Willow warbler

The willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) is a very common and widespread leaf warbler which breeds throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia, from Ireland east to the Anadyr River basin in eastern Siberia. It is strongly migratory, with almost all of the population wintering in Sub-Saharan Africa.[2][3]

It is a bird of open woodlands with trees and ground cover for nesting, including most importantly birch, alder, and willow habitats. The nest is usually built in close contact with the ground, often in low vegetation. Like most Old World warblers (Sylviidae), this small passerine is insectivorous.[3] In northern Europe, it is one of the first warblers to return in the spring though is later than the closely related chiffchaff.[3]

Song, Recorded Gloucestershire, England


It is a typical leaf warbler in appearance, 11–12.5 cm long and 7–15 g weight. It is greenish brown above and off-white to yellowish below; the wings are plain greenish-brown with no wingbars. Juveniles are yellower below than adults. It is very similar to the chiffchaff, but non-singing birds can be distinguished from that species by their paler pinkish-yellow legs (dark brown to blackish in chiffchaff), longer paler bill, more elegant shape and longer primary projection (wingtip). Its song is a simple repetitive descending whistle, while the contact call is a disyllabic 'hoo-eet', distinct from the more monosyllabic 'hweet' of chiffchaffs.[2][3][4][5]


Three subspecies are accepted, with a partly clinal reduction in green and yellow plumage tones from west to east, with central birds browner and easternmost birds predominantly greyish:[2]

  • Phylloscopus trochilus trochilus (Linnaeus, 1758). Breeds Europe (from the Pyrenees and Alps northward) except northern Scandinavia, winters west Africa.
  • Phylloscopus trochilus acredula (Linnaeus, 1758). Breeds northern Scandinavia east to western Siberia, winters central Africa.
  • Phylloscopus trochilus yakutensis (Ticehurst, 1935). Breeds eastern Siberia, winters eastern and southern Africa.


All populations are highly migratory, with the subspecies P. t. yakutensis migrating up to 12,000 km from eastern Siberia to southern Africa along the Asian - East African Flyway, one of the longest migrations of any for a bird of its size.[2][4] Approximate timings are:

  • October to March: wintering in sub Saharan Africa.
  • Mid March to mid May: migrates and arrives in the breeding range.
  • Late April to August: breeding season, usually only one brood but rarely two.
  • August to October: migrates back to Africa.

Status and conservation


Willow warblers prefer young, open, scrubby woodland with small trees, including human-altered habitats such as coppice and young plantations up to 10–20 years old. High amounts of birch, alder and willow, with good lichen amounts, and water features (e.g. streams), fields with large amounts of bracken and mosses, and patches of low bramble (for nest cover) are preferred, but it will use a wide range of other species, including young or open coniferous forests.[4][6] Incorporating woodland ride edge thickets is beneficial, as is 15 metre woodland edges of varying structure and height. They prefer damp woodland areas. Thicket forming shrubs like blackthorn provide pockets of habitat. Deer browsing can degrade the required low cover.

The highest population densities are found in Scandinavia (where it is the commonest bird of any), with up to 1,100 pairs per square kilometre, and a total population in Sweden and Finland of 24 million pairs. Lower densities occur further east, with peak densities of 27 pairs per square kilometre in central Siberia. Even lower densities are found on the southern edge of the breeding range, with just 9 pairs per square kilometre in Switzerland, and a total of just 100 pairs in the whole of northern Spain.[2]

In England this species has on average decreased in population by 70% within the last 25 years, with the biggest declines in the southeast. In Scotland some increases have occurred. The Forestry Commission offers grants under a scheme called England's Woodland Improvement Grant (EWIG); as does Natural Englands Environmental Stewardship Scheme.[6]


The willow warbler was first scientifically described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae in 1758 under the genus Motacilla.[7] and then transferred to the genus Phylloscopus (of which it is the type species) by Boie in 1826.[8] The scientific name is from Ancient Greek. The genus name Phylloscopus is from phullon, "leaf", and skopos, "seeker" (from skopeo, "to watch"), and the specific trochilus is from trokhilos, "wren".[9]

Before the English name was standardised to willow warbler by William Yarrell in 1843, it was sometimes called "willow wren".[10]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Phylloscopus trochilus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hoyo, J. del; et al., eds. (2006). Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 11. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. p. 649. ISBN 84-87334-22-9.
  3. ^ a b c d Baker, Kevin (1997). Warblers of Europe, Asia and North Africa (Helm Identification Guides). pp. 256–259. ISBN 0-7136-3971-7.
  4. ^ a b c Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. (1998). The Birds of the Western Palearctic (Concise ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854099-X.
  5. ^ Ageing and sexing (PDF) by Javier Blasco-Zumeta
  6. ^ a b RSPB Woodland Management For Birds – Willow Warbler
  7. ^ Linnaeus, C (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata (in Latin). Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii). p. 188.
  8. ^ Boie, F. Isis (von Oken) 19 (10): 972, 1826.
  9. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 305, 394. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  10. ^ Lockwood, W. B. (1984). The Oxford Book of British Bird Names. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-214155-4.

