Phylloscopus trochilus (Willow warbler) 

Hofsanger [Afrikaans]; Unothoyi [Xhosa]; Niini (generic term for warblers and eremomelas) [Kwangali]; Pilipili-sa-mabelete [South Sotho]; Timba (generic name for cisticolas and warblers) [Shona]; Acredula [Dutch]; Pouillot fitis [French]; Fitis [German]; Felosa-musical [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: Phylloscopus

Phylloscopus trochilus (Willow warbler) 

Willow warbler, Gambia. [photo Martin Goodey ]

Phylloscopus trochilus (Willow warbler) 

Willow warbler, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ]

Distribution and habitat

Its breeding grounds stretch across northern Eurasia, from Ireland east and north to the Russian Federation and Ukraine. In the non-breeding season it heads south to sub-Saharan Africa, where it is common and widespread across almost the entire continent, including southern Africa. Here it occupies a variety of woodland habitats, including miombo (Brachystegia) and other mixed woodland, as well as Acacia savanna, disturbed lowland forest, riverine woodland, parks and gardens.

Distribution of Willow 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 first gets to northern southern Africa in late September, arriving progressively later further south in the region, with South African arrivals peaking around December. It departs throughout the region around March-April, with afew birds staying until May.


Its diet has not really been studied in Africa, however it has been recorded eating small insects. It mainly forages in the canopy of trees and shrubs, gleaning prey from leaves and branches and occasionally plucking an insects from the ground.


Not threatened.


  • 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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