Hippolais icterina (Icterine warbler) 

Spotsanger [Afrikaans]; Niini (generic term for warblers and eremomelas) [Kwangali]; Timba (generic name for cisticolas and warblers) [Shona]; Spotvogel [Dutch]; Hypolaïs ictérine [French]; Gelbspötter [German]; Felosa-icterina [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Sylviidae > Genus: Hippolais

Hippolais icterina (Icterine warbler)  

Icterine warbler, Kuwait. [photo rashed11112 ©]


Distribution and habitat

Its breeds in a band from central and northern Europe to central Asia; In the non-breeding season it heads south to sub-Saharan Africa, where it occurs from Senegal to Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here it is locally common in arid and semi arid woodlands, especially Acacia, broad-leaved and mixed woodland types.

Distribution of Icterine warbler in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

It leaves its breeding grounds from mid July to early September; as it flies southwards individuals gradually start settling in African countries until eventually it reaches southern Africa. Typically it arrives in the north of this region during late October, with most arrivals happening in November-December. It usually departs from late March to early April, sometimes earlier.


It mainly eats insects, gleaning them from leaves and branches in the tree canopy and occasionally hawking them aerially.


Southern Africa forms part of its non-breeding grounds, so know breeding attempts have been recorded. However, a strange observation was made in 1989 of two Icterine warblers feeding Southern white-crowned chicks, mobbing their parents when they arrived at the nest.


Not threatened, in fact its population is estimated to be several million pairs.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree. A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.



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