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 Wood Warbler - Fact File
Wood Warbler
Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Summer visitor mainly to west of Britain, but rare in Ireland.
Oak and other deciduous and mixed woodland.

Distinguished from other greenish warblers by contrast of of yellow breast with white belly. Has distinctive accelerating trilling song.

12.5 cm (5")

Wood Warbler

Wood warblers have always been scarce summer visitors to Norfolk. But as with all migrants arriving here from tropical Africa, numbers vary from year to year.

In 1984, for example, a record 29 wood warblers were recorded singing in Norfolk, together with a further 10 in Suffolk. One summer as many as four males occupied territory on Mousehold Heath. It seems likely on that occasion the birds were held up by cold northerly winds during spring migration. Two attracted mates. The first nest containing a brood of tiny young was found in a slight depression in the ground beneath birches.

Yet one North Norfolk locality has never failed to attract wood warblers even in the years of extreme scarcity. This delightful wood close to Holt has held at least a single pair annually during the last four decades.

I visited this woodland very recently to enjoy listening to the wonderful shivering songs. Described as the woodland sound like no other, it was repeated every few minutes as the performer moved from spray to spray, wings and tail ever vibrating.

Moving to a new birch, the opening notes were sounded on the wing, but the trill came when it had regained a perch. Between snatches it was not idle, sailing out to intercept a passing fly, then poising in the air with rapidly whirring wings as it neatly picked an insect from the underside of a leaf.

In this country wood warblers are most abundant in old woods of oak and beech, preferably with sparse undergrowth. The birds spend most of their time high in the canopy, but build their nests on the ground and often sunk in hollows.

Elsewhere, wood warblers inhabit coniferous and mixed woods and forests. On arrival here, the male wood warbler quickly advertises his presence; the highly distinctive song may be heard from dawn until dusk for weeks at a time.

But early in July the woodlands become silent as nesting haunts are abandoned. By mid September almost all have begun the long and hazardous flight to central Africa.

By Michael J. Seago

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.