Garden Warbler

Sylvia borin

This mainly plain, solitary, short billed, stocky little warbler is widespread throughout Europe and a long distance migrant to Africa, crossing the Sahara Desert without pause.

Garden Warbler

Family:

Warblers

Length:

14cm to 20cm

Wingspan:

20cm to 24.5cm

Weight:

16g to 22g

What does a Garden Warbler look like?

The adult male has a round head and face with a short thick bill. The upperparts are a pale buff brownish grey with a pale grey patch on the side of the neck and a thin pale white eye ring. The underparts are paler than the upper, being almost white with a light buff coloured chin and throat extending to the flanks. Eyes are a dark brown and the beak is brown. Legs are a brownish grey. The female is as the male and although smaller the juvenile is also similar to the adult in overall appearance.

Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler perched on a branch

What does a Garden Warbler sound like?

The garden warbler’s call is a low ‘chek-chek’ or ‘churrr’ sound with an alarm call of repeated single notes, ‘whet’ and ‘duij’. The song, most commonly sung by the male whilst perched under the cover of bushes or tree foliage, is a fast and varied rich, melodious, medium to high pitched, warble.

Garden Warbler song / call

Rick Sharloch, XC651781. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/651781.

Garden Warbler

Close up of a Garden Warbler

What does a Garden Warbler eat?

During the breeding season, the garden warbler feeds mainly on insects and spiders which it collects off leaves and branches from surrounding trees. Once breeding has concluded the bird changes its diet to include berries and fruits which it eats in abundance in order to build up its fat reserves in preparation for its long migration south which normally takes place between late July and September.

Garden Warbler

A pair of Garden Warblers

Distribution

Garden warblers breed in the United Kingdom, most of Continental Europe and eastwards into Turkey and the Caucasus. Winter migration takes them south to sub-Saharan and South Africa. They prefer open woodland of broadleaf trees or mixed deciduous/coniferous forests, urban parks and domestic gardens. Shrubs or scattered bushes, particularly blackthorn and hawthorn, are also favoured.

Garden Warbler

Signs and Spotting tips

In order to attract a mate a bird will normally use one of two methods, dependent upon its species, which is either looks or voice. It is rare to find a bird which uses both. For example beautiful colourful proud looking birds will puff up their plumage and pose or promenade in order to attract a mate, rarely will they attempt to serenade them. This often leaves them exposed to predation. Conversely those birds with an enchanting melodious repertoire are often plain and non-descript looking and issue forth their songs hidden and safe in bushes or thickets. As with the Nightingale, the garden warbler is a prime example of the latter. During the summer when garden warblers are nest building and breeding they can often be identified by their song. However, the song can be almost identical to that of the Blackcap so this is not always an accurate identification method. Whilst their overall appearance may be uninspiring the whitish belly and grey patches on the neck are an aid to positive identification. Although normally solitary they will mingle and feed with other warblers.

Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler nest with eggs

Breeding

Breeding occurs from April through until July, depending upon geographical location and climate. The cup shaped nest, constructed by both parents from grasses, leaves and roots, is built low down in a tree or bush and lined with animal hair and fine grasses. One clutch of 4 – 5 buff coloured eggs with brown and purple blotches is produced annually and incubated by both parents for up to twelve days. Fledging takes place ten days later.

Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler chicks

How long do Garden Warblers live for?

Life expectancy of the garden warbler is up to five years although examples of ringed birds living past ten years are not uncommon and captive specimens up to eighteen years have been recorded.

Similar birds to a Garden Warbler

Other birds in the Warblers family