were barred with blackish and tipped with brown, and the back was barred with black. The breast on the sides was much more huffy and had a distinct band near the throat. The bills were decurved In these young birds.
Dr. Dwight’s (1900) description of what is probably an older bird differs but slightly: “Above, dull black on the pileum and back, the nape, sepia, the rump and upper tail coverts russet; streaked anteriorly with white, barred on the rump and wings with black, white and cinnamon, palest on the primaries; the tail drab, mottled rather than barred with black. Below, including sides of the head, ochraceous buff palest on the chin and throat and washed strongly on the sides, flanks and crissum with cinnamon, the feathers whitish centrally and terminally.”
He says that the first winter plumage is “acquired by a partial postjuvenal molt beginning about the middle of August which involves the body plumage and wing coverts, probably the tertiaries, but not the rest of the wings nor the tail.” This plumage he describes as “similar to the previous plumage, the forehead largely sepia-brown and conspicuous white stripes on the crown. Below, the ochraceous wash is deeper including a pectoral band and a few black and white bars occur on the flanks. The tertiaries are distinctly black, edged and barred with white, russet bordered.”
This plumage is practically indistinguishable from the winter plumage of the adult. The prenuptial molt of both adults and young is nearly or quite complete. Dr. Dwight says that this is proved by birds taken in Texas on April 15. “Limited material indicates that only a few of the outer primaries are renewed in some cases.” Dr. Stone (1896) says: ‘There is a complete spring molt of the body feathers in this bird as shown in a series taken at Tarpon Springs, Fla., April 15th.” Dr. Sutton (1940) took one of these wrens in southern San Luis Potosi, Mexico, on April 18, that was “in the midst of a molt involving head- and body-plumage.” And he saw another, taken March 22, in Tamaulipas, Mexico, in which the rectrices were molting. Both year-old birds and adults have a complete postnuptial molt mainly in August. The fresh autumn plumage is more richly colored than the spring plumage and sometimes shows a few dusky bars on the flanks. The sexes are alike in all plumages.
Food: No very extensive study of the food of the short-billed marsh wren seems to have been made. Dr. Walkinshaw (1935) says that the food consists of insects. “They have been observed to feed the young, with moths, spiders, mosquitoes, flies, grasshoppers, and bugs.” Arthur H. Howell (1932) says: “Examination of 34 stomachs of this Wren from Florida showed its food to consist wholly of insects and spiders. The insects taken included ants, bugs, weevils, ladybird beetles, moths, caterpillars, locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers.”
Behavior: T his tiny wren, one of the smallest of the family, is also one of the shiest, most retiring, and elusive. As we pass some likely meadow we may recognize its characteristic, chattering little song and perhaps see the male perched on some small bush in or near a marsh, or on the swaying top of a tall sedge or reed, singing to his hidden mate. If we approach for a closer look he dives into the nearest and thickest cover, and we may not see him again. His cousin, the longbill, might be prompted by curiosity to come sneaking through the cover of the cattails to have a sly look at us; but not so the little shortbiJl; his one glimpse was enough and he was interested only in keeping out of sight, and so off he goes, creeping mouselike through the dense grass. His mate is even more shy about her nest; only once have I succeeded in surprising her at home; then she dove like a flash into the grass and disappeared, but I heard her scolding notes as she moved about in the surrounding cover. Mr. Mousley (1934) succeeded in photographing the female at the nest, to which she returned within 20 minutes after he had beaten down the grasses in front of the nest and placed his camera only about 2 feet away. He writes: “As showing her apparent disregard of the camera she on one occasion perched on a leg of the tripod. * * * At times it was only the song of the male that gave me any indication that his partner was near the nest, whilst at others I was more fortunate in observing her approach, as she flew just above the top of the herbage suddenly flopping down into it at some distance from the nest, when all trace of her would be lost until the actions of the young made me aware that she had arrived in the near vicinity of the nest, but where she would actually appear was another matter.”
If the male is flushed in the open marsh, which is not a difficult matter, he goes flying off close to the tops of the sedges with a straight, even, slow flight, looking like a tiny ball of feathers propelled with rapid beats of his little wings, and then suddenly drops down into the cover.
