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Sylvia communis (Common whitethroat) 

Witkeelsanger [Afrikaans]; Niini/Hamanku niini [Kwangali]; Timba (generic name for cisticolas and warblers) [Shona]; Grasmus [Dutch]; Fauvette grisette [French]; Dorngrasmücke [German]; Papa-amoras [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: Sylvia

Sylvia communis (Common whitethroat)   

Common whitethroat, Suffolk, England. [photo Andy Bright ©]


Distribution and habitat

Its breeding grounds are from western Europe to north-west Africa and Mongolia; in the non-breeding season it heads south to sub-Saharan Africa, occurring in a band from Senegal to Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here its distribution is centered around Botswana, extending into Zimbabwe, northern South Africa and north-eastern Namibia. It generally prefers arid woodland with scattered Acacia trees, or with miombo (Brachystegia) and Zambezi teak (Baikiaea plurijuga), especially with undergrowth containing fruit-bearing shrubs.

Distribution of Common whitethroat 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 mainly arrives in southern Africa from late November-December, departing from March-April.


It eats a variety of insects and fruit, often foraging solitarily but also joining mixed-species foraging flocks. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects, e.g. midges
  • Fruit
    • Salvadora (mustard tree)
    • Morus (mulberries)


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.