[Authority] Pallas, 1764 | [group] Old World warblers | [order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Sylviidae | [latin] Sylvia cantillans | [UK] Subalpine Warbler | [FR] Fauvette passerinette | [DE] Weissbart-Grasmucke | [ES] Curruca carrasqena | [NL] Baardgrasmus | copyright picture

copyright: Theo Mamais

Rather small, quite slim, and elegant warbler, with rather short bill. Male blue-grey above, dark pink-chestnut belw, with white moustachial stripe. Female grey-brown above, buff-white below. Sexes dissimilar, no seasonal variation but rare pale birds occurin nominate, suggesting Menetriess Warbler.

Breeds in Mediterranean region, in dry, warm summer climate, from sea-level to 2000 m in Haut Atlas of Morocco. In habitat spectrum of Mediterranean Sylvia warblers, differs most from Marmoras Warbler and Dartford Warbler which normally avoid trees, and least from Sardinian Warbler which is even more arboreal. Lives in dense, xerophytic, often prickly scrub on sunny hillsides, often clad mainly in holm Oak and kermes oak, but even down to lowest and poorest thorn scrub.

Sylvia cantillans is a widespread summer visitor to southern Europe, which constitutes >75% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large (>1,400,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although the sizeable populations in Greece and France declined to some extent during 1990-2000, and the trend of the stronghold population in Spain was unknown, the species remained stable in most other countries in its European range.

Chiefly adult and larval insects, also fruit in late summer and autumn. Feeds in scrub, also in foliage of olive, oaks, and other trees.

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 early April to late June in Southern Europe, early May to mid June in Algeria. Nest site located in low bushes, or occasionally low trees 30-150 cm above ground. Nest is a deep, well-built cup of grass stems and leaves, also leaves and stalks of other herbs, with some roots and plant down, almost always with cobwebs in outer layers. Lined with finer grasses, herbs, rootlets, and hair. 3-4 eggs are laid, incubation 11-12 days, by both sexes, in roughly equal turns.

European populations wholly and north-west African population mostly migratory, all populations wintering in Africa, chiefly along southern edge of Sahara, from Mauritania and Senegal to Sudan. In south-west Europe, migration more conspicuous in autumn than spring. Southward movement begins in August, and is leisurely, with long stopovers. The earliest migrant to reach Malta, where very numerous in autumn (common in spring)- recorded from mid-July (mostly 1st-year birds for 1st month of passage), chiefly mid-August to 3rd week of September- many remain (up to 19 days), leaving with sufficient fat for trans-Saharan crossing. Autumn passage of south-east European population far less conspicuous than spring, evidently due to long-stage overflying- for many birds, heading must have substantial westerly component. Northward movement in spring extends further east than autumn movement- thus no satisfactory autumn records in Cyprus, but usually fairly common in spring. Numbers of vagrants in Britain and Ireland have increased steadily, especially in spring (76% of 143 records, 1958-85)- records scattered, almost all on coast.