Reed Warbler

Acrocephalus scirpaceus

Not to be confused with the Great Reed Warbler, this relatively nondescript, solitary little bird is an annual visitor to the UK from sub-Saharan Africa, arriving in mid April and departing early in October.

Reed Warbler

Family:

Warblers

Length:

13cm

Wingspan:

17cm to 21cm

Weight:

10g to 15g

What does a Reed Warbler look like?

The reed warbler is a rather plain medium sized song bird with mid-brown upper parts and bright cream or buff under parts. It has a white throat and pale eye ring which is more apparent above the eye than below. The bird has a flat forehead and the feathers on the crown are often raised when the bird is singing. It has a long tail, slightly rounded with pale coverts beneath. A covert feather is one which, by overlapping and covering other feathers, cuts down turbulence allowing for a smoother flow of air over the wings and tail. The top of the wings are darker in colour than the back and even paler rump. The bill is slender and sharp and the legs are grey or dark brown.

Reed Warbler

Close up of a Eurasian reed warbler

What does a Reed Warbler sound like?

Often heard rather than seen the reed warbler sings a low rhythmic 'jit – jit – jit' often interspersed with a more melodious higher pitched 'trrrt – trrrt – tiri'.

Eurasian Reed Warbler Call / Song

Scott Wotherspoon, XC589781. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/589781.

What does a Reed Warbler eat?

Occasionally a seed eater but predominantly and insectivore it forages for spiders and insects on the mud of reed beds and other vegetation.

Reed Warbler

Did you know?

Reed warbler nests are prone to attack by cuckoos who will eject the warblers’ healthy eggs from the nest and lay an egg of their own with a colour and patternation almost identical to those of their hosts. Once hatched the demanding cuckoo chick is fed by both adult reed warblers who are a quarter of the size of the intruder at time of fledging.

Where can I see Reed Warblers?

Although sometimes seen in Wales and Scotland the main areas occupied by reed warblers are East Anglia and the south coast of England. They are usually found within reed beds or in trees beside water. They have extremely strong feet and legs which enables them to cling to vertical reeds whilst adopting an upright posture and they are frequently observed in this position.

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler flying

Signs and Spotting tips

Spending the majority of its time in reedbeds and with its repetitive song the reed warbler is easily confused with the marsh warbler which is very similar in appearance. Look for the raised crown feathers when the bird is singing or excited in addition to its common stance of clinging to the shafts of reeds.

How do Reed Warblers breed?

The reed warbler builds a deep bowl-shaped nest of marsh foliage, grass and moss which it weaves between vertical reeds giving the nest added strength and rigidity. Between May to July up to two broods are laid each consisting of between 3 – 5 eggs coloured very pale grey with extensive dark grey-green mottling. Chicks fledge after around ten days.

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler with nest and chicks

How long do Reed Warblers live for?

The life expectancy of reed warblers is up to five years.

Similar birds to a Reed Warbler

Other birds in the Warblers family