Voice: Over 40 years ago I wrote in my notes that the song of the short-billed marsh wren is a chattering trill, resembling the sound made by striking two sticks very rapidly together; it suggests the song of the longbill but is fainter and lacks the musical, bubbling notes of the latter’s song. Some others have suggested that the song sounds like striking small pebbles together or rattling a bag of marbles, not bad descriptions.
The song has been expressed in syllables, more or less differently by various observers. Ora W. Knight (1908) writes the full-length characteristic song as “chip: chip: -chip-: chip, chip-chip-chip-chirr-r-r-r-r”; it reminded him of the song of the pallid wren tit; though “different in timbre, * * * harsh and lacking the bell like resonance of the Wren Tit’s song it was uttered with the same accentuation and syllaballization.” Ernest T. Seton (1890) writes the same song as “chap: ohap: : chap-c/iap, chap, chap, chap p-p-p-r-r-r.” In both of these cases the first four syllables are given deliberately, with pauses between them and on a lower key than the rest of the song, which runs off in a rapid, diminuendo trill.
Ralph Hoffmann (1904) says: “While the song of the Long-billed Marsh Wren resembles the House Wren’s in its volubility, that of the Short-billed Marsh Wren suggests rather some species of sparrow. It may be represented by the syllables trip trip trip tsip per trip per trip per, the first two or three notes staccato, the rest running rapidly down the scale. The call note is like the opening note of the song.”
The song reminded Dr. Sutton (1928) “of the insect-like performance of the Dickcissel, particularly the latter portion of the song. This song might be written ‘Dick, putt, jik, puck, chick-chick-chick.'” And Bagg and Eliot (1937) write it “trick, z’wick, diddle-diddlediddle.”
As to the length of the song period, Dr. Walkinshaw (1935) writes:
With us the Short-bill sings from the time of arrival in the spring until the departure for the south in the fall. During the months of April, May, June, and July It sings almost continuously during the hours of daylight. During August, when many of our birds are extremely quiet, this species is still a persistent singer and even in September and October I have heard its repeated song at certain times of day.
Of the pair which nested directly back of our house in 1933, the male was heard to sing not only during the day but at nearly all hours of night. During the months of May, June, July, and August I heard this male sing at various times; from 11 :30 P. M. until 2 :00 a. in., and until daylight. Then he would sing all day long until 9:30 p. m. but from 9:30 to 11 :30 p. in. I never heard him sing. Sometimes between the hours of 2 and 5 a. m. he would sing as persistently as during the hours of daylight.
He usually sang the song once, then paused a few seconds before repeating. During the height of the nesting season he would sing once every five seconds for a period of several minutes. Many times when he was timed, he sang twelve times a minute, while at others he would only sing six or eight times. After August 10 thIs bird did not sing nearly as often but he continued to sing early in the morning and late in the evening until he left on October 5. This Wren had favorite perches from which he would sing, two on willows, another on a wire fence which was about 1000 yards from the nest. The two willows, however, were only about 25 feet distant.
He says there is some variation in the song and writes the full, long song as “chap-chap-churr-churr-chur-r-r-chap-chur-chur-r.” The usual song, quickly repeated, is merely the first part of the above. “After the season had progressed into the months of August and September this became much less forceful and the opening became, ‘Sit-sit-sit-churr-chur-r-r,’ or ‘Sit-sit-sit-sit-t-t.'” He gives the scolding notes as “Churr-churr” and “Chap-churr.”
Aretas A. Saunders writes to me: “The song of this bird is unmistakable when known because of its peculiar quality, not like that of any other bird I know. It is not musical or guttural, but the pitch of the notes can be determined in spite of this. It begins with two to five short notes, sounding like ‘tip’, aild ends with a trill or a series of rapid notes all on one pitch, and one to three tones lower than the first notes. When the first notes are two or three in number they are likely to be all on the same pitch, and in even time, like the beginning of a song sparrow’s song. Then the song is a simple ‘tip-tip-tiptrrrrrr’. But when there are four or five notes there is likely to be a change in pitch, or a pause after the first note, giving a result like ‘tip tip : tap : trrrrrr’. The trill usually ends the song, but there is sometimes a still lower terminal note, making it end ‘trrrrrtup’. The pitch of my records varies just an octave, from C ” ‘to C””, but no one song I have recorded covers a whole octave. The lengths of songs in my records vary from 1% to 2% seconds.”
