Western Orphean warbler

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Western Orphean warbler
Sylvia nisoria hortensis naumann.jpg
Adult male (center)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sylviidae
Genus: Sylvia
Species: S. hortensis
Binomial name
Sylvia hortensis
(Gmelin, 1789)

The western Orphean warbler (Sylvia hortensis) is a typical warbler of the genus Sylvia. This species occurs in summer around the Mediterranean, through western Europe and extending into northwest Africa. It is migratory, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a rare vagrant to northern and north-western Europe.

Taxonomy and etymology[edit]

The English name refers to the mythical musician and singer Orpheus.[2] The genus name is from Modern Latin silvia, a woodland sprite, related to silva, a wood. The specific hortensis is Latin for "of a garden", from hortus, "garden".[3]

Two subspecies are unequivocally accepted,[4] but they are now usually considered separate species.[5][6]

The western Orphean warbler is probably most closely allied to the Arabian warbler, as well as the brown warbler and Yemen warblers which are sometimes placed in Parisoma. They together with the lesser whitethroat group seem to form a distinct clade of typical warblers. The species therein do not appear much alike at first glance, but they all have prominent white throats, lack rufous wing-patches, and usually having dark sides to the head.[5][6]


Eggs of Sylvia hortensis MHNT

At 15–16 cm length - somewhat larger than a blackcap - this is one of the largest species of typical warblers. The adult males have a plain grey back and whitish underparts. The bill is long and pointed and the legs black. The male has a dark grey head, black eye mask, and white throat. The iris is white. Females and immatures have a paler head and buff underparts; their grey back has a brownish tinge. The iris is dark in young birds. The song is a series of warbling liroo-liroo and scolding notes.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

These small passerine birds are found in open deciduous woodland. 4-6 eggs are laid in a nest in a bush or tree. Like most "warblers", Orphean warbler is an insectivore.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Sylvia hortensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Orphean". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 195, 376. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ Snow, David W.; Perrins, Christopher M.; Doherty, Paul & Cramp, Stanley (1998). The complete birds of the western Palaearctic on CD-ROM. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-268579-1.
  5. ^ a b Helbig, A. J. (2001). Phylogeny and biogeography of the genus Sylvia, in: Shirihai, Hadoram: Sylvia warblers: 24-29. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. ISBN 0-691-08833-0
  6. ^ a b Jønsson, Knud A. & Fjeldså, Jon (2006). A phylogenetic supertree of oscine passerine birds (Aves: Passeri). Zool. Scripta 35(2): 149–186. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2006.00221.x (HTML abstract).


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