Bird Families

Badger Warbler / Acrocephalus schoenobaenus


Russian name "badger"- folk, given warbler by some resemblance of her striped head to the head of a badger.

Dimensions and structure... 1st flywheel is shorter than brush coverts. 2nd between 3rd and 4th, 3rd longest with a tapered outer web. The body length of males (50) 125-155, females (20) 122-150, on average 142.5 and 139.4 mm, the span of males (49) 194-227, females (20) 190-210, on average 207 and 199 mm, length wings of males (50) 62-74, females (37) 59.5-71.0, on average 66.1 and 64.1 mm, tail length of males and females 51-56.5 mm, beak 14.5-16 mm, weight of males (26) 11-15, females (8) 10.2-12.8, on average 12.84 and 11.33 g

Coloration... An adult badger warbler in spring outfit. The general coloration of the dorsal side is brownish, with blackish-brown trunk spots disappearing on the loin and upper tail coverts. The dark trunk spots of the head are sometimes arranged in longitudinal rows, wider at the sides. The superciliary stripes are buffy. The bridle and ear coverts are darker than the surrounding feathers. Flight feathers and tail feathers are brownish with grayish tips and reddish-brown edges of outer webs. The ventral side is yellowish-clayey with darker sides. Axillary whitish or with a yellow-clay tinge. The underwing coverts are light silvery gray with whitish clay margins. The beak is brownish-horny. The base of the mandible is pinkish-yellow. The legs are bluish gray, the soles are dirty yellow. The nails are black. Eyes are grayish-brown. In a shabby summer outfit, the upper side appears duller, while the lower one becomes lighter. In the autumn plumage, the bird color is brighter than in the spring plumage, which is most noticeable in the superciliary stripes and on the ventral side of the body. Young birds in the first autumn plumage are similar to adults in autumn plumage, but they have dark spots on the sides of the throat and on the front of the neck.

Area... Europe and Asia from Great Britain, the Scandinavian and Iberian Peninsulas to the polar part of the Yenisei and Altai. North to 70 ° N. sh. in Norway, to Tuloma on the Kola Peninsula, to the Mezen, Timan tundra, to the foot of Peda in the Northern Urals (Portenko, 1937), to 67 ° 30 'N. sh. on the Ob, up to the river. Shchuchya in southern Yamal and up to 70 ° N. sh. on the Yenisei. The eastern border runs along the Yenisei to the Eloguy basin, goes between the Yenisei and Ob to Barnaul and then along the Altai to the Zaisan depression. To the south, it spreads to the southern parts of Spain, France, Italy (but absent in the Po valley), northern Greece (but not Macedonia, Makach, 1950), Bulgaria, Romania, southern regions of Ukraine, Crimea, Ciscaucasia, Transcaucasia, Erzurum vilayet of Turkey (Nesterov, 1911), Gilyan and Mazanderan in Iran, then to the lower reaches of the Volga and the Urals, the western, central, desert regions of Kazakhstan from the Volga to the Aral, the lower reaches of the Amu Darya, along the Syr Darya to Tashkent (Severtsov, 1872), to the northern Balkhash and Zaisana (Dolgushin, 1948). Winters in East and Central Africa from the coasts of the Red Sea to Cameroon and Natal (Grotte, 1930). On migration occurs in North Africa, Western Asia, Central Asia and Arabia.

Nature of stay... Within the USSR, the badger warbler is a summer nesting and migratory bird.

Habitat... The badger warbler settles among amphibious vegetation and occupies thickets of reeds, sedges, horsetails or willows along the banks of rivers, oxbows, lakes, seas, swamps and ponds. It also nests in neglected gardens with ponds, on overgrown quarries of peat bogs, along steppe hummocky saucer-like depressions with water, in the Carpathians, along wet swampy herbaceous depressions (Strautman), in the Crimea and the Caucasus, along rich high-grass mountain streams, as well as and barley fields (Menzbier, 1895). In the northwestern regions of the USSR, it occupies the same places with marsh bunting (Kumari), and in the steppes of Kazakhstan it often nests together with yellow wagtails. During the flight time, it is common in reed thickets (Scirpus lacustris), in which it does not nest at all. In autumn, it can be found in potato fields, hemp and vegetable gardens, where it sometimes keeps along with the gray warbler and meadow mint (Fedyushin, 1928).

