Sedge Wren – Accepted

1. 04–08 Nov 1980


Bolinas Lagoon MRN




2. 08 Jun–04 Jul 1986


Little Shasta Valley SIS



Fig. 373, ph., audio, AB 40:1252, 1253, Bevier (1990), Small (1994:plate 56)

3. 23–24 Oct 1986


Ft. Funston SF



ph., AB 41:140

4. 15–17 Oct 1991


Huntington Beach ORA




5. 26–27 Oct 1997


Big Sycamore Canyon VEN



Fig. 256, ph., FN 52:127

6. 12 Nov 1999


Saline Valley INY




7. 07 Dec 2002–15 Mar 2003


Half Moon Bay SM



ph., NAB 57:255


Sedge Wren – Not accepted, indentification not established

16–17 Oct 1994


Hayward Regional Shoreline ALA





Sedge Wren – Not submitted

02 Nov 1998


Iron Mtn. Pumping Plant SBE



NAB 53:105








Figure 256. Sedge Wrens are secretive and typically hard to find, but they sometimes reward patient birders. This confiding bird was photographed at Big Sycamore Canyon, Ventura County, on 27 October 1997, a late fall date consistent with the species’ predominant pattern of occurrence in California (1997-171; Larry Sansone).



Figure 373. The Sedge Wren’s skulking behavior likely masks its true status in California. Only a handful have been recorded in the state, almost all in late fall. This exceptional bird was present from 8 June to 4 July 1986 in Little Shasta Valley, Siskiyou County, and was photographed there on 1 July (1986-263; Ray Ekstrom).








Sedge Wren

SEDGE WREN Cistothorus platensis (Latham, 1790)

Accepted: 7 (88%)

Treated in Appendix H: yes

Not accepted: 1

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 1

Large color image: see Figures

This wren’s northern breeding limit extends from east-central Alberta and northeastern Montana east to southwestern Quebec. The southern limit reaches from eastern Nebraska east to western New York, with scattered and sporadic breeding to the east and south. These birds, subspecies C. p. stellaris, winter in the Southeast as far west as central Texas and south into north-central and northeastern Mexico. They occur casually in southwestern British Columbia (Candido 2006), southwestern Oregon (NAB 57:539), Montana (outside of the breeding range), southeastern Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and northwestern Sonora (Howell and Webb 1995). The stellaris group of subspecies also includes various resident populations in Middle America, whereas the platensis and polyglottus groups occupy parts of South America.

California’s first Sedge Wren, a bird present from 4 to 8 November 1980 at Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, was initially confirmed by observers who went into the field seeking distraction from their depression brought on by news of the presidential election (fide P. Pyle). The species has been found only seven times in California, including five fall vagrants between 15 October and 12 November. The second record refers to a thoroughly documented male that sang and defended a territory from 8 June to 4 July 1986 in Little Shasta Valley, Siskiyou County (Figure 373). A Sedge Wren present from 7 December 2002 to 15 March 2003 at Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County provided the first well-documented winter record in the West. See also Appendix H.

Like several other species that are very rare in California (or that are yet to be recorded in the state), the Sedge Wren traverses a relatively short, north-south oriented migration pathway through central and eastern North America. Although this bird’s inconspicuous ways undoubtedly contribute to the dearth of California records, they do not explain a complete lack of records from the carefully monitored research station at Southeast Farallon Island. Considering that its normal migration route circumvents the Gulf of Mexico, one possibility is that this wren tends to be unsuccessful at crossing large expanses of water. Note also the observation by DeSante and Ainley (1980) that passerines with ten primaries, such as wrens, tend to stray to California far less often than do passerines with nine, such as wood-warblers, blackbirds, and finches. Such topics are briefly reviewed in the essay entitled “Birding in California, 1960–2007,” which starts on page 35 of this book.