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Wood Warbler

Wood Warbler

Key facts

Scientific name: Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Status: Breeding summer visitor

UK breeding birds: 6,500 males

Conservation status: Red
Length: 12 – 13 cm
Wingspan: 19 – 24 cm
Weight: 8 – 12 g

What do wood warblers look like?

Adult wood warblers have olive-grey upperparts, which become greyer in worn plumage. On the upperwing, the inner webs are dark brown, the edges of the median and greater coverts and the edges of the flight feathers are yellowy-green, and the fringes or the tertials are pale yellow which may sometimes form a panel on closed wings. The tail is olive-grey with yellowy-green edges on the outer rectrices.

The underparts are white except for the breast and throat which are bright yellow. Some birds have brown upperparts and no yellow on the underparts.

On the head, the forehead, crown, and nape are olive-grey, while the chin, cheeks, and ear coverts are bright yellow. There is a long, pale yellow supercilium and a dark olive-green eyestripe.

The thin, pointed bill has a brown upper mandible and a yellowy-pink lower mandible, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and feet are yellowy-brown. Males and females look similar.

Juvenile wood warblers are duller than adults with a grey wash on the upperparts and less yellow on the breast and throat.

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How do wood warblers breed?

Wood warblers breed between May and July and produce 1 or 2 broods a season. They may be monogamous or polygamous. Males establish a territory but the female chooses the nest site and builds the nest, a dome-shaped structure placed on the ground usually under a fallen tree, in a low shrub, or among the roots of plants. The nest is made from bark, stems, grass, and leaves, and lined with finer grasses and hair.

Wood warblers lay 5-7 smooth, glossy white eggs with fine brown speckles which are incubated by the female alone for 12-14 days. Chicks are raised by both parents and are fed caterpillars and larvae. They fledge 11-13 days after hatching but are fed for a further 2-3 days and remain in the family group for another month. They reach sexual maturity at 1 year.

What do wood warblers eat?

Wood warblers eat invertebrates such as mayflies, damselflies, flies, ants, beetles, and spiders. They will also eat fruit including bramble, elder, and bilberries.

They forage in both the canopy and undergrowth of forests and catches insects by hovering and sallying. In winter they will often join other foraging species in mixed flocks.

Wood Warbler

Where can I see wood warblers?

Wood warblers can be seen in the UK between April and September. They are found in upland oak woods mainly in the west of the country. Look out for them in deciduous woodland under closed canopies where there is little shrub.

What do wood warblers sound like?

Mathias Götz/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The chiffchaff, willow warbler, and wood warbler were until the middle of the 18th century thought to be one species of willow wren. Gilbert White, the English naturalist who separate the species, described the wood warbler as a Large Shivering Willow Wren.

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