Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
|Size||Length: 13 – 15 cm (2)|
|Weight||12 – 25 g (2)|
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (3).
A strikingly beautiful bird, the small and secretive bluethroat takes its name from the bright blue bib of the male. Mostly brilliant blue, this conspicuous patch on the chin and throat often has a central bar or triangular patch which is white or reddish-brown, and is bordered underneath by a narrow black-and-white band and a second, broader, reddish-brown band. The upperparts of the male are greyish-brown, the underparts are whiter and there is a whitish streak above the eye. The female bluethroat usually has whitish stripes above the eye and along the cheeks, and its white throat has a ‘necklace’ of dark streaks and spots, highlighted by a dark throat-stripe, which may occasionally show traces of blue and reddish-brown. In both sexes, there is a rufous patch at the base of the outer tail feathers which can be seen in flight and when perched with the tail erect. The juvenile bluethroat is dark brown, with many buff streaks and spots on the upperparts, head and breast, and is buff with dark streaks underneath (2) (4) (5). There are 10 recognised subspecies of the bluethroat, each with slightly different throat patterns and plumage tones (2) (4).
The bluethroat occurs widely across Europe, Asia and in some parts of North America, with the main breeding grounds found in Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia, some parts of west and central Europe, south to the Himalayas. It is a migratory species, overwintering in Africa, southern Europe (mainly Portugal), the United Arab Emirates and in some parts of Asia (2) (4).
The bluethroat is generally found breeding in areas with plenty of low, dense vegetation and patches of open ground. It is typically associated with low scrubby thickets of willow, alder and birch, in uplands and foothills, as well as floodplains, riverbanks and lake shores. In the winter, the bluethroat is found mainly in vegetation close to areas of fresh or salt water (2) (4).
A fairly secretive species, the bluethroat spends much of the time hidden in thick vegetation foraging for invertebrates such as flies, ants, beetles and spiders, which it gleans from the stems and leaves of plants, or catches by turning over leaf litter on the ground. It will occasionally catch insects on the wing, and has also been reported to feed on earthworms, shrimps, small snails and small frogs. In the winter, the bluethroat also feeds on seeds and fruits (2) (4).
Throughout the majority of its range, the bluethroat breeds between late April and July. The nest is built primarily by the female, amongst grasses and scrub on wet ground, and is a deep cup of leaves, small twigs, rootlets, grasses, plant down and moss, which is lined with hairs from animals, such as cattle or reindeer. Between 4 and 7 eggs are laid inside the nest, and are incubated for 13 days. After hatching, the young chicks remain in the nest for a further 13 to 14 days, and are fed mainly beetles, spiders and insect larvae (2) (4).
The bluethroat is not currently considered threatened as it has a large and stable global population which covers an extensive geographic area (1). However, many suitable areas of bluethroat habitat are rapidly changing because of human-induced pressures (such as agriculture), and human disturbance at nest sites may lead to the bluethroat abandoning the nest or cause the early departure of chicks (2) (4).
In certain parts of its range, some subspecies of the bluethroat are relatively understudied. These would benefit from more research to assess the degree of isolation from other populations, in order to measure levels of vulnerability to local changes in habitat or disturbance (4).
No specific conservation measures are currently known for this species.
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- Glean: the catching of prey by plucking from, or within foliage.
- Incubate: to keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Invertebrates: animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
- Larvae: stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. (2006) Handbook of Birds of the World. Volume 11: Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (September, 2010)
Guzy, M.J. and Mccaffery, B.J. (2002) Bluethroat (Lusciniasvecica). In: Poole, A. (Ed.) The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
RSPB (September, 2010)