Family Wrens (Troglodytidae)

Least Concern

Grass Wren (Cistothorus platensis)


French: Troglodyte de Latham German: Graszaunkönig Spanish: Cucarachero sabanero

Sylvia platensis


, 1790,

Buenos Aires, Argentina


Closely related to C. meridae and C. apolinari, and hitherto included C. stellaris. Taxonomy complex, and recent molecular analysis#R found that C. platensis as traditionally constituted is paraphyletic with respect to these other three species; despite most divergence being relatively recent, as many as eight species may be involved, all of them treated here as distinctive subspecies groups. Wide disparities in vocalizations suggest that this finding may gain support in due course; corroborative research urgently needed. Proposed race boliviae (from Santa Cruz, in Bolivia) considered indistinguishable from minimus. Nineteen subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. p. potosinus Dickerman, 1975 – NC Mexico (San Luis Potosí).
  • C. p. tinnulus R. T. Moore, 1941 – C Mexico (Nayarit S to Michoacán, México and Distrito Federal).
  • C. p. jalapensis Dickerman, 1975 – E Mexico (C Veracruz).
  • C. p. warneri Dickerman, 1975 – E Mexican lowlands in Veracruz, Tabasco and Chiapas.
  • C. p. russelli Dickerman, 1975 – Belize (Toledo and Cayo districts).
  • C. p. elegans P. L. Sclater & Salvin, 1859 – Grass Wren – highlands of SE Mexico (from Veracruz) and Guatemala.
  • C. p. graberi Dickerman, 1975 – interior & E Honduras and NE Nicaragua.
  • C. p. lucidus Ridgway, 1903 – C Costa Rica. Formerly S to W Panama#R.
  • C. p. alticola Salvin & Godman, 1883 – Venezuelan Wren – mountains of N Colombia, W, N & E Venezuela and W Guyana.
  • C. p. tolimae Meyer de Schauensee, 1946 – N part of C Andes of Colombia (Caldas, Tolima).
  • C. p. aequatorialis Lawrence, 1871 – Paramo Wren – S end of C Andes of Colombia S to C Peru (S to C Junín).
  • C. p. tamae Cory, 1916 – SW Venezuela (S Táchira) and E Colombia.
  • C. p. graminicola Taczanowski, 1874 – Junin Wren – SC Peru (Junín, Cuzco).
  • C. p. minimus Carriker, 1935 – Puna Wren – S Peru S to S Bolivia.
  • C. p. tucumanus E. J. O. Hartert, 1909 – Tucuman Wren – NW Argentina (Jujuy S to Catamarca and Tucumán).
  • C. p. polyglottus (Vieillot, 1819) – Paraguay and SE Brazil; recently documented breeding in Uruguay#R.
  • C. p. platensis (Latham, 1790) – Pampas Wren – E Argentina (E from Córdoba and Mendoza).
  • C. p. hornensis (Lesson, 1834) – Austral Wren – C Chile and S Argentina (S from c. 41° S) S to Cape Horn.
  • C. p. falklandicus Chapman, 1934 – Falkland Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    9–11·5 cm; mean 9 g (one Central American population), 8·2–9·8 g (Argentina). Nominate race has bright buff supercilium, blackish-brown crown... read more


    Male has large repertoire of songs (300–400 in some populations), quality of songs varies... read more


    South American populations occupy wider variety of habitats, from open grass savanna in Venezuela... read more

    Food and feeding

    Takes variety of insects and other invertebrates. Specimen of hornensis taken in midwinter in Tierra del Fuego (when ground snow-... read more


    Recently fledged young seen in Jan and May in Ecuador, in Apr in Peru, and in Dec in Uruguay; two nests found in Brazil, one with two older... read more


    Mexican and Central American races appear to be sedentary, as do most South American ones; S race... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally fairly common to uncommon, and suspected to be spreading locally downslope in response to deforestation. Little detailed... read more

    Recommended citation

    Kroodsma, D., Brewer, D., Marks, J.S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Grass Wren (Cistothorus platensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 October 2019).