Sedge Wren in Carden

Ron Pittaway

First published in Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter, September 2018, No. 279.

Sedge Wren at the Sedge Wren Marsh on Wylie Road in May.


INTRODUCTION: The Sedge Wren Marsh along Wylie Road on the Carden Alvar is one of the most dependable locations in Ontario to hear and see the scarce and elusive Sedge Wren. The species is difficult to find except when singing so knowing its song and habitat are the keys to seeing this tiny secretive wren.

STATUS: Sedge Wrens have been present almost every year at the Sedge Wren Marsh since I first birded there in 1990. Most years there are two or three nesting pairs. They arrive in mid-May and sing persistently well into August. Most are probably gone by October.

SONG: A rapid dry chip, chip, chapper chapper chapper begins slowly, speeds up and ends abruptly. The song is repeated at short intervals from a tuft of grass or low shrub. The Sedge Wren sings throughout the day and often at night. Scan in the direction of the wren’s song, watching for movement when it sings. It sings well into August. Call note is a single chip or doubled like the first notes of the song.

HABITS: Sedge Wrens stay low and sing from tufts of grass or low shrubs usually half or mostly hidden; sometimes they sing from a dead branch. They take short flights before diving back into the grasses.

HABITAT: Habitat differences help to distinguish Sedge and Marsh Wrens. Sedge Wrens prefer wet to moist sedge marshes and damp grassy meadows with scattered low shrubs such as willows and alders. Marsh Wrens inhabit deeper and wetter cattail marshes. The two species rarely occur together. The place to hear and see Marsh Wrens in Carden is the Prospect Road Marsh.

IDENTIFICATION: The Sedge Wren has a faint eyebrow stripe (supercilium) compared to the Marsh Wren’s well-defined white supercilium. Sedge also has a finely streaked crown whereas Marsh Wren has a blackish unstreaked crown. Both species have streaked backs. Sedge and Marsh Wrens are best distinguished by their different songs and habitats.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS: Sedge Wrens occur sometimes in the drier outer grassy edges of the Prospect Road Marsh. In 2005 which was an exceptionally wet year, Sedge Wrens were found in meadows along Wylie Road south of the cabin. Marsh Wrens occur very rarely in the southwest corner of the Sedge Wren Marsh which has a small amount of cattails.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I thank Michel Gosselin for proofing and Jean Iron for photos.


Sedge Wren singing from a low perch in the Sedge Wren Marsh on Wylie Road on the Carden Alvar.


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