[Authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [group] Old World warblers | [order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Sylviidae | [latin] Sylvia hortensis | [UK] Western Orphean Warbler | [FR] Fauvette orphee | [DE] Orpheus-Grasmucke | [ES] Curruca Mirlona | [NL] Orpheusgrasmus | copyright picture

copyright: Eldert Groenewoud

Large and robust warbler, with strong bill and heavy head. Bulk and square-taild silhouette recall long-tailed chat. Plumage dark dusky-brown above, mostly grey or buff below, with noticeable features restricted in adult to pale eye set in dull black male or dusky female face, white throat, and clear white edges to tail. Flight recalls chat as much as other warbler.

Breeds in lower middle latitudes of west Palearctic, mainly in warm, dry Mediterranean climate but secondarily in steppe and warm temperate zones, not only in lowland but on hillsides and mountain foothills.

Sylvia hortensis is a widespread but patchily distributed summer visitor to southern Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large (>170,000 pairs), but underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although the trend of the key Spanish population during 1990-2000 was unknown, the species declined in Turkey, and probably underwent a small decline overall. Its total population size has almost certainly not recovered to the level that preceded its decline, and consequently the species is provisionally evaluated as Depleted.

Chiefly invertebrates, also berries. Prefers to feed in larger bushes and trees where it flits about canopy picking small insects from branches

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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to 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]

End of Apr to late June in S Europe, mid Nay to early Jun in S-E Europe, mid Apr to early Jun in N-W Africa. Nest site, in branches of small trees and shrubs, from ground up to 1,4 m above. Nest, well-constructed cup of grass and plant stems, with some twigs, bound together with cobwebs, moss, fibres, and plant down, lined with finer grasses, fibres, and plant down, and sometimes spider cocoons. 3-5 eggs, sub-elliptical, smooth and glossy, whiter very faintly tinged bluish, sparsely spotted, speckled, and blotched brown, black or olive, and grey, markings heavier at broad end. Incubation, 12-14 days, by both sexes.

It is migratory, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a rare vagrant to northern and north-western Europe.