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.
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.
Close up of a Eurasian reed warbler
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.
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 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.
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 flying
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.
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 with nest and chicks
The life expectancy of reed warblers is up to five years.
This small but long tailed, large headed warbler, is a resident of the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean where it is common, although is not present on the island of Menorca.
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.
Mainly confined to lowland heaths in southern England, the Dartford warbler is an elusive little resident breeder with distinctive plumage and physical characteristics.
Until recently this small, solitary, old world leaf warbler was classified as being a member of the family Sylviidae, but following extensive research and reclassification, now falls within the family of Phylloscopidae.
Named after the 18th century Italian zoologist and Jesuit priest, Francisco Cetti this small plain looking bush warbler is frequently heard but difficult to spot.
Within its range and to differentiate it from other similar species, it is often referred to as an Eurasian Blackcap. This sexually dichromatic, stocky little warbler, is a member of the genus Sylvia and is sometimes nicknamed the Northern Nightingale due to its beautiful and frequent song.