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the web of life in southern Africa

Locustella fluviatilis (River warbler) 

Sprinkaansanger [Afrikaans]; Krekelzanger [Dutch]; Locustelle fluviatile [French]; Schlagschwirl [German]; Felosa-fluvial [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

Locustella fluviatilis (River warbler)   

River warbler, Moscow, Russia. [photo Sergey Yeliseev ]


Distribution and habitat

Its breeding grounds are from eastern Germany to Russia, north to Finland and south to Romania. In the non-breeding season it flies all the way to Zambia, north-western Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and north-eastern South Africa (note that the map pictured below does not include many records from these countries). In southern Africa it is rare and localised, preferring mature Miombo (Brachystegia) and Zambezi teak (Baikiaea plurijuga) woodland with extremely dense undergrowth. It is very shy and difficult to see, as it favours dense bushes such as num-nums (Carissa) and grewias (Grewia).

Distribution of River 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 arrives in southern Africa around January-February, with each bird settling in roughly the same area as the previous seasons. It leaves after the first cold, cloudless night, usually in late March to early April.


It mainly eats arthropods, doing most of its foraging on the ground, occasionally plucking insects from nearby leaves. A wide variety of prey have been recorded in its diet in Eurasia, but the only recorded prey in southern Africa are fruit-flies (Tephritidae).


  • 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.