Francis H. Allen watched one at close range, as he sang, and says (MS.): “When he uttered the first notes of his song he raised his tail, sometimes perpendicular to his back or even pointing forward, sometimes not so far, and sometimes hardly at all. With the last notes of the song, the tail would go back to a position about horizontal with the body. Often, though not always, it was jerked in time to the notes, that is a couple of emphatic jerks at its highest point, simultaneous with the two emphatic opening notes of the song, and then a quavering fall with the closing trill.”
Fall: Mr. Saunders’s observations in Connecticut indicate that the fall migration begins early. He found birds singing in August in a place where he “was very sure no such bird had been the previous May and June, a tall grass area back of the salt marshes near Fairfield Beach. On July 26, 1941, I found a bird singing in a similar locality back of the beach, a place I passed or visited frequently throughout the year. In the next few days I found several birds in this general vicinity, and by August 9 the birds were abundant all through the grass areas back of the beach, and I heard the song in many different places. The birds continued abundant all through August but began to decrease early in September, and the last one was found September 20. Evidently fall migration can begin in July, at least in some years.”
Field marks: As the short-billed marsh wren is oftener heard than seen, its peculiar and quite characteristic song is the best means of identification. Its haunts are different from those of the long-billed marsh wren, and it is almost never seen in the cattail swamps. If one can get a good look at it, which is not easy, it can be distinguished from the long-billed species by the streaked crown and by the absence of the white line over the eye and the absence of the black back patch. The shorter bill is not very conspicuous in life.
Winter: The 1931 Check-list does not extend the winter range of this wren beyond the southern border of the United States, but Dr. Sutton (1940) took one and heard others on April 18, 1939, in southern San Luis Potosi, Mexico; he also saw one in the American Museum of Natural History that was taken in Tamaulipas on March 22, 1888. Probably the species winters regularly in at least northern Mexico.
We found it common on various grassy meadows and prairies in different parts of Florida and collected specimens. Mr. lElowell (1932) says of its haunts: “The Short-billed Marsh Wren, during the winter season in Florida, is found in marshes, both fresh and salt, and in old fields or prairies where there is a growth of dense, matted grass or weeds. The birds remain hidden in the vegetation most of the time, but are easily flushed by walking toward them, when they fly weakly for a short distance and drop again into the grass. At times I have heard them chattering in the marsh grass, or rarely singing a little.” About Tarpon Springs, W. E. D. Scott (1890) has “taken the birds in both salt and fresh water marshes, though marshes of sedge grass where the water is brackish and the sedge not very high nor dense seem to be preferred.” Wayne (1910) says that, in South Carolina, “it inhabits freshwater marshes and fields which are covered with broom grass, rarely, if ever, resorting to the salt marshes. The centre of abundance is on the rice plantations, where it is exceedingly abundant during the autumn, winter, and spring months.”
Frederick V. Hebard writes to me: “The number of this abundant species to be recorded in the broomsedge fields and fiats of southeastern Georgia near dusk on a winter day will only be limited by ~ perseverance. Wet winter or dry winter, the ‘Joren’ is there in great numbers. It chirps its two-noted call oh-chip, frequently during the day and increases it toward dusk to almost choral frequency.”
Range: The species ranges from Canada south to Tierra del Fuego, southern South America, the North American race from southern Canada to northeastern Mexico.
