Rare Marsh Birds
Several species of freshwater marsh birds are of conservation concern in the northeastern U.S. because their populations and habitats are in decline or because of difficulties inherent in monitoring their populations. Many species of wetland birds are detected so infrequently during existing standardized bird surveys, such as the North American Breeding Bird Survey, that useful data on local or regional trends are lacking.
In Massachusetts, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) lists the Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Least Bittern, and Sedge Wren as Endangered, the King Rail as Threatened, and the Common Moorhen as Special Concern, under regulations pursuant to Massachusetts' Endangered Species Act (321 CMR, Section 10.03). The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) maintains a database on occurrences of state-protected species of rare marsh birds, and relies heavily on voluntary reports from birders as a source of data. Recent information on occurrences of these species helps us to monitor their status in Massachusetts and protect them and their habitats through regulations pursuant to both the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (310 CMR 10.00) and the Wetlands Protection Act (310 CMR 10.59). Marsh bird habitat also may be protected through donations of land or purchases from willing sellers, and may be improved by active management, for example by manipulating water levels or removing exotic vegetation such as purple loosestrife or Phragmites.
We are interested in receiving reports of observations of any of the species listed below during the breeding season (1 May - 15 August):
- Pied-billed Grebe (Endangered)
- American Bittern (Endangered)
- Least Bittern (Endangered)
- King Rail (Threatened)
- Common Moorhen (Special Concern)
- Sedge Wren (Endangered)
We are also interested in receiving reports of observations during the breeding season (1 May - 15 August) of the following species of marsh birds that are uncommon in Massachusetts but not state-listed:
- Marsh Wren
A form for reporting observations of rare marsh birds can be downloaded by clicking on the link below:
When reporting observations of rare marsh birds to NHESP, please be sure to include a copy of a USGS topographic map or aerial photo on which are plotted clearly and accurately the location(s) of your sighting(s).