Bird Families

African warblers


Distribution and habitat

African warblers inhabit a number of Black African habitats. It ranges from primary rainforests to its outskirts and open woodlands around Bulbul's Whitethroats, from wooded savannahs to dry thickets and shrubs near Sylvietta, from stony dry areas to pastures of Damaran Great-tailed Warbler, Moustached Great-tailed Warbler and Cape Great-tailed Warbler. The overwhelming majority of species are sedentary, but the mustachioed great-tailed warbler and brown-bellied sylvietta make local migrations in West Africa associated with the rainy season.


African Whitethroats range in size from small sylviettes, 8 cm long and 6.5 grams in weight, to the big-tailed whitethroat, 19-23 cm long and 29-40 grams in weight. In genera there is a significant difference in appearance: for example, two large-tailed warblers and a red-breasted motley chest have long rounded tails, while in sylvietta they barely extend beyond the coverts and folded wings.


African warblers consume a wide variety of insects. Bulbul warbler and sylvietta feed in tree crowns and bushes, singly or in pairs, or in small groups, while other species are more terrestrial. There is a niche division, when two species live together, for example, red-faced and long-billed sylvietta throughout the entire range, and one of them feeds in hollows, and the other - in shrubs and at the bottom of trees. Some species, like the sylvietta and the bulbul's warbler, have been seen in mixed foraging flocks.

Reproduction is seasonal and usually coincides with the end of the drought and the beginning of the rainy season: the exact timing of species with wide ranges can vary greatly. No information is available for many species, but African warblers are reported to be monogamous and territorial. Within the family, the design of the nest is very different: the sylviettes build nests in the form of a deep pocket hanging from a branch, while the mustachioed and Cape Big-tailed Warblers, as well as the red-breasted variegated breasts - in the form of a bowl woven from grass.

Conservation status

Most of the species in this family are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. One of the species, the Angolan Bulbul warbler, is on the endangered species list. The species is endemic to the forest scarps of western Angola, threatened by deforestation and the spread of the slash-and-burn farming system, and the bird population is estimated at less than a thousand and is still declining. Another potential problem is the white-browed sylvietta subspecies, the state of the number of which remains uncertain, since the Ituri conflict prevents the study of its range. She may have disappeared.


As of February 2018, the family includes 6 genera and 18 species:

  • Genus Achaetops Roberts, 1922
    • Achaetops pycnopygius (P. L. Sclater, 1853) - Damara Great-tailed Warbler
  • Genus Cryptillas Oberholser, 1899
    • Cryptillas victorini (Sundevall, 1860) - Red-breasted pied-breasted, formerly of the genus Pied-breasted
  • Genus Macrosphenus Cassin, 1859 - Bulbul warbler
    • Macrosphenus concolor (Hartlaub, 1857) - Olive bulbul warbler
    • Macrosphenus flavicans Cassin, 1859 - Yellow-bellied Bulbulous Warbler
    • Macrosphenus kempi (Sharpe, 1905) - Red-headed Bulbul Warbler
    • Macrosphenus kretschmeri (Reichenow & Neumann, 1895) - Swahil Bulbul Warbler
    • Macrosphenus pulitzeri Boulton, 1931 - Angolan bulbul warbler
  • Genus Melocichla Hartlaub, 1857
    • Melocichla mentalis (Fraser, 1843) - Whiskered Warbler
  • Genus Sphenoeacus Strickland, 1841 - Great-tailed warbler
    • Sphenoeacus afer (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) - Cape Big-tailed Warbler
  • Genus Sylvietta Lafresnaye, 1839 - Sylvietta
    • Sylvietta brachyura Lafresnaye, 1839 - Brown-bellied Sylvietta
    • Sylvietta denti Ogilvie-Grant, 1906 - Lemon-bellied sylvietta
    • Sylvietta isabellina D. G. Elliot, 1897 - Somali sylvietta
    • Sylvietta leucophrys Sharpe, 1891 - White-browed sylvietta
    • Sylvietta philippae J. G. Williams, 1955 - White-bellied sylvietta
    • Sylvietta rufescens (Vieillot, 1817) - Long-billed sylvietta
    • Sylvietta ruficapilla Barboza du Bocage, 1877 - Red-eared Sylvietta
    • Sylvietta virens Cassin, 1859 - Green Sylvietta
    • Sylvietta whytii Shelley, 1894 - Red-faced Sylvietta