Garden Warbler.

Originally posted to Flickr .Uploaded to commons  via Aa77zz. Taken in Orebo County Sweden

 Originally posted to Flickr .Uploaded to commons via Aa77zz. Taken in Orebo County Sweden

Source: Courtesy of Billyboy CC-BY SA 2.0 Generic license.


The Garden warbler belongs to the Passeriformes {perching birds} order of birds and the family Sylviidae within that order. The genus name of Sylvia derives from Latin and indicates woodland. The specific name of borin derives from the Italian {Genovese} for a type of warbler.

Here in the UK they are placed on the Green list of conservation concern {no current concerns},with an estimated 170,000 territories in summer. They are also Green listed in Ireland where they are classed as a scarce summer visitor. { Source BTO}.

In Europe the population is regarded as being secure with a total population of between 8.8 and 16 million pairs.The populations vary from country to country and here are a few selected examples. The Austrian population is estimated at between 10,000-20,000 Breeding pairs{BP } Belgium 20,000-100,000 BP. Croatia 1,000-3,000 BP. France 800,000-3,200,000 BP. Germany 800,000-1,400,000 BP. Russia {the whole of Russia} 8,500,000-15,000,000 BP.Sweden 1-3 million BP. and Ukraine 460,000 -670,000 BP. {source Birdlife}

They breed in Europe and western Asia and winter in tropical and southern Africa. They are birds of forest edge ,scrub and towns.

Wrentit a taxonomic mystery

Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons by Raul654

 Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons by Raul654

Source: Courtesy of phonephotoman CC BY -SA 2.0 Generic license.

What are Sylviidae warblers ?

Silviidae is a family of perching birds and were once classed as being 'old world' warblers. These consisted of many species and over 70 genera.

Today the smaller family Sylviidae includes the typical warblers in the genus Sylvia and the Parrotbills of Asia, some babblers formerly placed within the family Timaliidae and a species called the Wrentit an unusual bird of North America,which has been a long standing taxonomic mystery.It is placed in the genus Chamaea.

Sylvia warblers are small to medium sized birds. The bill is generally slim and pointed. They are slender in form and an inconspicuous ,mostly plain plumage. The genus Sylvia includes many species such as the Arabian Warbler Sylvia leucomelana, the Lesser Whitethroat,S.curruca, the White throat ,S.communis **, Sardinian Warbler S,melanocephala and the Spectacled warbler S.canspicillata**. Tristram's warbler, S.deserticola and the Dartford warbler. S undata.

Here we review the Garden warbler S.borin, and as usual we commence with a description of the species under review.

Garden warbler /habitat

Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley.

 Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley.

Source: Courtesy of princetonnature CC BY-SA 3.0  license.

Description of the garden warbler.

The Adult male in spring.--The upper parts are uniform olive brown, the wings and tail being slightly darker. The flight and tail feathers are tipped with light brown and the inner most secondary feathers being broadly edged with the same colour.

The lores are ashy grey,ear coverts, the same colour as the upper parts but though rather lighter and the sides of the neck slightly suffuced with ash grey.The under parts and under tail coverts are whitish grey whilst the upper breast and flanks are washed with light olive. The underside of the tail is grey with ahite shafts to the feathers, the under side of the wings greyish and the under wing coverts and axillaries pale cinnamon buff.

The bill is horn brown,becoming more lead coloured towards the tip and buffish flesh at the base of the upper mandible, the mouth being flesh coloured . The Iris is dark brown. The feet are whitish grey the claws having dark brown points and the soles are yellowish. Both sexes are alike in plumage.

The autumn plumage of both sexes differs from that of the spring plumage in being darker and slightly more olive green on the upper parts and a richer buff on the under parts.

illustration of the Garden Warbler with wings raised.

'The British Warblers'  E.Howard 1907 Courtesy of the BHL.

 'The British Warblers' E.Howard 1907 Courtesy of the BHL.

