sedge-warbler



sedge-warbler defined in 1930 year

sedge-warbler - Sedge-Warbler;
sedge-warbler - Upper plumage greyish brown; above the eye a broad, distinct, yellowish white streak; under plumage pale buff; throat white. Length, four inches and three-quarters.

The sedge-warbler, usually called sedge-bird, and in some localities river- chat, is a common species in most waterside places where there are reed-beds and willows; it also frequents rough hedges and bramble and furze bushes in the neighbourhood of a watercourse. Sometimes, but not often, it is found breeding at a considerable distance from a stream. It comes to us in April, and is a most active and lively little creature. Although not shy of man, it is less easy to observe than any other species in this group, except, perhaps, the grasshopper warbler, on account of its excessive restlessness, the rapidity of its movements, and its habit of keeping near the surface in the close reeds and bushes it lives in. The grasshopper warbler, and, indeed, most small birds that inhabit bushes, love to come to the surface to sing; the sedge-warbler sings much as he hurries about in search of his food, which consists of small caterpillars and slugs, and aquatic insects. Occasionally the restless little yellowish brown figure appears for a moment or two near the top of a bush, and then vanishes again.

The song is curious, and delivered in a curious manner, with hurry and vehemence; and this, as well as the character of the sounds emitted, gives the idea that the bird is excited to anger - that he is scolding at, rather than singing to, the listener. The opening note, hurriedly repeated several times, and recurring at short intervals as long as the song lasts (its keynote and refrain), resembles the chiding note of the whitethroat when its nest is approached, but is louder and more strident. It is the loudest sound the sedge-warbler emits, and when the song is heard at a distance of fifty or sixty yards it seems all composed of chiding notes. But on a nearer approach - and the bird will allow the listener to get quite close to it - the performance is found to be a very varied one. Listening to it, one finds it hard not to believe that this warbler possesses the faculty it has often been credited with, of mocking other species. But if he indeed has such a talent, he reproduces not so much the songs of other birds as the notes and chirps and small cries of anxiety and alarm - the various sounds emitted by singing-birds in the presence of danger to their young or incubated eggs. Thus, in the medley of hurried and strongly contrasted sounds that come in a continuous stream from the sedge-warbler one seems to recognise the low girding of the nightingale, and the different notes of solicitude of the sparrow, reed-bunting, and chaffinch, of the wren and the willow-wren, the meadow-pipit and pied wagtail. But whether these various sounds are really borrowed or not one can never feel sure.

The sedge-warbler is a very persistent singer. Some birds are too chary of their strains; but of this waterside music any person may have as much as he likes in May and June. Singing is apparently as little tiring to this bird as rushing through the air is to the swift. At the season of his greatest vigour he appears to pour out his rapid notes almost automatically; and when silent, a stone or stick flung into his haunts will provoke a fresh outburst of melody. He also sings a great deal at night in the love season.

The sedge-warbler makes its nest among the tangled vegetation at the waterside; as a rule it is placed near the ground, and is composed outwardly of moss, leaves, and aquatic grasses, and lined with fine grass and hair. The eggs are five, of a dirty white or pale brownish ground-colour, with yellowish brown spots, sometimes with hairlike marks among the spots.

Besides the two described, three more species of this group of warblers have been numbered as British birds, having been found as stragglers in this country. These are the marsh-warbler (Aerocephalus palustris), the great reed-warbler (Acrocephalus tudoides), and the aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus aquaticus).

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