Number... The badger is an ordinary bird in many regions of the USSR, reaching the greatest number in places where small reservoirs, bordered by amphibious vegetation, are spread over vast areas. At the northern borders of the range, it is sporadic in the Kama region (Vorontsov, 1949), rare in the lower reaches of the Ob and in the southern Yamal (Shukhov, 1915). In the Stalingrad region, in the Valuisky experimental forestry, there are two nesting pairs per 30,000 m 2 of reed thickets (Yudin, 1952).

Reproduction... The fatness and condition of the testes that have appeared in the nesting places of badgers are different, the latter are usually slightly enlarged. Soon after arrival, the males begin to sing and pairs form. Where badgers are a common phenomenon, their nests are located at short distances from one another. In the Oka valley, for example, the nest was 70 m from the nest (Russian). The nest is built not far from water, above damp soil, rarely above shallow water in small reeds, in sedge tussocks, in dense tall grass or in willow bushes, or directly near the ground, or at a height of 10-30 cm above it. The nests of the badger warblers are cupped or cylindrical. The former are more common and are always located above land. Although their structure is complex, three layers can still be distinguished in them: 1) a loose, thickening outer layer of moss, dry stems and leaves of last year's grasses and sedges, among which sometimes cobwebs, as well as cocoons and wings of butterflies, are intertwined, 2 ) a dense inner layer of thin and delicate stalks and leaves of cereals; and 3) the inner most durable layer, which is actually the inner lining of the nest and consists of delicate thin grasses, stalks or delicate flower axes of cereals and other marsh plants, over which horse hair is sometimes woven. Cylindrical nests are much less common and, moreover, almost always above water. They are also three-layered, their outer walls are built from thin tops of cattail and cereal leaves, the middle layer consists of stems and flower axes of cereals, the inner one is strong and thin, woven from soaked leaves and delicate stems of cereals (Zarudny, 1888). Stems of herbaceous plants and willow branches, among which the nest is placed, are either woven into its walls or only adjoining them, but even in this case, at the edge of the tray, they are firmly tied with building materials of the outer layer of the nest, which thus turns out to be well strengthened.

The dimensions of the nests of the first type: nest diameter 85-120, height 41-80, tray diameter 47.5-80, tray depth 31-50 mm. Nests of the second type with thicker walls, they are much wider and larger: their diameter is 100-155, height 120, tray diameter 50, tray depth 55 mm (Zarudny, 1888). Clutch of 4-6 light, sandy-grayish eggs covered with spots, according to the nature of their location and color intensity, two types of eggs are distinguished: 1) eggs with indistinct yellowish-brown spots and 2) eggs with pronounced reddish or dark-brown spots. On eggs of both types, black or light lines, dashes and curls are still visible. In some cases, the spots covering the egg thicken towards its blunt end so much that they completely cover the main color of the shell. Dimensions: (16) 18-19x13.5-14.5, average 18.3x14 mm (Gebel, 1879).

Molting... Two full molts per year - autumn, postbreeding in July-August and premarital spring in January-April. In juveniles, a change in nesting plumage (partial, small plumage is replaced, but not flight and tail plumage) between July and September (Wiserby, 1938).

Food... Insects, which are found on amphibious vegetation, and in the fall and elsewhere.

Field signs and behavior... The badger is a small warbler, brownish above, yellowish below, immediately recognizable by the black stripes running along the entire head. Her call sounds like "chr. Chr. Chr" or "charr". Sometimes the gentle "fuit-kli-kli" or "pin-pin-chr-chr-chr" is heard (Promptov, 1949). When frightened, the bird emits a special smacking mouth. The song, although melodic, is replete with squeaky sounds and syllables borrowed from other birds. It is sung hastily, patter and can be rendered as "tiri-tiri-tiri-tere-tere-tere. Chip. Chip. Chip. Tr-tr-tr. Kli-lili-lil. Chi. Chi. Tere", also consists of from a number of other syllables, repeated in different modes (Promptov, 1949) and separated by pauses. Separate knees of the song end with an inviting cry. At first, upon arrival, they sing little, but at the height of the mating season, songs are heard around the clock, and the male sings especially zealously at dawn. The mating flight, games are associated with the song of the male. Singing on some branch that protrudes above the rest or on the top of the reed, the male breaks off it, flies up an oblique line into the air, flaps his wings, continues to sing, and then, having risen to a small height, descends obliquely, folding his wings over his back, then plans and sits down again on the top of the reed or on some particularly high twig. Singing is heard until mid-July-early August.

