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Acrocephalus arundinaceus (Great reed-warbler) 

Grootrietsanger [Afrikaans]; Niini (generic term for warblers and eremomelas) [Kwangali]; Soamahlaka-kholo [South Sotho]; Timba (generic name for cisticolas and warblers) [Shona]; Grote karekiet [Dutch]; Rousserolle turdoïde [French]; Drosselrohrsänger [German]; Rouxinol-grande-dos-caniços [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Sylviidae > Genus: Acrocephalus

Acrocephalus arundinaceus (Great reed-warbler)   

Great reed-warbler, Portugal. [photo Jose Viana ©]


Distribution and habitat

It breeds across much of Eurasia and North Africa, flying south to sub-Saharan Africa in the non-breeding season. In southern Africa it not only occurs reedbeds but also in other vegetation sometimes far from water, such as dense bush, gardens, sugar cane plantations. In arid areas it tends to only occupy wetland reedbeds, as the habitat away from the water is often to dry.

Distribution of Great reed-warbler in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

It leaves its breeding grounds around August-September, flying directly to sub-Saharan Africa. Most individuals arrive in southern Africa from November through to December, latecomers have been recorded in January. It often stays in the same area in consecutive non-breeding seasons, typically leaving this region from late February-March.


It eats a variety of insects, doing most of its foraging near the ground, plucking prey from the ground and surrounding foliage. The following food items have been recorded in its diet in Zambia:


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree. A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.