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Worthington’s Marsh Wren

Cistohorus palustris griseus

Listing Status

  • Federal Status: Not Listed
  • FL Status: State-designated Threatened
  • FNAI Ranks: G5T3/S2 (Globally: Demonstrably secure, Sub sp. Rare/State: Imperiled)
  • IUCN Status: Not ranked


The Worthington’s marsh wren can reach a length of five inches (12 centimeters) (Kale 1996).  This marsh wren species has a light gray belly and a dark brown back.  As with all marsh wrens, they have a white band above their eyes and a white-streaked black triangle on their back (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001).


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

Marsh wrens nest in tall grasses along meandering creeks in salt marshes where they will build 5-12 dome-shaped nests that have a side entrance during the months of March and April (Kale 1996).  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.  During courtship, males will fly up to 30 feet (seven meters) over their marsh habitat in a showing of territorial ownership (Kale 1996).  Males also court females by singing to them (Lesperance 2001).  Marsh wrens usually nest in colonies.  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. 


worthington's marsh wren map

Worthington’s marsh wrens inhabit tidal marshes dominated by cordgrass (Spartinaalterniflora) and are found from the St. Mary’s/Cumberland Island Sound, to the northern edge of the St. Johns River in Florida (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001).


Habitat destruction is the main threat to the marsh wren population.  Salt marshes are vulnerable from the practice of “dredge and fill”.  Dredge and fill involves the dredging of salt marshes and filling them with sediment.  This practice is performed to provide increased areas for human development, such as coastal housing.  Dredge and fill practices can also cause a decrease in available prey.  Development of adjacent uplands can cause the degradation of habitat quality.  Sea level rise may also cause destruction to the marsh wren’s habitat (Walton 2007).  Worthington’s marsh wren’s nests are susceptible to increased predation from raccoons, minks, and rice rats (Kale 1965). 

Conservation and Management

The Worthington’s marsh wren is 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.

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

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.