Willow Warbler

Jon Lees

Newtownards, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Willow Warbler, this little bird was working the hedge hard for food after a cold night. There seemed to be a influx of spring birds into the country in the last few days.

Canon 40D Sigma 150-500mm@500mm
iso400, F6.3, 1/800
+1/3 stop

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Willow Warbler
About this sound Song (help·info), About this sound call (help·info).
Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)1
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Phylloscopidae
Genus: Phylloscopus
Species: P. trochilus
Binomial name
Phylloscopus trochilus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Willow Warbler (formerly called the Willow Wren,1) Phylloscopus trochilus, is a very common and widespread leaf warbler which breeds throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia.2

It was described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae in 1758 under the genus Motacilla.3

This “warbler” is strongly migratory and the majority of the population winters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of the first leaf warblers to return in the spring but is later than the Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita.2

This is a bird of open woodlands with trees and ground cover for nesting, including birch and willow uplands. The nest is usually built in close contact with the ground, often in low vegetation. Like most Old World warblers, this small passerine is insectivorous.2

This is a typical leaf warbler in appearance, greenish brown above and off-white below. It is very similar to the Chiffchaff, but non-singing birds can be distinguished from that species by their paler legs, longer paler bill, more elegant shape and longer primary projection. Its song is a simple repetitive descending whistle.2
[edit] Behaviour

  • mid-September to mid-April: lives in sub Saharan Africa
  • mid April to Mid May: migrates and arrives in countries such as the United Kingdom
  • mid May to August: breeding season, one brood only
  • August to mid September: flies back to Saharan Africa

Research indicates that Willow Warblers prefer young, open, scrubby woodland; small trees including coppice. High amounts of Birch, lichen, water features eg streams, fields with large amounts of bracken and mosses, and patches of low bramble (for nest cover) are also required.4 They use coppice up to 10 years old, preferring Birch and damper soils. Incorporating woodland ride edge thickets is beneficial, as is 15 metre woodland edges of varying structure and height. They prefer damp woodland areas. Thicket forming shrubs like blackthorn provide pockets of habitat. Deer browsing can degrade the required low cover.
[edit] Status and conservation

In England this species has on average decreased in population by 70% within the last 25 years. The biggest declines have occurred in the South East, whilst in Scotland some increases have occurred.

The Forestry Commission offers grants under a scheme called England’s Woodland Improvement Grant (EWIG); as does Natural Englands Environmental Stewardship Scheme.[

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