Menetries’s warbler (Sylvia mystacea)

Adult male Menetries's warbler
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Menetries’s warbler fact file

Menetries’s warbler description

GenusSylvia (1)

Menetries's warbler (Sylvia mystacea) is a small to medium-sized warbler characterised by the white stripe that runs from the base of the bill across the cheek (2) (3). In fact it is this stripe that lent the species its scientific name, as ‘mystacea’ derives from the Greek word ‘mustax’, meaning moustache (4).

First described by the French Zoologist Édouard Ménétries in 1832 (4), Menetries's warbler has a heavy bill, flat crown and a fairly long black tail which appears to be constantly moving. The male Menetries's warbler has a dull black head, greyish-brown upperparts and pinkish-white to pinkish-brown underparts. The female has a rusty coloured head, grey to sandy-brown upperparts and brown to buff-white underparts. Juvenile Menetries's warblers are very similar in appearance to the adult female (3), except the plumage is ‘warmer’ and buffier (2).

Menetries's warbler has a rather long, melodic song, slightly hurried and abrupt in tempo, reminiscent of that of the common nightingale (Luscinia megarhyncho). To maintain contact with other members of its flock, Menetries's warbler produces a hard, buzzing rattle-like call (2).

Fauvette de Ménétries.
Length: 13 cm (2)
Wingspan: 15 - 19 cm (3)
7 - 11.5 g (2)

Menetries’s warbler biology

Menetries's warbler is a monogamous bird that breeds between April and July (2). Upon arrival at the breeding grounds, the male Menetries's warbler almost immediately starts performing ‘song-flights’ to attract a suitable female. Flying up to four metres above the ground, the male sings and flutters his quivering wings as he ascends, before returning to a perch and repeating the process (3).

Menetries's warbler usually produces one brood each year, although in some regions, such as lowland Azerbaijan, it produces two - one in late May and the next in early July. The nest, which is built by both the male and female over 5 days, is placed up to 90 centimetres off the ground in low grassland, scrub, bushes and young trees. The female lays between 4 and 6 eggs which are incubated by both parents for around 11 to 13 days (2). Menetries's warbler eggs appear glossy white or faintly tinged green, profusely speckled with brown-grey spots (3). Menetries's warbler nests are known to be destroyed by trampling camels and the nestlings may be preyed on by snakes, common magpies, foxes, cats and dogs (2). The young are able to open their eyes around 3 days after hatching and are fed equally by both parents for 10 to 11 days before vacating the nest. Unable to fly, the young take to resting under bushes to hide from predators (3). Menetries's warbler leaves its breeding range between August and October to migrate south for winter (2).

The typically shy, wary and restless Menetries's warbler feeds primarily on arthropods, especially insects and their larvae and eggs, but also on grasshoppers, bugs, moths, butterflies, ants, wasps and beetles (2). These invertebrates are often plucked from stems and foliage as Menetries's warbler forages at low heights in scrub and small bushes (2) (3). Outside of the breeding season, this bird also consumes various berries, fruits and seeds (2).


Menetries’s warbler range

The migratory Menetries's warbler has a large breeding range stretching from south-central Asia through to western Asia. During winter, Menetries's warbler populations travel south and south-west of their breeding range (2) to regions stretching from north-east Africa to Iran (4). Vagrants have been recorded in Portugal, Nigeria and Spain (5).


Menetries’s warbler habitat

Menetries's warbler is generally found in arid or semi-arid conditions where it favours treeless scrub covering valley bottoms, dry mountain slopes, along riverbanks and desert fringes. It is often associated with bushy tamarisk plants (Tamarix species). This species is also found in human-altered habitats such as palm groves, gardens and orchards. During migration, it has been reported in less favourable habitats, such as woodland and areas with scattered trees. Menetries's warbler occurs from sea-level up to 200 metres (2).


Menetries’s warbler status

Menetries's warbler is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Menetries’s warbler threats

As a result of its extremely large range, Menetries's warbler is not thought to be threatened with extinction. The population appears to be stable and there is no evidence to suggest any substantial threats to the species (5).


Menetries’s warbler conservation

Menetries's warbler is not currently known to be the target of any conservation measures.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


A major grouping of animals that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Kept warm so that development is possible.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms and spiders.
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.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
Found occasionally outside normal range.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2006) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 11: Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Cramp, S. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume 6: Warblers. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: Profiles of Birds Occurring in Britain and Ireland. BTO, Thetford. Available at:
  5. BirdLife International (November, 2010)

Image credit

Adult male Menetries's warbler  
Adult male Menetries's warbler

© Neil Bowman /

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