The short-billed marsh wren breeds north to southeastern Saskatchewan (Quill Lake); southern Manitoba (Lake St. Martin, Shoal Lake, and Indian Bay, Lake of the Woods) ; central Ontario (Whitefish Lake, Lake Nipissing, and Ottawa); southern Quebec (Montreal and Hatley); and central Maine (Glenburn and Bangor). East to central Maine (Bangor); and along the Atlantic coast to southern Maryland (Ocean City and Point Lookout). South to southern Maryland (Ocean City and Point Lookout) ; central Ohio (Columbus); central Indiana (Indianapolis); and central Missouri (St. Louis and Kansas City). West to western Missouri (Kansas City); eastern Nebraska (Lincoln and West Point); eastern South Dakota (Vermilion, Sioux Falls, and Petrodie); eastern North Dakota (Napoleon, Devils Lake, and the Turtle Mountains); and southeastern Saskatchewan (Quill Lake). It has been found breeding at Barbourville, Ky., and there are probably other semiisolated colonies.
Winter range: In winter the short-billed marsh wren is confined to the coastal region of southeastern United States and northeastern Mexico from North Carolina (Cape Hatteras) south through South Carolina and Georgia (Savannah and Macon) to southern Florida (Royal Palm Hammock); west along the Gulf coast to Texas (Austin and Brownsville); and south to Tamaulipas (Quijano) and southeastern Sari Luis Potosi (Tamazunchale), Mexico.
Spring migration: Late dates of spring departure are: Florida: Pensacola, April 25. Georgia: Athens, May 8. North Carolina: Raleigh, May 4. Texas: College Station, April 23. Kansas: Onaga, May 22.
Early dates of spring arrival are: Georgia: Athens, April 10. North Carolina: Chapel Hill, April 28. Pennsylvania: State ColJege, April 26. New York: Rochester, April 30. Massachusetts: Wayland, May 2. Ohio: Painesville, May 2. Ontario: London, May 9. Indiana: Kendaliville, May 1. Michigan: Battle Creek, April 30. Illinois: Chicago, April 21. lowa: Grinnell, April 28. Wisconsin: Madison, May 1. Mixmestoa: Duluth, May 5. Kansas: Manhattan, April 25. South Dakota: Vermilion, May 9. Manitoba: Aweme, April 29.
Fall migration: Late dates of fall departure are: Manitoba: Aweme, October 2. South Dakota: Forestburg, October 5. Nebraska: Lincoln, September 27. Kansas: Lawrence, October 15. Minnesota: Minneapolis, October 6. Wisconsin: Racine, October 15. lowa: Keokuk, October 13. Michigan: Detroit, October 2. Illinois: Glen Ellyn, October 17. Indiana: Waterloo, October 1. Ontario: Ottawa, October 4. Ohio: Youngstown, September 17. New York: Branchport, October 11. Pennsylvania: Carlisle, September 20. Massachusetts-Northampton, October 10. Connecticut: Fairfield, October 7. North Carolina: Chapel Hill, October 7.
Early dates of fall arrival are: Kansas: Onaga, August 7. Texas: Corpus Christi, October 6. North Carolina: Chapel Hill, August 19. Georgia: Athens, August 9. Florida: Fort Myers, September 29.
Casual records: A specimen was taken near Camrose, Alberta, on September 19, 1927; a specimen was collected at Norway House, Manitoba, on June 20, 1900, that was possibly nesting but no nest was found; a specimen was taken at Cheyenne, Wyoming, on April 14, 1889; a specimen collected 15 miles northeast of Mosca, Cob., in the San Luis Valley, on October 23, 1907, is the first record from west of the mountains; in North Dakota several were noted in a meadow near Kenmare in July 1913, possibly a breeding colony; near Pungo, Va., several pairs were noted from May 17 to 20, 1932. Several records in winter north of the normal range are: a specimen taken at Ann Arbor, Mich., on January 15, 1938; a record from Jones Beach, Long Island, N. Y., on December 28, 1913; and it is reported to occur occasionally in winter near Philadelphia, Pa.
Egg dates: Massachusetts: 25 records, May 25 to July 29; 13 records, June 1 to July 7, indicating the height of the season.
New Jersey: 8 records, May 30 to August 20.
South Dakota: 2 records, June 9 and June 19. Wisconsin: 10 records, June 1 to August 19.