Adult birds are extremely careful and spend the whole day in the thick of grassy thickets, only occasionally climbing up in order to immediately hide in them again. But during the mating season, the male betrays his presence with a song and at this time lets him up to 20-15 m, and then either silently disappears into the grassy thicket or flies away at a rather considerable distance. Even in the midst of the mating season, the female cannot be seen, since when approaching the nest, she manages to sneak into the grass in advance and hide in it without a trace. Moreover, at the same time, she does not utter absolutely any screams.

The young are extremely trusting and not only let them close to themselves, but even get out of the thickets and themselves sometimes approach the person with the whole brood and examine him. In late summer and early autumn, young birds undertake significant migrations and, wandering alone, climb into spring and winter grain, oats and pea plantings, sometimes several kilometers from their places of hatching. But most of the young still roam within the habitats characteristic of badgers.

Source: Birds of the Soviet Union. G. P. Dementyev, N. A. Gladkov, K. N. Blagosklonov, I. B. Volchanetsky, R. N. Mecklenburtsev, E. S. Tushenko, A. K. Rustamov, E. P. Spangenberg, A. M. Sudilovskaya and B.K.Stegman. Moscow, 1954


This bird has other unusual names as well. It is called not only the warbler-badger, but also the dogwood and the reed cracker. The latter name is associated with the characteristic sounds made by warblers: their song resembles a crackling sound, consisting of a variety of rapidly repeating syllables. Like many other warblers, this one is a good imitator. In her tongue twister, she deftly weaves fragments found in the singing of other birds, such as swallows or tits. Obviously, the warbler received the name "dogwood" for its addiction to the berries of this shrub.


The badger warbler nests in almost all of Europe, and to the east - to the Yenisei and Northern Kazakhstan. Birds return from wintering in North Africa and Asia Minor in April. In order to return to their nesting sites, warblers have to travel several thousand kilometers. Warblers migrate mainly at night, gathering in small groups.

Soon after returning, the reed cracker begins to sing, not stopping around the clock. Usually these birds lead a rather secretive lifestyle, but during the formation of pairs, the male loses his inherent caution and gets out of the thick grass to more open places so that his calling song can be heard better by the future partner. The song is accompanied by a special current dance-flight. The badger warbler suddenly takes off diagonally upward, reaching its peak height, flaps its wings, then descends, folding them behind its back, sits on a branch or top of a reed. Soon the actions are repeated again.


Usually birds settle in numerous groups, and nests of each pair are located close to each other. Warblers build a nest in damp places near water bodies, and occasionally build right above the water, placing them on sedge or reed stalks.

Ornithologists have found that badger warblers choose one of two forms for their structure: cup-shaped or cylindrical. The nest of the first type is more common and is always located above the ground. The outer layer consists of moss, last year's stems of aquatic plants. Often, warblers also use such unusual elements as cobwebs, wings or cocoons of butterflies. The middle layer contains stems and leaves of cereals. The inner layer is the most durable. For its construction, birds collect aquatic plants and grains, tightly intertwining all the components. Sometimes warblers fasten all building materials with horsehair. In this case, the nest is especially strong. Inside, the owners line it with fluff, soft parts of plants, moss. Cylindrical nests are much less common. They are somewhat larger and wider than the cupped ones and are located not above the ground, but above the water.


The female lays eggs from late spring to mid-summer. Usually there are 4-6 sandy-gray eggs in a clutch. The shell is covered with numerous spots of a reddish or yellow-brown hue. Often, the spots cover the surface of the egg so densely that the main color becomes invisible.

Badger warblers can breed not once, but twice a year. Incubation lasts about two weeks, during which only the female incubates the chicks, and the male is nearby, continuing to sing. However, there is an opinion that parents alternately replace each other. The nest is well camouflaged and not easy to find. But his proximity betrays the disturbing behavior of the birds, which fly very close to the troublemaker.

Chicks hatch naked, blind and completely helpless. But they grow quickly and after 10-12 days they leave the nest and begin to feed on their own. Broods remain under the care of their parents for a long time, roaming with them. The whole family often moves to the nearest field and lives safely among wheat, rye, barley or rice until the very harvest.