External links

Acres Farm Meadow

Acres Farm Meadow (grid reference SU024927) is a 4.2 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Wiltshire, notified in 1989. It lies between the villages of Somerford Keynes and Minety. The SSSI is the former site of a mediaeval ridge and furrow system which lies on the Upper Jurassic Oxford Clay. The site is home to grasses, sedges and herbs. Trees such as oak, maple, English elm (when notified, prior to Dutch elm disease) and hawthorn can be found in the hederows on the site, which provide nesting sites for lesser whitethroat, willow warbler, yellowhammer and bullfinch.

Common chiffchaff

The common chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), or simply the chiffchaff, is a common and widespread leaf warbler which breeds in open woodlands throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia.

It is a migratory passerine which winters in southern and western Europe, southern Asia and north Africa. Greenish-brown above and off-white below, it is named onomatopoeically for its simple chiff-chaff song. It has a number of subspecies, some of which are now treated as full species. The female builds a domed nest on or near the ground, and assumes most of the responsibility for brooding and feeding the chicks, whilst the male has little involvement in nesting, but defends his territory against rivals, and attacks potential predators.

A small insectivorous bird, it is subject to predation by mammals, such as cats and mustelids, and birds, particularly hawks of the genus Accipiter. Its large range and population mean that its status is secure, although one subspecies is probably extinct.

Common whitethroat

The common whitethroat (Sylvia communis) is a common and widespread typical warbler which breeds throughout Europe and across much of temperate western Asia. This small passerine bird is strongly migratory, and winters in tropical Africa, Arabia, and Pakistan.

This is one of several Sylvia species that has distinct male and female plumages. Both sexes are mainly brown above and buff below, with chestnut fringes to the secondary remiges. The adult male has a grey head and a white throat. The female lacks the grey head, and the throat is duller. The whitethroat's song is fast and scratchy, with a scolding tone.

The hoarse, a little bit nasal call sounds like wed-wed or woid-woid. The warning cry is long-pulled, rough tschehr which resembles that of the Dartford warbler.

This species may appear to be closely related to the lesser whitethroat, the species having evolved only during the end of the last ice age similar to the willow warbler and chiffchaffs. However, researchers found the presence of a white throat is an unreliable morphological marker for relationships in Sylvia, and the greater and lesser whitethroats are not closely related. Chestnut wing patches, like white throats, seem to be plesiomorphic, but indicate phylogeny better. Nonetheless, apart from the whitethroat not being closely related to the lesser whitethroat group, little can be resolved as it seems a fairly basal taxon.

This is a bird of open country and cultivation, with bushes for nesting. The nest is built in low shrub or brambles, and 3–7 eggs are laid. Like most warblers, it is insectivorous, but will also eat berries and other soft fruit.

The genus name is from Modern Latin silvia, a woodland sprite, related to silva, a wood. The specific communis is Latin for "common".An older scientific name for the whitethroat is Sylvia cinerea.

Darland Banks

Darland Banks is a 29.1-hectare (72-acre) Local Nature Reserve on the southern outskirts of Gillingham in Kent. It is owned by Medway Council and managed by Kent Wildlife Trust.This area of grassland, scrub and woodland has diverse fauna and flora, including the largest population of man orchids in Britain. There are birds such as willow warbler, yellowhammer, linnet and lesser whitethroat.There is access from Darland Avenue.

Eastern crowned warbler

The eastern crowned warbler (Phylloscopus coronatus) is a species of Old World warbler in the family Phylloscopidae. It inhabits boreal and temperate forests and is widespread in Asia, from Russia to Vietnam.

The genus name Phylloscopus is from Ancient Greek phullon, "leaf", and skopos, "seeker" (from skopeo, "to watch"). The specific coronatus is from Latin and means "crowned".On rare occasions, vagrants have been reported from mainland Europe, the UK, and Scandinavia.

Fir Tree Copse

Fir Tree Copse is a 6-hectare (15-acre) nature reserve south-east of Dunsfold in Surrey. It is managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust and is part of the Chiddingfold Forest Site of Special Scientific InterestThis is oak and ash woodland, with hazel coppice. Pipistrelle bats have been recorded, together with birds such as the tawny owl and willow warbler. There are many species of fungi on rotting logs and invertebrates include the nationally scarce common fan-foot moth.There is access from Dunsfold Road.