General and historical information

Despite its name the Garden warbler is not really a garden bird,except in mature gardens next to woods. The Garden warbler seldom arrives in the UK before the latter half of April, some weeks later than the Blackcap**. Some birds may arrive in the latter end of April while others may be delayed until the middle of May. However, it is impossible to be certain that these late arrivals have only just reached our shores or that they have been wandering around in search of a territory,and are only noted when they have found a territory and commence to sing their claim on it.

A new breeding ground is often supplied by the clearing away of some young trees or the felling of timber in some wood. The first to take advantage would be young males in search of their first breeding station. The location chosen is similar to those inhabited by the Blackcap. Large or small woods,coppices,Osier beds,Wooded banks,Large gardens,or even the outskirts of a forest affording the necessary shelter,and it does not seem to have any partiality for any particular type of woodland.

 The number of individuals that visit us in a particular locality year by year is subject to variation. Records reveal that in some seasons they are abundant, in the next only moderately so and in some seasons they may be scarce. It seems to be another of Nature's mysterys,as why this should be so.

The first males generally arrive about a week to ten days before the females. Their behaviour is very similar to the closely related Blackcap. As soon as the males establish a territory they immediately begin to sing incessantly. It appears some males arrive during the night for fresh arrivals are generally just heard during the early hours of the morning. On arrival the male spends most of his time feeding and singing. he wanders restlessly around in his territory.

However, close observation will reveal that the male forms a pattern in his wanderings backwards and forwards. Time after time he can be observed in some tree or bush searching for food and the same line of flight is taken between various trees. A certain tree or shrub is favoured as his headquarters from which he proclaims his presence by his song.

 In larger woodland the territory may be extensive,yet if the territory is,for example in an Osier bed, it will be much smaller. In larger woodland the territory may be five acres or more but in Osier beds an acre or less may well be sufficient for his requirements. territorial disputes erupt where the territories overlap or are adjoining. However, these disputes are undertaken at the borders of the territories rather than in the middle of the territory,and they are soon sorted out.

When the females arrive the birds are often encountered in close proximity to each other. The song is by no means as complete as that of the Blackcap, but nevertheless it is in its own right a beautiful warble,and its only fault, if such it can be called, is it tends to be somewhat monotonous. There seems to be little range in the notes which indicates a fine vocal development, however, that is only my personal opinion and others say it is fine.

The food of the Garden Warbler mainly consists of insects and their larva, green caterpillars form the greater part of the diet of the young birds. In autumn fruit such as Elderberry seem to be favoured to supplement their diet.

Garden warbler caught for ringing purposes.

 Source: Courtesy of Aelwyn CC BY-SA 3.0 ,license.

Garden warbler in captivity { Historical}

In the days before it became illegal to keep wild birds {with a few licensed exceptions} bird-catchers made a good living .They caught the birds by whatever means {usually by nets} and sold them to bird keepers and as an item of food to the markets. This is part of our avian history and the following paragraphs allude to that time.

Butler an experienced bird keeper of his time relates that the Garden warbler is certainly more sensitive to cold than the Blackcap he says " A friend of mine who is very fond of fishing,sometimes takes a fine net with him which he fixes across the trout stream. By this means he has,from time to time,secured many interesting birds for taxidermy, { a procedure with which I have no sympathy,for to my mind a live bird in a bush id far more preferable to fifty dead ones in the hand }, however, in September of 1888, he brought me two living birds,one of which was a male Garden warbler."

" I turned these birds out into a large cool aviary among Waxbills,Mannikins and British finches. The Garden warbler seemed perfectly content,ate the usual soft food,as well as a few meal worms,caterpillars and spiders. The frost did not seem to affect it unpleasantly,and, in early spring sang pleasantly everyday. In May its song became less frequent and it grew somewhat listless in its movements,yet continued to eat as freely as ever,.One morning in July 1889,I found it dead and dissection showed that its lungs were seriously affected. I should therefore recommend Aviculturists to keep this warbler in a mild temperature during the winter months and give it as much insect food as possible. It ought ,moreover to be kept in an aviary,so that it may able to take part in healthy exercise"

 Butler, went on to say-" Mr.Staines of Penge, gave me a second male in July 1896,which is in perfect health at the time of penning this article."

