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Marian’s Marsh Wren

Cistohorus palustris marianae

Listing Status

  • Federal Status: Not Listed
  • FL Status: State-designated Threatened
  • FNAI Ranks: G5T3/S3 (Globally: Demonstrably Secure, Sub sp. Rare/State: Rare)
  • IUCN Status: Not ranked


Marian’s marsh wren is a small wren that can reach a length of five inches (12 centimeters) (Kale 1996).  This species of marsh wren has a dark brown neck, upper back, head, wings, and tail, and a light brown belly.  As with all marsh wrens, they have a white band above their eye and a white-streaked black triangle on their back (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001). 


The diet of the Marian’s marsh wren consists of spiders, insects, and invertebrates (Lesperance 2001).

Marian’s marsh wrens prefer nesting in cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) andblack needle rush (Juncus roemarianus) that are located along tidal creeks during the months of March and April.  During courtship, males will fly up to seven meters (23 feet) over their marsh habitat in a showing of territorial ownership (Kale 1996).  Marsh wrens usually nest in colonies building 5-12 dome-shaped nests with a side entrance.  These nests are used for courting females as the female will pick one mate and finish the nest by adding fine grasses to the inner lining.  Males also court females by singing to them (Lesperance 2001).  During nesting and incubation, the female will protect the nest as the male will show no interest in it (Wheeler 1931).  Females lay three to five eggs in one nesting and incubation lasts 11 to 12 days.  Young wrens are very loud and can be heard up to 30 meters (98.4 feet) away days before fledging (Kroodsman and Verner 1997). 


marian's marsh wren map

Marian’s marsh wren inhabits marshes dominated by black needle rush (Juncus roemarianus) and cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) on the Florida Gulf coast.  This marsh wren species can be found from Pasco to Escambia County, Florida, and into southwest Alabama (Stevenson and Anderson 1994, Kale 1996).


The Marian’s marsh wren faces many threats, but habitat destruction and fragmentation are the main threats.  The salt marshes that marsh wrens inhabit are vulnerable to a practice called “dredge and fill”.  Dredge and fill is the dredging of salt marshes and filling them with sediment.  This practice is done to provide increased areas for human development, including coastal housing.  Dredge and fill also causes the decrease of available prey for marsh wrens.  Salt marshes are also threatened by dam operations, chemical and toxin pollution, invasive plants, road and bridge construction, industrial/oil spills, and shore hardening.  Adjacent uplands that are developed can cause the degradation of habitat quality.  Sea level rise can also cause destruction to the marsh wren’s habitat (Walton 2007).  Marian’s marsh wren’s nests are also susceptible to increased predation from raccoons, minks, and rice rats (Kale 1965). 

Conservation and Management

Marian’s marsh wrens are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State-designated Threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

Biological Status Review (BSR)
Supplemental Information for the BSR
Species Action Plan


Florida Natural Areas Inventory.  2001.  Field guide to the rare animals of Florida.

Kale, H. W., II.  1965.  Ecology and bioenergetics of the Long-billed Marsh Wren Telmatodytes palustris griseus (Brewster) in Georgia salt marshes.  Publ. Nuttall Ornithol. Club, no. 5.

Kale, H.W., II. 1996.  Marsh Wrens. Pages 602-607 in J.A. Rodgers, Jr., H.W. Kale II, and H.T.  Smith (Eds.).  Rare and endangered biota of Florida, Vol. V:  Birds.  University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Kroodsma, Donald E. and Jared Verner. 1997. Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris), The Birds of  North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.

Lesperance, M. 2001. "Cistothorus palustris" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed  March  17, 2011

Stevenson, H. M., and B. H. Anderson. 1994. The Birdlife of Florida. University Press of Florida. Gainesville, FL.

Walton, T. L., Jr.  2007.  Projected sea level rise in Florida.  Ocean Engineering 34:1832-1840.

Wheeler, H. E. 1931. The status, breeding range, and habits of Marian's Marsh Wren. Wilson Bull. 38:247-267.