Birds – Long-billed Marsh Wren

(Cistothorus palustris)

Length—4.5 to 5.2 inches. Actually a little smaller than the English sparrow. Apparently half the size.

Male and Female—Brown above, with white line over the eye, and the back irregularly and faintly streaked with white. Wings and tail barred with darker cinnamon-brown. Underneath white. Sides dusky. Tail long and often carried erect. Bill extra long and slender.

Range—United States and southern British America. Migrations—May. September. Summer resident.

Sometimes when you are gathering cat-tails in the river marshes an alert, nervous little brown bird rises startled from the rushes and tries to elude you as with short, jerky flight it goes deeper and deeper into the marsh, where even the rubber boot may not follow. It closely resembles two other birds found in such a place, the swamp sparrow and the short-billed marsh wren; but you may know by its long, slender bill that it is not the latter, and by the absence of a bright bay crown that it is not the shyest of the sparrows.

These marsh wrens appear to be especially partial to running water; their homes are not very far from brooks and rivers, preferably those that are affected in their rise and flow by the tides. They build in colonies, and might be called inveterate singers, for no single bird is often permitted to finish his bubbling song without half the colony joining in a chorus.

Still another characteristic of this particularly interesting bird is its unique architectural effects produced with coarse grasses woven into globular form and suspended in the reeds. Some-times adapting its nest to the building material at hand, it weaves it of grasses and twigs, and suspends it from the limb of a bush or tree overhanging the water, where’ it swings like an oriole’s. The entrance to the nest is invariably on the side.

More devoted homebodies than these little wrens are not among the feathered tribe. Once let the hand of man desecrate their nest, even before the tiny speckled eggs are deposited in it, and off go the birds to a more inaccessible place, where they can enjoy their home unmolested. Thus three or four nests may be made in a summer.