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The Cetti's Warbler - Bird Watching on the River Stour

Updated on October 20, 2013
The Cetti's Warbler
The Cetti's Warbler | Source

The River Stour running through Sandwich in Southeast Kent provides the perfect habitat for the cetti's warbler. With dense patches of scrub, brambles and reed-beds, this is the only species of warbler that is a year round resident to the region.

Spotting the cetti's warbler can be difficult until you become familiar with it's song and habits, but if you spend enough time in the right area, especially in the spring, you will be treated to a good view of the cetti's warbler singing loudly from the bushes on the riverbank or foraging for insects in the reeds.

Cetti's Warbler - Cettia Cetti

The cetti's warbler (pronounced chetty) colonized Britain in the latter half of the 20th century, and it is estimated that there are several hundred pairs in the region of the South and South West of England. It is more commonly found in Europe, North East Africa and South East Asia, and is the only bush warbler to occur outside Asia.

It is a relatively bulky wetland warbler that looks similar to an out-sized wren, often cocking it's tail up in a similar manner. The sexes are similar, with dark reddish brown upper parts and tail. The underparts are pale with a whitish throat, grey on the face and breast, and grey-buff on the belly. The legs are reddish and the bill is dark tipped, and it has a pale white stripe above the eye. This bird measures around 14cm in length.

The cetti's warbler loves to find insects to eat amongst the reed-beds
The cetti's warbler loves to find insects to eat amongst the reed-beds | Source

Although it is quite unobtrusive in it's habits, once you recognise the explosive song of the cetti's warbler, it won't take you long to spot this bird in patches of brambles or scrub, and in the reed-beds. It is a common visitor to my riverside garden throughout the winter months, but seems to prefer the reeds and brambles in the spring and summer, as this is where it nests and finds most of it's food.

The cetti's warbler is unique amongst British birds for having 10 tail feathers and for laying bright red eggs. It usually lays between 3 and 6 eggs at a time and nests in the dense bushes near the reed-beds. It was first recorded to be breeding in Britain in 1973, and it's population has been steadily growing since then. It feeds on small insects which are abundant on the River Stour, so it also provides the useful service of helping to control the mosquito population!


You will mainly hear the incredibly loud song of the cetti's warbler in spring and throughout the summer, and it sounds like this.

Although you will hear the cetti's warbler more frequently than seeing it during the spring and summer months, if you can learn to identify it during this time, then you will see it much more frequently in the winter. This is probably because it is harder for the cetti's warbler to find food during the harsher weather so it is forced to come out into the open.

You can read about other birds found on the River Stour during the winter months here.


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    • Jennifer Stone profile image

      Jennifer Stone 5 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thank you Allen, I appreciate your feedback and I'm glad you enjoyed my hub! I think part of my fascination with birds is the many different species that exist. It's easy to take them for granted when we see them every day, but I think we'd all miss them if they were to disappear!

    • Jennifer Stone profile image

      Jennifer Stone 5 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thank you for your kind words WD, I think birds moving out of their usual territory is probably a combination of the climate and disappearing habitat. It sounds as if the kites will be a useful addition to the Florida wildlife though, to help control the pesky snails! :-)

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Very interesting. I love looking at birds. We sometimes tend to pass by them and ignore the beauty of their colors and their sounds. There are so many different species of birds on this Earth and to see one that isn't as common as the birds seen everyday is what grabs my attention. I enjoyed your hub and voted it up with useful, beautiful, and interesting. Thanks for the good read!

    • WD Curry 111 profile image

      WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

      I am an avid bird watcher. You can't help it in Florida. I found your descriptions to be better than the bird books. I find it interesting that they came to the area so recently. We have been seeing Everglades kites in central Florida this year. It is rare to see them outside of their range down south. We wonder . . . is it the unusually warm weather, or disappearing habitat. Lucky for them, someone brought invasive apple snails to the area and there is plenty of food for them.

      When it comes to bird watching, you can't outclass the Brits.