This non-descript little warbler is often heard and not seen, its trill, high-pitched song sounds like a very loud grasshopper. It has brown upper parts with a darker brown/black streak on each feather, while its underparts and throat are cream-coloured. The head is a similar brown colour to the back with a very faint pale streak above the black eye. Males and females are similar but juveniles show slightly more streaking on the back.
Average Length: 12.5 - 13.5 cm
Average Lifespan: 5 Years
Average Wingspan: 15 - 19 cm
Their diet mainly consists of insects but spiders and small molluscs may be eaten as well if the environment is right. They do not eat seeds so if you want to attract them to your garden, create an insect-friendly space where they can feed.
Grasshopper Warbler start preparing for the breeding season when they arrive in April In early May both the male and the female will begin building a nest close to the ground out of grass, sedge, and moss. Towards the end of May, the female lays 3-7 smooth speckled eggs which are incubated by both parents for 12-15 days. Hatchlings are fed by both parents for a further 12-13 days. They often produce two broods before their breeding season ends and they return to their wintering grounds.
This species underwent severe declines between the 1960s and 1980s and while the UK population has remained somewhat stable since then, European populations have continued to decline. As with many of our visiting warblers, droughts driven by climate change in their overwintering areas are likely to impact the population. The decrease in food abundance that these droughts can cause means the bird cannot store enough fuel to make the long-distance migration. In areas of the UK loss of suitable habitat has caused declines in the past and may now be limiting their recovery. The loss of varied landscapes including young woodland, dense scrub, and grassland continues to restrict their range.
Petition to protect local woodlands and scrub habitats.
Create an insect-friendly garden to ensure a plentiful food supply for this bird.
Provide a clean supply of fresh water throughout the summer.
Human hearing naturally deteriorates as we age, and one of the first pitches that we stop being able to hear is the exact pitch Grasshopper warblers sing at. So unfortunately, at some point in all our lives, we will no longer be able to hear them sing.
Bayly, N. J., & Rumsey, S. J. R. (2007). Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia autumn migration - Findings from a study in southeast Britain. Ringing and Migration, 23(3), 147–155. https://doi.org/10.1080/03078698.2007.9674361
Bayly, N. J., Rumsey, S. J. R., & Clark, J. A. (2011). Crossing the Sahara desert: migratory strategies of the Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-011-0676-3
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Locustella naevia. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/common-grasshopper-warbler-locustella-naevia (Accessed: 25/08/2023)
British Trust for Ornithology (no date) Grasshopper warbler | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology. Available at: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/grasshopper-warbler (Accessed: 25/08/2023).
Gilbert, G. (2012). Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia breeding habitat in Britain. Bird Study, 59(3), 303–314. https://doi.org/10.1080/00063657.2012.672400
RSPB (no date) Grasshopper warbler facts: Locustella Naevia, The RSPB. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/grasshopper-warbler/ (Accessed: 25/08/2023).