Dartford warbler

Sylvia undata

About

The dartford warbler is dependent on mature dry heath habitats in Britain and particularly on gorse that is in good condition for surviving cold, harsh winters. They eat only insects and do not migrate for the winter, which means they are vulnerable to cold weather and especially prolonged snow cover. They nest close to the ground in dense heather or compact gorse.

How to identify

Often spotted when heard singing their distinctive, rattly, scratchy warble from on top of a gorse stem, the Dartford warbler is small and dark brown/black with a long tail. Their muted tones allow them to blend in amongst the woody heathers and gorse. They also have a distinctive red eye ring and cherry red breast with small white flecks.

Where to find it

A resident of lowland heaths south of the Thames and spreading west to Dorset. Also found on Suffolk coastal heaths and mid-altitude heaths on Exmoor and the Quantocks.

Habitats

When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

During the 1960s,only a few pairs of Dartford Warbler remained; their range had contracted significantly due to fragmentation and shrinkage of suitable habitat. Today there are estimated to be approximately 3200 pairs and the population is steadily increasing and their range expanding, although they are still regarded as an Amber List species. As they nest near to the ground, Dartford warblers are easily disturbed by passers-by. Ensuring breeding birds are not disturbed and that heathland nature reserves are well-managed are just some of the ways The Wildlife Trusts are helping this bird to survive. You can help too: volunteer for The Wildlife Trusts and you could be involved in everything from clearing scrub to raising awareness about nesting birds. Don’t forget to keep dogs on leads in areas where ground-nesting birds are breeding.

Species information

Common name
Dartford warbler
Latin name
Sylvia undata
Category
Birds
Tits, goldcrests and warblers
Statistics
Length: 12-13cm Wingspan: 13-18cm Weight: 9-12g Average Lifespan: Up to 5 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.