British wildlife recordings
Locustella naevia : Grasshopper Warbler - Sylviidae
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Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire: OS Grid Reference(381500,201500)
Williams, Aubrey John
Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella naevia
The rapid, uniform high-pitched trill of this warbler is unmistakeable once heard. It is the strongest identifying feature of this species, which is wary and reclusive. It may be glimpsed skulking in damp, rough grassland, where it seeks its usual prey of insects, spiders and woodlice. From May to July these warblers are best heard at dusk or dawn, although they are known to sing in the night. Dense tussocks are ideal locations to build the nests, constructed from leaves, sticks and grass. Both male and female birds incubate the clutch of six eggs, which are cream coloured and thickly speckled with brown. Nestlings are constantly fed with green caterpillars and aphids. Up to two broods can be raised, especially in the south of England. Male and female birds are alike, possessing strong, streaked olive-brown upperparts and pale buff or white underparts. The Grasshopper warbler visits the UK to breed in mid-April. Its stay is brief, some individuals departing for southern Africa in August. Recently the species has faced a dramatic population decline, due partly to loss of habitat. The current breeding population is 10,500 pairs.