Marsh Warbler

Acrocephalus palustris



The Marsh Warbler appears quite similar to the Reed Warbler, however the former is shorter in the bill and it lacks the Reed Warbler's reddish-tinged rump. The sexes are similar, greyish brown on top and on the rump, and pale underparts that are buffish tinged with yellow. It has a faint supercilium, pinkish legs, a white throat, long, pointed wings and pale tips to the primary flight feathers. Has a slightly greenish tinge in the spring when compared to the Reed Warbler, and the colours fade during summer. Juveniles are similar to adults and closely resemble Reed Warbler juveniles, however the pinkish legs differ from the Reed Warbler's greyish ones. Plumage is generally brighter than in adults birds.


Tends towards abundant plant life with a preference for willowherb, nettle and meadowsweet, when in proximity to willows and bushes. The Marsh Warbler is usually found near to water or on damp locations, and can inhabit headlands, islands and gardens.


A timid bird, though may be braver than the Reed Warbler, opting to sing from more visible perches. Mostly feeds on the ground, moving inconspicuously through thick bushes, holding itself higher upright than the Reed Warbler.


Diet includes beetles, caterpillars, froghoppers, and spiders, and birds may catch insects in flight.


Female lays 4 or 5 eggs and both parents incubate them for 12-14 days. Both parents then tend to the young, which depart the nest at about 10-11 days old, though rely on adults for 15-19 more days.


This is a rare visitor in the summer. Most visiting birds arrive in the region at the end of May or early June, and have missed their migration mark on the way from Scandinavia or eastern Europe. Numbers have decreased in the last decades, and now the maximum number of pairs is 10.

Observation Tips

The Marsh Warbler usually stays within habitual territories, despite the abundance of suitable habitat. The southeast of England around May is a favourite area for these birds. A few males may sing on the coast when they first land, however they usually depart the area after a day or two.


Separating the Marsh Warbler's call from that of the Reed Warbler's is the most effective way of identification. The Marsh Warbler is a talented mimic, imitating both European and African species; some of its most common imitations are that of the Swallow, Greenfinch and the Blue Tit. The song includes churring, and a combination of full, melodic phrases, and a more shrill 'tche' call.
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