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Cetti's warbler { Birds of Europe}

Updated on August 2, 2015

Cetti's warbler Cettia cetti

Originally appeared on Flickr. Uploaded to Commons by MPF. taken at Panel Valley Sussex UK.
Originally appeared on Flickr. Uploaded to Commons by MPF. taken at Panel Valley Sussex UK. | Source


Cetti's warbler belongs to the Passeriformes { Perching birds} Order of birds,and the family Sylviidae within that order. They are named after Francesco Cetti {1726-78} an Italian mathematian and naturalist.

In the UK they are placed on the Green list of conservation concern { no current concerns} where they are classed as a resident breeder and a passage winter visitor. They were first recorded in the UK in 1961 and first bred in 1973. There are n estimated 2,000 males in summer. { Source BTO} .Severe weather can decimate populations both here in the UK and in Europe,only a succession of comparatively mild winters has helped to increase their presence.

In Europe they are regarded as secure with an estimated population of between 600,000 and 1.6 million pairs.The population varies from country to country there follows some examples. Armenia the estimated population is between 20,000 and 250,000,breeding pairs.. Belgium 60-9,breeding pairs, Croatia 10,000-20,000 breeding pairs. France, 50,000-250,000 breeding pairs, Portugal 10,000-100,000 breeding pairs. Spain 20,000-1000,000 breeding pairs and Turkey 200,000-400,000 breeding pairs.{ Source Birldlife}

They are found in south and Central Europe to central Asia and the Middle East, where they inhabit reed beds,swamp, and dense vegetation near water.

What are warblers?

Confusingly there are a number of Passeriformes that are referred to as Warblers,and they are not necessarily closely related to each other, but do share some characteristicissuch as being fairly small,vocal and insectivorous.

The 'old world' warblers are a group of birds and were formerly grouped together in the family Sylviidae. This family held over 400 species in over 70 genera and was a source of taxonomic confusion. initially two families were spplit, the Crisicolas into Cisticolidae and the Kinglets into Regulidae. However, in the past ten or so they have been subject of much research and many species are now placed into other families including the Acrocephalidae,Cettidae,Phlloscopidae and Megaluridae.

A smaller family of warblers together with some Babblers formerly placed in the family Timaliidae and the Parrotbills are retained in a much smaller family of Sylviidae. Cetti's warbler is further confusingly sometimes placed in the family Cettidae by some Ornithologist and by others in the family Sylviidae.

Here we review the Cetti's warbler and as always we commence with a description of the subject under review.

Cetti's Warbler and habitat

Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland Richard Crossley
Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland Richard Crossley | Source

Cetti's warbler is often confused with this species Savi's warbler

Originally appeared on Flickr uploaded to Commons by Oskilla
Originally appeared on Flickr uploaded to Commons by Oskilla | Source

Description of Cetti's warbler.

This charming and unassuming little bird is about 14 cm { five and a half inches} long with the male weighing 15 grams and the female 12 grams.It is distinguished from all other members of the Syliidae by having only ten feathers in the tail,as opposed to the general rule of twelve feathers in the tail of other species. The tail is also longer and broader than the tails of many other warblers.

The upper parts of the male is a rich chestnut brown,darkest on the wing primaries and the tail. The throat is white,shading off to ash grey on the belly and to olive brown on the flanks and under-tail coverts, the latter being tipped with white. The wings are short only just covering the rump. The beak and feet are light brown. The iris is nut brown.

The female has the colours slightly paler than those of the male, but they are almost impossible to tell apart in the field.,except by size if you are fortunate enough to encounter them together.

The feet are rather strong,claws strong and curved.

The bird is often confused with Locustella luscinoides { Savi's warbler}**,indeed Temminck recorded it has being seen in Britain due to this confusion.

Cetti's warbler has a rounded head with a narrow pale grey stripe arching over the conspicuous dark eyes and short rounded wings.

**This species already reviewed in this series { Birds of Europe}.


Birds of Europe . John Gould {1837}
Birds of Europe . John Gould {1837} | Source

General and historical information.

Cetti's warbler was only recorded in Britain in 1961,and first bred in according to records in 1973. Thus, as regards to historical information I researched through archaic bird books of European species to procure an insight of opinions from past ornithologists.

According to one such ornithologist,Charles Bree,1896, the bird was found in the whole of southern Europe, he states " It is said to have been killed ,but, erroneously, in England and Count Muhle, in expressing his surprise at this,attempted to account for it by attributing it to a deficiency in the development of its wings; a reason I think cannot be maintained ,when we hear of much weaker birds flying a much greater distance. It occurs in Sicily,Corsica,Sardinia,Spain and France,being especially common in winter in the southern provinces of the latter country"

Mr. Grebe, records its appearance in the department of the Var,and Mr.Crespon, indicates many localities in which it is found in the Province.

