Reed warbler

©Amy Lewis

Reed warbler

Scientific name: Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Listen out for the 'churring' song of the reed warbler, while wandering the UK's lowland wetlands in summer. A small, brown bird, they are quite hard to see.

Species information


Length: 13cm
Wingspan: 19cm
Weight: 13g
Average lifespan: 2 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

April to October


The reed warbler is a medium-sized warbler of reedbeds. A summer visitor to the UK, it weaves its nest as a sling between two or three reed stems, and lays three to five eggs in it. Forming monogamous pairs, both parents raise the chicks, bringing them insects to eat. Reed warblers are common victims of brood-parasitism by cuckoos. Having laid an egg in the nest while the parents are unaware, the female cuckoo leaves the intruding chick to hatch. The cuckoo chick pushes all the other eggs and chicks out of the nest so its foster parents can concentrate solely on bringing it food.

How to identify

Reed warblers are a plain, warm brown above and buff below, with a pale throat and a short, pale stripe in front of the eye. You are more likely to hear their 'churring' song, than see them hidden among the reeds.


Widespread summer visitor to lowland central and southern England and Wales. Rarer in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Did you know?

The closely related marsh warbler and blyth's reed warbler are both rare visitors to the UK, but are almost identical to the reed warbler.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.