Aquatic Warbler

Acrocephalus paludicola

Aquatic Warblers are rare but regular passage migrants to northwest Europe in the autumn.

Aquatic Warbler

Aquatic Warbler

Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Acrocephalus paludicola



Conservation status:






16.5cm to 19.5cm


10g to 14g

What does an Aquatic Warbler look like?

Aquatic Warblers are very similar to sedge and moustached warblers in shape and general appearance. However, they can be distinguished by their narrow, distinct, yellow median crown-stripe. Adult upperparts are more sandy than the sedge warbler’s, with long, dark-brown streaks highlighted by paler stripes. Aquatic warblers have two clear yellow-buff bands along their mantle-sides, while rump is rusty, streaked with brown. Sexes are similar. Adults almost always have breast and flanks finely streaked, whereas juveniles do not.

Aquatic Warbler

What does an Aquatic Warbler sound like?

The aquatic warbler’s call is a clicking “check”. They sing mostly in the evening, up to dusk. The song is a fast, chattering “ja-ja-ja” punctuated with whistles.

Michael Kurth, XC588427. Accessible at

What does an Aquatic Warbler eat?

Aquatic warblers mostly eat insects, from small dragonflies to small flies.

Where can I see Aquatic Warblers?

The aquatic warbler is a summer visitor to lowland marshes, mostly in eastern Europe. It is a regular autumn migrant in Britain, where they are most likely to be found in in coastal reedbeds along the south coast, particularly in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. The RSPB reserve at Marazion Marsh in Cornwall records several individuals annually.

Aquatic Warbler

Signs and spotting tips

The aquatic warbler’s silhouette when singing is distinctive, with its tail pointed down and neck extended and straining with each verse. They are a difficult bird to watch because of their love of low, dense cover. However, they can be tempted out in to the open by imitating its call. The male can also be seen in his breeding territory during song flights when he rises, silently, high in the air and sings on his way down. This takes place between mid-May and mid-July. Peak song periods are before sunrise and at dusk.

How does an Aquatic Warbler breed?

Aquatic warblers breed only in open, waterlogged sedge. The nest will be a well-shaped cup of grasses and cobwebs, lined with feathers. The female will lay 5-6 pale buff eggs with darker mottling.

How long does an Aquatic Warbler live for?

There is little known on the life expectancy of these birds, but experts guess around 2 and a half years.

Do Aquatic Warblers migrate?

The only place that the aquatic warbler is found to breed is in Eastern Europe, with a very small remnant population in Siberia. It is migratory, wintering in west Africa. It’s south-westerly migration route passes as far west as Britain, where it can be seen in autumn. The peak month for juveniles to pass through Britain is August.

Aquatic Warbler

Threats and conservation

The aquatic warbler is the rarest and the only internationally threatened passerine bird found in Europe. The threat is due to a loss of habitat due to the draining of wetlands and the decline of traditional agriculture. Various initiatives to restore and protect the species’ habitat are employed in Europe, funded primarily by the EU’s LIFE program. With a global population estimated at around 21,000 pairs, aquatic warblers are of high conservation concern.

What is a group of Aquatic Warblers called?

There are no specific collective nouns for the Aquatic Warbler, instead, you can use general Warbler collective nouns such as:

  • a bouquet of warblers
  • a confusion of warblers
  • a fall of warblers
  • a wrench of warblers

Aquatic Warbler Country Distribution

Similar birds to a Aquatic Warbler

Other birds in the Warblers family

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