Mr Salvin says in the 'Ibis' for July 1859,-" On one or two occasions among the Tamarisk trees on the banks of the Chemore I caught a momentary glimpse of the bird, not more than was sufficient to recognise it. It appears to be shy and common in the eastern Atlas of Africa."

Major Irby,writes from Gibralter," The bird is resident and found wherever there are bushes and water. It is only found in the thickest and most impenetrable coverts of grassy plants,and thick hedges and ditches. It is extremely shy and more so than any other reed warbler. if it is high upon a reed stalk and sees the presence of any movement it is down among the reeds in a flash. Its song is rather agreeable, but is only heard, in the majority of cases,from the depths of concealment"

Another eminent recorder reveals " This bird seems to have more than usual the instinctive knowledge that reasoning man is its enemy." When it is pursued,and it thinks the enemy has been lured far enough away,it will quickly turn back again to its original place of security.

Mr.A B.Brooke writing another paper on the species remarks " This without exception the most difficult warbler I have ever come across,either to see or obtain,although in suitable localities its loud bold song may be constantly heard. They love to secret themselves in the very middle of the densest and most tangled mass of briers and creepers and are very shy. On hearing any slight noise they often begin their short rich song, but on approach of danger steal off rapidly and silently bursting forth again thirty or forty yards further on, while one is still peering into the bush they were last heard in. They are extremely common in Sardinia,going generally singly or in pairs, and every bush that is thick enough along the river banks, or round the shores of the Stagnos, is sure to hold a pair. They prefer wet marshy places, indeed I have never seen them except in the vicinity of water,around Oristano they are particularly numerous"

Like all its allies it feeds on insects of various kinds which it obtains among the thickets which it inhabits.

Finally Dresser { A History of the Birds Of Europe}1881,makes the following observations. " In its habits it reminds me of the Grasshopper warbler.The only time I got the opportunity to see it was early morning,soon after sunrise. It was then intent on feeding and not so shy. It was extremely active,even more active than the titmouse. It would run up a branch of a shrub to its extreme end, then drop into the heart of the shrub,and run up another branch"

Here in the UK the bird has become established in the southern counties of England and on the Norfolk Broads since 1961.

They are charming little birds

Taken at Kalloni east river Levos Greece
Taken at Kalloni east river Levos Greece | Source

Cetti's warbler in reeds

Taken at Rutland water England
Taken at Rutland water England | Source

Nest and eggs

During the course of my research I came across this interesting papers by Rev.Canon Tristram, on his visit to Lake Halloula in North Africa { 'Ibis',volume two first series} describes his meeting with this bird.

" But let us search the coarse grasses and Tamarisk bed carefully, for here, says my guide,we shall find Sylvia cetti {the old scientific name for the bird}. I had the week before obtained a nest from near Algeria, but had no opportunity of watching habits of this bird. I am again disappointed. The bird had just begun to sit, but has crept away at the first alarm,and though we watched some time in the neighbourhood she does not return.

" I take the nest, with its precious contents of four brilliant red eggs,so strangely different from those of every other warbler. In colour they are unique among eggs, and show no affinity with any allied species. They form a singular exception to the rule that a connexion may be traced in all genera between the eggs of different species. There is one constant type for all other aquatic warblers, however, widely the extremes may vary,still bear the same resemblance to the normal type.Not so with Sylvia cetti.

" Its affinity seems to be rather with Prinia sonitans { 'Ibis',volume two page 50},and so may indicate a clear alliance with that genus than hitherto has been admitted"

Barred winged Prinia . Prinia familaris

The Rev Tristram thought that the Cetti's warbler were closely allied to the genus Prinia.
The Rev Tristram thought that the Cetti's warbler were closely allied to the genus Prinia. | Source

The uniquely coloured eggs of Cetti's warbler


Nest and Eggs continued

Rev. Canon Tristram, goes on to describe the nest which he says is very loosely constructed,placed in rushes or coarse herbage its depth more than double its diameter,composed entirely of coarse grasses outside and finer stronger types within, but with no lining of hairs or feathers. " I afterwards frequently saw the bird, but only for an instant at a time,as it invariably drops among the rushes, and will not take flight when disturbed. I never succeeded in noting its song,if it has one"

Colonel Irby,who studied the nests of this species in various localities,states that the nest is always placed at some distance from the ground,generally two to three feet,and is either situated in a thick bush,or, when in a bushy swamp constructed somewhat like the nest of a Reed warbler**, on the stalks of reeds and Epilobium {willowherbs}.

