[Authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [group] Old World warblers | [order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Sylviidae | [latin] Sylvia melanocephala | [UK] Sardinian Warbler | [FR] Fauvette melanocephale | [DE] Samtkopf-Grasmucke | [ES] Curruca cabecinegra | [NL] Kleine Zwartkop | copyright picture

copyright: Eric Roualet

Rather small to medium-sezed, slim warbler, with spiky bill, short wings, long tail, and alert angry expression due to frequently steep forehead and red eye and bare ring set in dark pace. Male black on head and dusky elsewhere above, offpwhite with dusky-washed flank below. Female dusky-brown above, dirty brown and white below. Both sexes have dark tail with white edges and corners. Sexes disimilan, little seasonal variation.

Breeds in Mediterranean zone. Mainly in dry coastal regions and on islands, generally at low elevations. Equally at home in crowns of close-growing trees, tall undergrowth or maquis away from trees, low shrubs and garigue, or even in herb layer or on ground, not excluding bare rocks and clifftops. Indifferent to nearness of dwellings and human activities.

Sylvia melanocephala is a widespread breeder in southern Europe, which constitutes >50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large (>3,100,000 pairs), and increased between 1970-1990. Populations were stable or increased across most of its range during 1990-2000, although the trend of the sizeable Spanish population was unknown?but there was no evidence to suggest that the speciess status deteriorated significantly.

Chiefly insects, but also fruit in autumn and winter. In south of breeding range, fruit predominates in diet for much of the year. Feeds mainly in low scrub but also on ground and in canopy. Spends less time on ground than Marmoras Warbler but much more than and other warbler.

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Breeds mid March to late April in South-West Europe, mid February to mid July in Malta, Late April to mid June in Greece, and early April to early June in North-West Africa. Nest site located in low scrub, tall grasses, brambles, etc, up tp 1,8 m above ground. Nest is a compact cup of grass leaves and stems, plant stalks, vegetable down, and cobwebs, lined with finer grasses and some rootlers, usually with distinct thicker rim. 3-5 eggs are laid, incubation 12-15 days, by both sexes, but female sitting on average twice as long as male during day.

Varies from partially migratory to sedentary in different parts of range. In west of range, winter quarters include most of breeding range, extending south in Africa to c. 17 degrees N. In east of range, breeding grounds furthest north (Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and northern Turkey) apparently entirely vacated. Autumn movements span late August to December. Spring migration mostly late February or early March to April.