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the web of life in southern Africa

Acrocephalus palustris (Marsh warbler, European marsh-warbler) 

Europese rietsanger [Afrikaans]; Bosrietzanger [Dutch]; Rousserolle verderolle [French]; Sumpfrohrsänger [German]; Felosa-palustre [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 palustris (Marsh warbler, European marsh-warbler)   

Marsh warbler, Kuwait. [photo rashed1112 ©]


Distribution and habitat

A Palearctic breeding migrant, its breeding grounds stretch across much of Eurasia. In the non-breeding season it flies south to sub-Saharan Africa, specifically from the Horn of Africa through Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is common but difficult to see, often skulking and calling in dense, tangled undergrowth with the tree canopy up above, as its preferred habitat is woodland. It may occasionally occur in garden hedges, fields of sorghum and patches of tall grass.

Distribution of Marsh 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

The adults leaves their breeding grounds around June-July; juveniles depart about a month later. It flies further south to north-eastern Africa, probably staying there for the next 2-4 months before continuing its journey south, eventually reaching southern Africa typically from December-January, sometimes earlier. Its departure from this region is rapid, with most individuals leaving in late March and early April.


It mainly forages in the tree canopy, gleaning invertebrates such as spiders, snails, mosquitoes, termites and other insects from leaves and branches.


Not threatened, in fact its range has expanded in the last few decades, too the point that its population is now estimated to be in the millions and increasing.


  • 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.