Willow warbler

©Bob Coyle

Willow warbler

Scientific name: Phylloscopus trochilus
A summer visitor, the willow warbler can be seen in woodland, parks and gardens across the UK. It arrives here in April and leaves for southern Africa in September.

Species information


Length: 11-13cm
Wingspan: 19cm
Weight: 10g
Average lifespan: 2 years

Conservation status

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

When to see

April to September


The willow warbler is a slim, delicate bird of woodland, scrub, parks and gardens. It can be heard singing a melodious, warbling song from the tree canopy. Willow warblers are migratory birds, breeding in Europe and migrating to southern Africa for the winter. They are unusual birds because they moult all their feathers twice a year - once at their breeding grounds and once at their wintering grounds; yet, the reason for this is unclear. Like other warblers, they are insectivorous, but will eat berries and fruit in autumn.

How to identify

The willow warbler is green above and pale yellow below, with an off-white belly and eyebrow stripe. Willow warblers and chiffchaffs are both very similar, olive-coloured warblers, so are best identified by their song: Chiffchaffs sing a distinctive 'chiff chaff chiff chaff'. Willow warblers have pale legs, while Chiffchaff legs are dark grey.


A widespread summer visitor.

Did you know?

The willow warbler is one of the most common summer visitors to this country, with 2.4 million breeding pairs setting up nests for the season.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland 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.