Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana)

Desert Warbler

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Sylviidae | [latin] Sylvia nana | [UK] Desert Warbler | [FR] Fauvette naine | [DE] Wusten-Grasmucke | [ES] Curruca cabecinegra | [NL] Woestijngrasmus


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

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.

wingspan min.: 14 cm wingspan max.: 17 cm
size min.: 11 cm size max.: 12 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia : Southcentral Asia


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


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.

Feeding habits

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


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 stable, 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 has not been quantified, but it is not believed to 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.
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.
Desert Warbler status Least Concern


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.

Distribution map

Desert Warbler distribution range map

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