[order] Passeriformes | [family] Sylviidae | [latin] Sylvia nana | [UK] Desert Warbler | [FR] Fauvette naine | [DE] Wüstengrasmücke | [ES] Curruca cabecinegra | [IT] Sterpazzola nana | [NL] Woestijngrasmus

Woestijngrasmus determination

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Smallest Sylvia in west Palearctic, hardly exceeding larger Phylloscopus warblers in bulk and lengrh. Small, seemingly nervous, rather slim but quite robust warbler, with rather peaked head and obvious tail. Plumage least marked of Sylvia , with pale gey-brown or sandy upperparts and almost white underparts relieved mainly by white-edged rufous tail. At close range, dark tip and yellow base to bill and yellow eye give rather fierce expression. Sexes closely similar, little seasonal variation.

Breeds in W Palearctic mainly in semi-deserts of western Sahara, in fairly level open tracts of sand or clay, sometimes stony, bearing sparse low patches of shrubby vegetation or herbage such as tufts. Avoids naked dune ridges, crusted sands, and heavily mounded or bare tracts, and shows no attraction to water. Rarely near trees but in Wadi Arava S of Dead Sea inhabits Acacia

Sylvia nana has a predominantly North African and Central Asian breeding distribution, which just extends into Europe in south-western Russia. Its European breeding population is very small (as few as 1,000 pairs), but probably remained stable during both 1970-1990 and 1990-2000. Although the size of the European population could render it susceptible to the risks affecting small populations, it is marginal to a much larger non-European population.

Chiefly insects, also some seeds and berries. Feeds mainly in low scrub and commonly on ground where it is well camouflaged.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 2,000-10,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Breeds January-March in West Sahara, and probably South Algeria, March-May in Central and North-East Algeria, April-June in Turkminiya. Nest site located in low scrub, up to 110 cm above ground. Nest, substantial, thick-walled cup of twigs, grass stems, and leaves, with plant down and cobwebs, lined with finer grasses and fibres and usually more down. 4-5 eggs are laid, incubation, period not recorded. By both sexes.

Resident to migratory. North African population chiefly resident, though some dispersal possible in autumn and in extremely dry conditions. Eastern populations migrate through Turkestan, Iran, and Afghanistan to winter from north-east Africa east to deserts of north-west India. In autumn, vacation of north Caspian breeding grounds is gradual, from September to end of October. Arrival in spring is from end of March. Vagrancy records in north-west Europe all eastern race S. n. nana, and chiefly mid-October to early November.