grasshopper warbler



grasshopper warbler defined in 1930 year

grasshopper warbler - Grasshopper Warbler;
grasshopper warbler - Upper parts light greenish brown; the middle of each feather, being darker, gives a mottled appearance; under parts very pale brown, spotted with darker brown on neck and breast; feet light brown. Length, five and a half inches. Female without the brown spots on the breast.

This warbler arrives in our country about the middle of April, sometimes a week, or even a fortnight, earlier. In the melodious family to which it belongs it is distinguished by the singularity of its voice, which has no musical, or songlike, or even birdlike quality in it, but is like the sound produced by some stridulating insects. It is to be found in suitable situations throughout England and Wales, and in many parts of Scotland and Ireland. It frequents both dry and marshy ground where dense masses of vegetation afford it the close cover which would seem necessary to its frail existence; thus it is found in reed-beds growing in the water, and in hedges and thorny thickets, and among the furze-bushes on open commons. Although thus widely distributed in the British Islands, it is, like the nightingale, very local, and reappears faithfully each spring at the same spot. How strong the attachment to place, or home, is in this species will be seen in the following fact: Having found a small colony of about half a dozen grasshopper warblers inhabiting a circumscribed spot in the middle of an extensive common, I went back to the place in three consecutive summers, and each time found the birds in the same bushes. Yet the dozen or twenty furze and bramble bushes which they inhabited were in no way, that one could see, better suited to their requirements than hundreds of other bushes of the same description scattered over the surrounding land. Nor were any other individuals of the species to be found in the neighbourhood, except one pair, which were always to be met with in some brambles about a quarter of a mile from the spot inhabited by the other birds. Such a fact appears to show that, not only do the old birds return year after year to the same breeding-place, but that the young also come back to the spot where they were hatched; also, it appears to show that in this frail and far-travelling species the annual increase is only sufficient to make good the losses from all natural causes.

Immediately after their arrival in April the males begin their curious vocal performance, at first with a feeble and broken strain; but in a little while the voice gains in strength and shrillness, and the utterance becomes more sustained, lasting sometimes without a break for thirty or forty seconds, and even longer. This is renewed again and again at short intervals throughout the day, and continued far into the night. Indeed, the song may be heard all night long in fine summer weather. The sound is recognised by few of those who hear it as coming from a bird. It is usually attributed to an insect, and if the hearer grows curious, and tries to find the exact spot from which it issues, he finds this a somewhat difficult task. The sound seems now on this side, now on that, now far away, and anon close at hand; it is here, there, and everywhere. A good plan is to put the open hands behind the ear, then to turn slowly round until the exact spot is discovered. When the bush from which it proceeds has been found, the listener should advance cautiously to within a few yards of it, and sit down and wait until the hidden bird, recovering from his alarm, comes up to the summit and resumes his singing. It is then most interesting to observe him. The bird sits motionless, turning its head from side to side, and so long as the strain continues the yellow mouth is wide open, like the gaping mouth of a fledgeling wciting to receive food, the slender body trembling with the sound, as if an electric current were passing through it. The sound produced has been compared by different writers to the song of a grasshopper, only more sustained; to the cicada; to the whirring of a wool-spinner's reel, and to that of a well-oiled fisherman's reel made to run at a very rapid rate; and, finally, to the sharp, vibrating sound of the rattlesnake, and to an electric bell; but it is not so sharp as these last two.

The grasshopper warbler builds on the ground, and so well concealed is the nest that it is only possible to find it by watching the birds when carrying nesting materials into the bush. The nest is formed of dry grass and moss, and lined with fine fibres. Five to seven eggs are laid, white or pale pink, spotted with reddish brown over the entire egg; and sometimes fine hairlike lines are mixed with the spots.

A small warbler, closely resembling the grasshopper warbler in its language and habits, and once an indigenous British species, is Locustella luscinioïdes, locally known as the reelbird, red night-reeler, and red craking night-wren, and in books as Savi's warbler, after its discoverer. It bred regularly in the Norfolk Broads and the fen districts in Lincolnshire down to about 1849, when it became extinct.

near grasshopper warbler in Knolik


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