Green warbler

The green warbler (Phylloscopus nitidus), also known as green willow warbler or green leaf warbler, is a leaf warbler found in the Caucasus Mountains in southcentral Europe.

Like all leaf warblers, it was formerly placed in the "Old World warbler" assemblage, but now belongs to the new leaf-warbler family Phylloscopidae. The genus name Phylloscopus is from Ancient Greek phullon, "leaf", and skopos, "seeker" (from skopeo, "to watch"). The specific nitidus is from Latin and means "shining".It is most closely related to the greenish warbler but is brighter in colour, and the underside is much more yellow. It has one strong and one faint wing bar, especially in young birds.

Greenish warbler

The greenish warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) is a widespread leaf warbler with a breeding range in northeastern Europe and temperate to subtropical continental Asia. This warbler is strongly migratory and winters in India. It is not uncommon as a spring or early autumn vagrant in Western Europe and is annually seen in Great Britain. In Central Europe large numbers of vagrant birds are encountered in some years; some of these may stay to breed, as a handful of pairs does each year in Germany.Like all leaf warblers, it was formerly placed in the "Old World warbler" assemblage, but now belongs to the new leaf-warbler family Phylloscopidae. The genus name Phylloscopus is from Ancient Greek phullon, "leaf", and skopos, "seeker" (from skopeo, "to watch"). The specific trochiloides is from Ancient Greek trokhalos, "bowed", and -oides "resembling", from the similarity to the willow warbler, P. trochilus. The English name of this species provides a perfect argument in favour of the capitalisation of species names (i.e. treating them as proper nouns), a convention which is generally applied in scientific literature. The decapitalised "greenish warbler" is equally descriptive of many bird species across multiple families, whereas a capitalised "Greenish Warbler" shows unambiguously that Phylloscopus trochiloides is under discussion.

Ijima's leaf warbler

Ijima's leaf warbler (Phylloscopus ijimae) (also known as Izu leaf warbler, Ijima's willow warbler or Ijima's warbler) is a species of Old World warbler in the family Phylloscopidae.

It is found in Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, and subtropical or tropical moist shrubland.

It is threatened by habitat loss, but is locally abundant in steep and densely wooded areas whose topography makes habitat destruction for development difficult.

Ijima's leaf warbler is in practice hard to tell apart from the eastern crowned warbler, by physical appearance alone. It has the same dainty and perfectly proportioned features of the typical Phylloscopus warbler. However, the song - a series of quiet but fairly far-carrying squeaking sounds - is very different from the plaintive, Old World bunting like song of the eastern crowned.

Intra-species recognition

Intra-species recognition is the recognition by a member of a species of a conspecific (another member of the same species). In many species, such recognition is necessary for procreation.

Different species may employ different methods, but all of them are based on one or more senses (after all, this is how the organism gathers information about the environment). The recognition may happen by chemical signature (smell), by having a distinctive shape or color (sight), by emitting certain sounds (hearing), or even by behaviour patterns. Often a combination of these is used.

Among human beings, the sense of sight is usually in charge of recognizing other members of the same species, with maybe the subconscious help of smell. In particular, the human brain has a disproportionate amount of processing power dedicated to finely analyze the features of a human face. This is why we are able to distinguish basically all six billions of human beings from each other (barring look-alikes), and a human being from a similar species like some anthropomorphic ape, with only a quick glance.

Intra-species recognition systems are often subtle. For example, ornithologists have great difficulty in distinguishing the chiffchaff from the willow warbler by eye, and there is no evidence that the birds themselves can do so other than by the different songs of the male. Sometimes, intra-species recognition is fallible: in many species of frog, the males are not uncommonly seen copulating with females of the wrong species or even with inanimate objects.

Heliconius charithonia displays intra-species recognition by roosting with conspecifics. They do this with the help of UV rhodopsins in the eye that help them distinguish between ultraviolet yellow pigments and regular yellow pigments. They have also been known to emit chemical cues in order to recognize members of their own species.

Loch Cluanie

Loch Cluanie (Scottish Gaelic: Loch Cluanaidh) is a loch in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland at the south-east end of Glen Shiel. It is a reservoir, contained behind the Cluanie Dam, constructed by Mitchell Construction and completed in 1957 as part of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board's Glenmoriston project to generate hydroelectricity. Water feeds the dam from the west via two flows, from a tunnel from the dammed Loch Loyne and via the River Moriston.The A87 road runs along the north edge of the loch.

The hamlet of Cluanie is on the west side of the loch. It has a car park, the Cluanie Inn and two houses which are used as "holiday homes" by their owners.

