River Warble

Savi’s warblerLocustella luscinioides


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Sylviidae
  • Genre: Locustella
  • Species: Locustella luscinioides  

Identification characters

It is a songbird species, summer guest, nesting mostly in reeds, It has a body length of 13.5 – 15 cm on average. Weighs 12 – 21 g.

The plumage is relatively evenly coloured, dorsally reddish brown and ventrally rusty grey on the flanks and lighter on the abdomen. The throat is lighter in colour (whitish). Sexes and ages are similar. Given its general appearance, colouring and the presence of a lighter coloured eyebrow, but especially the habitat associated with dense, spreading reeds, the bird can be confused with the Great Crested Plover (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), from which it can be distinguished both by its voice and some morphological features: the underparts are long, reddish-brown of a light hue with tips in lighter shades in most individuals, and unlike the great crested grebe, the wing margin is curved, the breast is dull grey-brown and on the flanks with a grey-brown, reddish tinge, without yellowish tones. The tail is broad, with fine dark stripes on the dorsal side.

The reed warbler is more difficult to spot, being camouflaged in the reeds most of the time.

It can sometimes be seen singing from the tops of reed hairs. If it can’t be seen, it can instead be heard by the high-pitched, metallic, monotonous song that resembles the buzzing of orthopteran insects.

The scientific name of this species is inspired by this specific song. Genus name,

Locustella, is the Latin diminutive of the word locusta – locust, referring to the song similar to that of some orthopteran insects (crickets, grasshoppers, locusts), and the specific epithet luscinioides comes from the Latin word luscinia , meaning nightingale, and from the Greek suffix -ides meaning similar to, alluding to the general appearance of this small songbird, which is similar to that of the nightingale.


The Savi’s warbler nests mainly in eastern and south-eastern Europe, with very large populations, especially in Romania. Sporadically it also occurs towards the west and north of Europe, but also in Asia. Some of the Baltic countries have been colonised recently and populations in these regions are increasing. They migrate over long distances. Winters in East Africa. The population in Europe accounts for 65% of the world population, with between 281 000 and 474 000 breeding pairs. Between 1980 and 2011 the trend has been stable.

In Romania, the breeding population ranges from 114 498 to 205 782 pairs. In Romania, the species is distributed throughout the country, from the lowlands to the high hills, especially in the vast reed beds associated with large water courses, particularly in the Danube Delta. The species does not occur in mountainous areas.

Living environment and biology of the species

The Savi’s warbler nests in reedbeds, in marshy meadows with reeds, in reeds, willows, reeds, on the shores of lakes, usually on the plains. In Europe it reaches heights of up to 360 m. In Kazakhstan, however, it has also been found at 1 200 m. Maximum longevity in the wild is seven years and five months. It reaches sexual maturity at the age of one year.

It hunts a variety of small insects up to 4 mm in size. Food consists of small mayflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, lepidoptera, diptera and coleoptera, all of which are caught near water when clinging to reed stems. These are sometimes joined by spiders and snails.

The nesting period begins in mid-May and lasts until early July. The reed warbler can lay two eggs in a breeding season, the first in mid-May and the second in July.

It is a monogamous, solitary species. The male hangs on tall vegetation and sings to mark his territory. The cup-shaped nest is located near water at the base of reed stems. It is made from grass, reeds, and also from reeds or dry reeds. The inside of the nest is lined with leaves and fine grass blades. The clutch consists of 3-6 eggs. The female broods for 10-12 days. The eggs are a dark greyish-grey colour and are completely covered with grey, brown or purple spots and dots. The chicks are fed at first only by the mother, then by both parents. After 11-15 days the chicks are able to fly and leave the nest.

Threats and conservation measures

The species is threatened mainly by habitat loss and alteration, pollution and poor water management.

Conservation measures to be taken include: compliance with building restrictions in

riparian and coastal areas, management measures for wetland vegetation to maintain vegetation at an ecologically optimal level for the species, prohibition of the burning of riparian vegetation, including reed and sedge beds, maintenance and conservation of reed beds with permanent water as a characteristic habitat, appropriate waste and wastewater management around wetlands, measures to avoid eutrophication and sedimentation in wetlands, appropriate management of water levels in aquatic ecosystems in accordance with the ecological needs of the species.

It is recommended to maintain uncultivated strips of at least 1.5 m between cultivated land and wetlands, where the use of chemicals is strictly prohibited, to encourage the use of selective and low-toxicity agrochemicals, to avoid the use of treated seeds on neighbouring land, to encourage organic production;

It is desirable to carry out an inventory of current and potential breeding areas, identify migration, feeding and aggregation areas important for the conservation of this species, promote studies on various aspects of the species’ biology.


  • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 436-437;
  • Lars Svensson, Hakan Delin, 1988, Photographic guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, Passerines p. 210, Chancellor Press, Londra.
  • Svensson (text and maps), 2017, Guide to bird identification. Europe and the Mediterranean area, translation and adaptation in Romanian: Romanian Ornithological Society, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p.318;
  • https://pasaridinromania.sor.ro/ Ornitodata | Greluşel de stuf (sor.ro)
  • https://ornitodata2.sor.ro/specii/457/grelusel-de-stuf-locustella-luscinioides
Follow Us