Reed Warbler

Acrocephalus scirpaceus

13cm

Appearance

The Reed Warbler has long under-tail feathers; it is a sandy brownish colour above and buffish underneath, lightening to white on the throat. The rump is flushed with reddish-brown. The bill is long and narrow like a needle, the legs are dark, the forehead is quite flat, and there's a pale strip across the eye. Birds are duller and more grey come the end of summer. Juveniles resemble adults but they are richer in colour with orangish-brown flanks.

Habitat

Prefers matured fenland, ditches and lake margins for breeding. It tends towards reeds that grow in water, but may also breed amidst crops. Migrant birds can be found in less characteristic places such as gardens and orchards.

Character

The Reed Warbler is an inconspicuous birds which spends majority of time in thick reeds. It sings often, but is usually hidden in reedbeds even in song. It is agile in reed territory, climbing between stems and hanging off them with legs spread. It is usually alone when not breeding, but defends a modest area amidst a small colony during breeding season.

Food

Diet includes spiders, small snails, aphids, beetles, flies and small bugs.

Breeding

In May, females weave cup-shaped nests that are strung between the stems of reeds. She then lays 3-5 eggs which the male helps to incubate for 9-12 days. Both parents feed the hatchlings, which depart the nest at about 10-13 days and gain independence 10-14 days after that. A second brood is occasionally raised and Reed Warbler nests are a favourite host for Cuckoos.

Population

The Reed Warbler is a summer visitor to the region, arriving in April and May and departing in August and September. Typical passage of British birds to winter habitats include stopovers in France, Spain and Portugal, then Africa. Approximately 130 000 pairs breed in the UK and numbers are under 100 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

May is the month when Reed Warblers are most common, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of England, but it's worth being on the lookout for migrant birds in drier, more unlikely places.

Voice

Reed Warblers have a loud song that consists of repeated noises and chatter such as 'rrr' and 'zzz' sounds. It also has a high-pitched 'tche' call.
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