Garden warbler singing among foliage.

Originally posted on Flickr Uploaded to commons by AHA2

 Originally posted on Flickr Uploaded to commons by AHA2

Source: Courtesy of Neil Phillips CC BY 2.0 Generic license.

Breeding nest and eggs.

Although the nest is usually started soon after the arrival of the female in the territory,studies have revealed there is variation in respect of the individual pairs. One female will lay the foundations of her nursery three or four days after her arrival,while others will delay for a week or so. It also appears to be the later arrivals that are keen to commence the building while the earlier arrivals less so.

The task of nest building is generally undertaken by the female and she may start a flimsy foundation,then move to another bush she feels may be a better suited locality and start a new foundation before setting about her business in earnest.

The male will keep a close and careful watch and stay near by as the construction commences. Any other bird that approaches to closely will be flown at and attacked. the nest will be completed within 7-9 days. it is by no means an elaborate piece of architecture,the foundation being composed of dead grasses and the interior being composed of grass and the lining with finer grasses and rootlets.

Usually the nest is situated two to four feet from the ground and it may be placed in any convenient shelter such Bramble,dead bracken,elder and hazel bushes with no partiality being shown for any particular kind of undergrowth.

 The female will deposit four to five eggs laying one every twenty four hours until the clutch is completed. The task of incubation is under taken by both parents the female undertaking the majority of the task. The eggs are usually creamy white,but sometimes, a pale greenish white botched and spotted with pale greyish olive or rufous brown,with sometimes a few underlying spots of pale grey,and a few fine spots of blackish-brown surface spots or hair lines


Wilhelm von Wright-Public domain uploaded to Wikicommons by EnDumEn

 Wilhelm von Wright-Public domain uploaded to Wikicommons by EnDumEn

Chicks and Immature birds.

The young are hatched in about 12-13 days and will remain in the nest for a further 12 days or so. The chicks are naked at birth and their eye lids are sealed. The colour inside the mouth is pink and there are two dark coloured spots at the base of the tongue.

On the third day the eyes open and the primary feathers are just appearing. On the fourth day the feathers on the back appear.By the fith day there has been a considerable advance in their development and by the sixth day the feathers on the breast and flanks appear. After about a week the feathers begin to show colouring. During the remaining days in the nest the growth continues rapidly. However, when they leave the nest they appear to be still in an underdeveloped state considering the dangers that threaten them.

The thick tangled undergrowth in which they so wonderfully conceal themselves will keep them secure from certain enemies,though at the same time leaves them vulnerable to others. Small rodents,stoats and weasels are sure to find an easy meal among the hapless victims.

At this time the young tend to perch together an utter a faint note which can only just be heard by the human ear and is even more difficult to locate.. The note acts as a guide to the parents whose tenacious searching for food and bringing the food to them takes up almost all of their time.

 The immature birds have a general colour of the upper parts very similar to that of the adult in spring but with rather more olive and a faint eye stripe is noticeable. The throat is whitish,upper breast and flanks are olive brown the latter being rather lighter, the abdomen is pure white and the under tail coverts pure buff.

The wings and tail differ slightly to that of the spring adult. The bill is lavender brown,flesh coloured at the base,and the flanges bright yellow surrounded by crimson,which is caused by a rich red colour inside the mouth. The iris is dark greyish brown and the lores and region around the eyes a dark lavender. The feet are light lavender and the front part of the tarsus and the upper part of the toes are bluish.

Garden warbler perched in a tree.

 Source: Courtesy of Np holmes CC BY -SA 3.0  license

UK conservation status 2021

UK -Green List-No current concerns.

Europe- Species of least concern. 

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