The Kennedy Wild Bird Food Guide to the Willow Warbler

The willow warbler, less commonly known by its scientific name Phylloscopus trhochilus, is a frequent summer visitor to gardens, parks and woodland areas across the country. Find out all there is to know about this quirky little bird in our complete guide.

willow warbler guide

Source: Mike Pennington

What does a willow warbler look like?

The willow warbler is a small, olive-green bird measuring around 11cm in length, with a wingspan of 19cm. It is a slim bird of the warbler family that can be identified by its green/grey plumage and its yellow belly. Juvenile willow warblers are often much more yellow than adults.

The willow warbler is often mistaken for a chiffchaff, however, to tell whether the bird in your garden is a chiffchaff or a willow warbler, listen out for their distinct song! They can also be distinctly identified by their longer and pointier bills.

The willow warbler’s song

The willow warbler might sound similar to a chiffchaff upon first hearing it, but its call is more of a “hoo-eat” than the chiffchaff’s faster “hweet” call.

Once you’ve listened to the willow warbler’s song, head over to our chiffchaff guide to hear the difference!

What do they eat?

The willow warbler enjoys a nutritious diet of fruits, berries, insects, spiders and small snails. They may also eat other common bird foods, such as seeds or peanuts – which are loved by many other garden birds.

Nesting, behaviour and habitat of the willow warbler

The willow warbler is on the Amber UK conservation list due to its 70% decline over the last 25 years. Most of this decline has come from the south east of England, whereas Scotland has seen some small increases in willow warbler visitors.

They are a summer-only resident across the UK and chances are you’ll be able to spot them anytime from April to August. If you do spot a willow warbler in your garden, don’t forget to log the sighting on our birdspotter map.

They visit the UK to nest in our vegetation, constructing their nests from grass, leaves, roots and feathers. There are thought to be 2.4 million willow warbler breeding territories. While spending their summer months in the UK, they will lay between 4 and 8 smooth, white eggs which will hatch around 12-14 days later.

Throughout the colder months, they will migrate to the warmer climates of sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the willow warbler is known for partaking in one of the longest migrations for a bird of its size. The willow warbler migrates from Siberia to Southern Africa via the Asian – East African Flyway (a popular route for many migratory birds between Asia and Southern Africa). This impressive route stretches from the depths of Alaska to South Africa and Madagascar.

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willow warbler uk