Icterine Warbler

Hippolais icterina



The Icterine Warbler's crown rises to a peak above the eye, its forehead is flattish, and the bill is quite narrow but long and pointed. The upperparts are greenish-grey and underneath is a soft yellow colour, with the yellowness being variable. The feathers on the wings have pale fringes (which appear like a whitish panel when grounded) and there are long projecting feathers. The tail has a blunt, squarish end, and the legs are bluish grey. The yellow sections fade to dull-white throughout summer. Majority of birds seen in the region are in their first winter; they have a lemon-coloured section on the throat but are otherwise less vivid than adults.


Breeding often occurs near water in open woods with an abundance of scrub and bushes, and large trees. May also breed in parkland, and on the outskirts of areas of human population.


A timid, skittish bird that can take insects from the air, and perches with a distinctly upright stance, often in view. The wings appear long when flying. The tail frequently flits, and there are feathers on the head which rise to form a subtle crest.


Diet includes beetles, flies, aphids and moth caterpillars, and the Icterine Warble will eat fruit during autumn.


Breeding occurs nearby in northern France, but is rare in the region. Female lays 4 or 5 eggs at the end of May or beginning of June, then incubates them for 13-15 days. Both adults tend to the young, which depart the nest at about 13 days old, gaining independence 9 or 10 days after this.


This is a thinly received passage migrant, mostly arriving at the end of April or during May, and departing somewhere from July to September; it's presumed the 100 or so birds that arrive in the region are migrant birds slightly off-course. It is likely that birds only make one stop on their journey to Africa, and during the autumn journey, birds rest in the Mediterranean. North Africa receives Icterine Warbler's during spring.

Observation Tips

The Icterine Warbler may be shifted to coastal spots in the region by September winds blowing to the southeast. Even when on the coast, these birds will usually find bush or scrub cover. There are a few identification challenges for observers; adult Icterine Warblers can resemble the bright juvenile Willow Warblers, and they also closely resemble Melodious Warblers. The pale wing fringes and the blue-tinged legs are key things to note in the Icterine Warbler.


The Icterine Warbler's song takes on some mimicking of other species, and also has a melodious 'tey-de-dwee' song. It has repetitive calls such as 'geea' and 'tchet, tchet, tchet'.
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