" These nests are built chiefly of bits of small sedges intermingles with willow cotton,and chiefly lined outside with strips of the Epilobium,inside with fine grass, a few hairs and bits of cotton at the top..Their nests built in bushes are chiefly constructed with grass and cotton,and are entirely lined with hair. All the nests are cup shaped,largest at the base measuring about four and a half inches in height, the inside depth about two and a quarter inches, the internal diameter about two and three quarter inches"

Four or five eggs are deposited by the female and are of a unique red colour {see image}. They are incubated for around 16-17 days by the female . The young are fed on a nutritious diet of insects and their larvae and are ready to leave the nest in a further 14-16 days. If conditions are favourable they will go on to raise a second brood before leaving for warmer climes in the autumn.

** This species already reviewed in this series { Birds of Europe}.

Cetti's warbler calling

Nest and bright red coloured eggs


Feeding the nestlings



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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      pstraubie48,Thank you for your kind and appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.


      Thank you so much for your encouraging comments and for taken the time to leave them. It is much appreciated. Best wishes to you.


      Hi Sally , it was a surprise to see this HOTD, and a more welcome surprise to see you back here again. Your comments mean a great deal to me. Best wishes to you. Have great new Year.

      Allison Loker,

      Thank you too,for your wonderful comments they are truly appreciated.Best wishes to you.


      Thank you for visiting and for leaving your kind comments. They are so encouraging. Best wishes to you.

      Tanara Lee,

      Thank you for the Congratulation,and for your appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

    • Tanara Lee profile image

      Tanara Lee 

      5 years ago

      What a beautiful species! This is a nice, well-written hub packed with interesting information. Congratulations for being featured!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      What beautiful birds and those eggs are so bright. This was a splendid hub. Congratulations on HOTD. Educational and attractively laid out; well written.

    • Allison Loker profile image

      Allison Loker 

      5 years ago from Brooklyn

      Wonderfully well written hub! Thank you for the information and great delivery. Also, congrats on HOTD!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      5 years ago from Norfolk

      Had to return to say Congratulations on the HOTD award, it is richly deserved. I hope you have a terrific New Year.


    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from North Central Florida

      Congrats on HOTD This was a new bird to me. The photos added so much interest to your article.

      Angels are n the way to you this morning. ps

    • mySuccess8 profile image


      5 years ago

      A lot can be learned from this well-researched description, supported by amazing photos and video. The warbler’s singing or calling, especially the one at the end of the video, was so sweet. With your series of Hubs on different birds, you are definitely an expert. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, you are very welcome. Those eggs are truly amazing. Thank you for your appreciated visit. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      That is definitely a warbler bill. The eggs are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks so much for the introduction to this warbler.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      You are very welcome, I have now added videos to other hubs in this series. Best wishes to you.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      It's so neat and has a distinct eight note pattern. Thanks for adding the video.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi, thank you for your kind comments I have now added a video so you can hear how they sound. Best wishes to you.

      sallybea ,

      Hi , Thank you so much for your kind comments and advise { I have now added the video} much appreciated. Best wishes to you.

      DDE ,

      hello Devika , your visit kind comments and votes and share are appreciated. Thank you. Best wishes to you..


      Hi, they are cute birds and their eggs are a tremendous colour. Thank you so much for your kind comments and for all the votes it is very much appreciated. Best wishes to you.


      Hi, my friend, glad to have introduced you to this species. They differ from all other warblers by having just ten tail feathers. They do not occur in the USA. as I am aware of. Best wishes to you.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful article, I do not think that warbler is around here at all. We have a yellow-rumped one that is quite similar.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Is it okay to say a bird is cute because that's what comes to mind when I look at this one, and RED eggs? That is certainly a surprise. I have a very thick rose bush that the hummingbirds love, as do the bluejays and house finch.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A beautiful hub! I have not seen this gorgeous bird. I have shared tweeted, and shared on Facebook. Voted up"

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great approach here and I have not seen this beautiful bird. Your hubs are always informative and very interesting. Voted up!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      5 years ago from Norfolk

      I don't think I have seen this one either. I took myself off to YouTube in view of the comment made above by favored - to hear what they might sound like. I found a few very nice videos's to illustrate this. Adding one of these links to a Video Capsule might make a nice addition to this lovely series on the Birds of Europe.

      I love this series, thank you for sharing.


    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      I can't say that I have ever seen this bird, but I have heard of them. The photographs are excellent. I wonder what they sound like. This would be a useful reference for a class lesson. Glad I visited.


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