The Cluanie Inn is the site of a weather station. It is also at or near the start/end points of several walks into the neighbouring hills, which include several Munros.Cluanie Lodge (NH097109) is a private dwelling owned by the estate and land owner, which is the primary residence of the owner, on the south-west corner of the loch. The dwelling has been extensively renovated over the last 5 years prior to it becoming the owners main residence. The richly vegetated areas at the side of the loch are home to small birds such as the willow warbler and the wren.

Longfield Chalk Bank

Longfield Chalk Bank is a 2-hectare (4.9-acre) nature reserve in Longfield in Kent. It is managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust.This chalk grassland site also has areas of woodland and scrub. Fauna include the common blue butterfly, slow worm, common lizard and willow warbler.There is access from West Shaw.

Pale-legged leaf warbler

The pale-legged leaf warbler (Phylloscopus tenellipes) is a species of Old World warbler in the family Phylloscopidae.

It is found in Manchuria; it winters in Southeast Asia.

Its natural habitat is temperate forests.

Polhill Bank

Polhill Bank is a 4-hectare (9.9-acre) nature reserve south of Shoreham, which is north of Sevenoaks in Kent. It is managed by Kent Wildlife Trust. It is in Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.This chalk grassland site is on a south-east slope. There is also an area of scrub, which provides a habitat for birds such as blackcap and willow warbler. Flora include rock-rose.The site is open to the public.

Rhos Goch National Nature Reserve

Rhos Goch National Nature Reserve, located near Painscastle on the England/Wales border, is one of the largest raised bogs in mid and south Wales.

‘Goch’ is Welsh for ‘red’, and in autumn the bog accordingly becomes a stunning carpet of red and gold. Many birds and insects love the reserve’s diverse and little-disturbed habitats. Curlew and lapwing feed here in the winter, and in summer the swamp is alive with the calls of the willow warbler and reed bunting, the air shimmering with dragonflies and damselflies.

Rifle Butts Quarry

Rifle Butts Quarry is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. The particular interest of this reserve is the geological feature exposed on the quarry face. The site is owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The exposure which is identified as being of national importance in the Geological Conservation Review shows a Cretaceous unconformity, where sediments from the Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous periods were eroded away. It shows a section of Red Chalk and White Chalk overlying Lias. A shelter has been constructed to protect the quarry face from erosion. The reserve is situated on the western edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, one mile south-east of Goodmanham and two miles from Market Weighton. The site, which was designated a SSSI in 1952, has over 150 plants recorded. It still displays some characteristic chalk species, including cowslip, marjoram, field scabious and wild basil. Breeding birds include willow warbler and yellowhammer.

Shargleam Blackcap

Ch. Shargleam Blackcap, (born 26 June 1977), also known as Brett is a Flat-Coated Retriever show dog bred and handled by Mrs Pat Chapman who won Best in Show at Crufts in 1980. He is one of the ancestors of 2011 Crufts Best in Show Sh Ch. Vbos The Kentuckian.

The Gublins (TV series)

The Gublins (1977) (also known as The Gublin Legends) is a stop-motion children's television show from the producers of Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley. The Gublins were chimp-like creations that featured in a series of Tall Stories, narrated in rhyming couplets to a simple acoustic soundtrack provided by Freddie Phillips.

They were first broadcast as part of Noel Edmond's Multicoloured Swap Shop on BBC One.

There were thirteen episodes filmed although only twelve are known by name, they are:

The Prince Frog

The Magic Tree

Mr Dilley's Mermaid

Bessie O'the Glen (or the Inversneekie Doonie)

The Dancing Princess

Charley's Feather

The Prudent Prince

The Emperor's Willow Warbler

The Honey-Coloured Hat

The Kendal Candle

Obadiah and Flo

The Barber of CartinaThree of these stories appeared in the BBC Swap Shop Books (2,3 & 4) as photostories. There were also five photostory books published separately titled "Young Gublins Picture Storybooks". They were completely new stories called:

The Lost Drum

The Surprise Present

The Wishing Well

Grandpa's Mistake

Yellow-browed warbler

The yellow-browed warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) is a leaf warbler (family Phylloscopidae) which breeds in temperate Asia. This warbler is strongly migratory and winters mainly in tropical South Asia and South-east Asia, but also in small numbers in western Europe. Like the rest of Phylloscopidae, it was formerly included in the Old World warbler assemblage.It was formerly considered to comprise three subspecies, but P. i. humei and P. i. mandellii are now split as a separate species, Hume's leaf warbler P. humei, leaving P. inornatus monotypic. The two sister species differ slightly but consistently in morphology, bioacoustics, and molecular characters. Before the species was split, the names yellow-browed willow warbler and inornate warbler were used by a few authors.


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