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Leaf warbler

Leaf warblers
Willow warbler
(Phylloscopus trochilus)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Sylvioidea
Family: Phylloscopidae
Alström, Ericson, Olsson, & Sundberg, 2006
Genus: Phylloscopus
F. Boie, 1826
Type species
Sylvia trochilus[1] = Motacilla trochilus
Latham, 1790

See text

Leaf warblers are small insectivorous passerine birds belonging to the genus Phylloscopus.

Leaf warblers were formerly included in the Old World warbler family but are now considered to belong to the family Phylloscopidae, introduced in 2006. The family originally included the genus Seicercus, but all species have been moved to Phylloscopus in the most recent classification. Leaf warblers are active, constantly moving, often flicking their wings as they glean the foliage for insects along the branches of trees and bushes. They forage at various levels within forests, from the top canopy to the understorey. Most of the species are markedly territorial both in their summer and winter quarters. Most are greenish or brownish above and off-white or yellowish below. Compared to some other "warblers", their songs are very simple. Species breeding in temperate regions are usually strongly migratory.

Illustration of Phylloscopus bonelli, Phylloscopus coronatus, Phylloscopus trochilus, Phylloscopus sibilatrix by John Gerrard Keulemans


The species are of various sizes, often green-plumaged above and yellow below, or more subdued with greyish-green to greyish-brown colours, varying little or not at all with the seasons. The tails are not very long and contain 12 feathers (unlike the similar Abroscopus species, which have 10 tail feathers). Many species are more easily identified by their distinctive songs than their dull plumage.[2] These are very small passerines with adult body masses that can vary from 3.5 to 17 g (0.12 to 0.60 oz) and in some cases, such as the Chinese leaf warbler, are among the lightest passerines anywhere. Several of the larger species are similar in size including the large-billed leaf warbler, Radde's warbler and the pale-legged leaf warbler.[3] Total length can vary from 9 to 14.5 cm (3.5 to 5.7 in).[4]

Distribution and habitat

Its members occur in Eurasia, ranging into Wallacea and Africa with one species, the Arctic warbler, breeding as far east as Alaska. Many of the species breed at temperate and high latitudes in Eurasia and migrate substantial distances to winter in southeastern Asia, India, or Africa. One example is Tickell's leaf warbler, which breeds in scrub at high elevation in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau and then moves down-slope and south to winter in the Himalayan foothills of India and Burma.[5] Most live in forest and scrub and many are canopy or sub-canopy dwellers.

Behavior and ecology

The family Phylloscopidae comprises many small tree-loving warbler species that feed by gleaning insects from leaves or catching food on the wing.[5]


The genus Phylloscopus was introduced by the German zoologist Friedrich Boie in 1826 to accommodate a single species, the willow warbler, which is therefore considered as the type species.[6][7] The name combines the Ancient Greek phullon meaning "leaf" and skopos meaning "seeker" (from skopeo, "to watch").[8] Phylloscopus is the only genus placed in the family Phylloscopidae that was introduced in 2006 by the Swedish ornithologist Per Alström and coworkers.[9]


Phylloscopidae – leaf warblers (81 species)

Hyliidae – hylias (2 species)

Aegithalidae – bushtits (13 species)

Erythrocercidae – flycatchers (3 species)

Scotocercidae – streaked scrub warbler

Cettiidae – bush warblers and allies (32 species)

Cladogram showing the family relationships based on a study by Carl Oliveros and colleagues published in 2019.[10] The number of species is taken from the bird list maintained by Frank Gill, Pamela Rasmussen and David Donsker on behalf of the International Ornithological Committee (IOC).[11]

The genus contains 81 species:[11] Of these, eleven species were formerly placed in the genus Seicercus, but a 2018 molecular phylogeny study indicated that the genus Seicercus is a synonym of Phylloscopus, leaving the family Phylloscopidae with a single genus, Phylloscopus.[12]

Two birds were described in 2020 but have not yet been recognised as species by the International Ornithologists' Union.[11][15]

The alpine leaf warbler, Phylloscopus occisinensis, was reclassified as conspecific with Tickell's leaf warbler (P. affinis) by the IOC, but other authorities such as eBird still consider it distinct.[14][16]


  1. ^ "Phylloscopidae". The Trust for Avian Systematics. Retrieved 2023-07-15.
  2. ^ Baker, Kevin (2010-06-30). Warblers of Europe, Asia and North Africa. A&C Black. p. 17. ISBN 9781408131701.
  3. ^ Dunning, John B. Jr., ed. (2008). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses (2nd ed.). CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4200-6444-5.
  4. ^ Winkler, D. W., S. M. Billerman, and I.J. Lovette (2020). Leaf Warblers (Phylloscopidae), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, B. K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
  5. ^ a b "Lead-Warblers Phylloscopidae". 25 May 2006. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  6. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1986). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 11. Vol. 11. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 221.
  7. ^ Boie, Friedrich (1826). "Generalübersicht der ornithologischen Ordnungen Familien und Gattugen". Isis von Oken (in German). 19. col. 972.
  8. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 305. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  9. ^ Alström, P.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Olsson, U.; Sundberg, P. (2006). "Phylogeny and classification of the avian superfamily Sylvioidea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 38 (2): 381–397. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.05.015. PMID 16054402.
  10. ^ Oliveros, C.H.; et al. (2019). "Earth history and the passerine superradiation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 116 (16): 7916–7925. Bibcode:2019PNAS..116.7916O. doi:10.1073/pnas.1813206116. PMC 6475423. PMID 30936315.
  11. ^ a b c Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (January 2022). "Bushtits, leaf warblers, reed warblers". IOC World Bird List Version 12.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  12. ^ Alström, P.; Rheindt, F.E.; Zhang, R.; Zhao, M.; Wang, J.; Zhu, X.; Gwee, C.Y.; Hao, Y.; Ohlson, J.; Jia, C.; Prawiradilaga, D.M.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Lei, F.; Olsson, U. (2018). "Complete species-level phylogeny of the leaf warbler (Aves: Phylloscopidae) radiation". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 126: 141–152. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2018.03.031. PMID 29631054. S2CID 4720300.
  13. ^ Ng, Nathaniel. S. R.; Prawiradilaga, Dewi. M.; Ng, Elize. Y. X.; Suparno; Ashari, Hidayat; Trainor, Colin; Verbelen, Philippe; Rheindt, Frank. E. (2018). "A striking new species of leaf warbler from the Lesser Sundas as uncovered through morphology and genomics". Scientific Reports. 8 (1): 15646. Bibcode:2018NatSR...815646N. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-34101-7. PMC 6199301. PMID 30353148.
  14. ^ a b c "Species Updates – IOC World Bird List". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  15. ^ Rheindt, F.E.; Prawiradilaga, D.M.; Ashari, H.; Suparno; Gwee, C.Y.; Lee, G.W.X.; Wu, M.Y.; Ng, N.S.R. (2020). "A lost world in Wallacea: description of a montane archipelagic avifauna". Science. 367 (6474): 167–170. doi:10.1126/science.aax2146. PMID 31919216. See supplement.
  16. ^ "Alpine Leaf Warbler - eBird". Retrieved 2021-06-18.

Further reading

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Leaf warbler
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