Like most other representatives of its genus, badger warblers feed mainly on insects and their larvae: caddis flies, mayflies, aphids, small beetles and dragonflies, however, other invertebrates, such as mollusks, are often present in their diet. Hunting among bushes or grassy thickets, the birds move almost silently. At the end of summer, they also often feast on the juicy berries of shrubs growing along the banks.


Warblers firmly attach nests to sedge stems or clamp between them. The nest is so well anchored, and its tray is so deep that the eggs in it do not fall out even in strong winds when the stems swing.

Spring trills

From wintering, the warbler usually returns in mid-April, starting to actively create pairs and prepare for the appearance of offspring. The male bird actively uses his vocal abilities to attract the female. After pairing, they do not leave each other throughout the season, but the main responsibilities for incubating eggs fall mostly on the female. The birds build their nest at a low height, without worrying about protecting it from predators, about 25% of the clutch dies every year. Small twigs, moss and cobwebs, which are collected near water bodies, are used as building materials.

Pairs of badgers are usually located at a distance of 50-70 meters from each other. These wonderful creatures need constant stay in the flock, and they spend most of their time together. Chicks hatch 12-14 days after laying eggs, and most of the care for them lies with the female.For a long time, fussy birds do not leave their nests, visiting them even during absences.


The diet of birds does not consist only of grains and seeds of small plants. They actively hunt small insects, feed on the bark of trees, and sometimes manage to feast on small mollusks.

Molting and plumage

Warblers are very fond of warmth, so they always responsibly prepare for the wintering period. During the warm season, they molt twice: in the spring, a premarital molt occurs, designed to make the plumage brighter and more attractive to a potential partner. The plumage changes for the second time in August, before a quick departure to warmer regions.

Chicks change nesting plumage soon after the start of independent flights. Down and small feathers are replaced by a permanent color, which indicates that the bird is growing up.

Preparing for winter

Already in mid-September, birds begin to gather in flocks for a quick departure to warm regions. Rare representatives of badgers are found in early October, but this is possible only during warm autumn.

Birds fly intermittently, because long travels are difficult for them due to rapid weakening. They spend the cold season in European countries with a mild climate in the absence of temperature drops.

Interaction with people

Warblers are very freedom-loving creatures, so they cannot survive at home. Being in a cage turns them into aggressive and stop singing individuals.

With visible danger and the possible approach of people, the birds try to hide in dense thickets. Fast and nimble individuals manage to disguise themselves thanks to nondescript plumage, merging with branches and reeds. And only during the period of mating games do they lose their vigilance, often appearing in open areas. Wanting to attract attention to themselves, males not only announce the territory with loud singing, but also perform pirouettes in the air, flying low over the ground.

Interesting Facts

Male birds can easily do several things at the same time. For example, it will not be difficult for them to crumble into unusual trills while eating. At the same time, the quality of the unique song does not get worse or quieter.

Only professional bird watchers will be able to distinguish badgers from ordinary sparrows by a certain color of the head. It is only visible in males, while small and completely gray females appear completely inconspicuous.

Scientists know about the existence of about 10 subspecies of birds that inhabit the same territory throughout their lives. Outside its borders, they do not meet, keeping only in one flock.

Features of morphology

The body length is 13–15 cm. The upper body and head are brownish with dark longitudinal streaks. There is a wide yellowish "eyebrow" above the eye. The underside is yellowish-buffy with darker sides. Younger ones are more rufous with small dark spots on the crop.

Features of biology

Nesting migratory and passing species. It is found in reed and shrub thickets along the banks of reservoirs, where it keeps very secretly. Very rare in nesting - known only from single reliable records. Appears in the nesting biotope in the second half of April. The nest is located on the ground or not high (10–20 cm) above the ground or above the water. Oviposition begins in the first half of May; the only nest found in Crimea contained 5 eggs. Both partners incubate for about 2 weeks, chicks leave the nest at the age of 10–12 days. Flying young are found in July. During the migration periods (April - first half of May and August - October), birds from other regions predominate in number. It feeds on small insects (butterflies, ants, parasites, beetles and others).

Security measures

The species is included in Appendix II of the Berne Convention. Research is needed to identify new nesting sites, to keep areas of reed vegetation intact on water bodies.

Sources of information

Kostin, 1983, Beskaravayny, 2010, Tarina, Kostin, 2011.

Compiled by: Beskaravayny M. M. A photo: Arkhipov A.M.