Dartford warblers

Where to see a Dartford warbler

© Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Dartford warbler

A perky character, the Dartford warbler is slate-grey above and deep wine-red below. Its long tail is often held cocked at a jaunty angle while it sings its scratchy, rambling song from a perch on the top of a gorse bush. As well as being the perfect singing platform, this tightly packed, spikey shrub provides a safe nesting place and hunting ground for a bird that specialises in picking spiders and caterpillars from their hiding places.

A warm, still day is best, as little birds tend to stay hidden if it’s windy.

Where to see a Dartford warbler

Named after Dartford in Kent, near to which it was first noted as a breeding bird in 1773, the Dartford warbler is a bird of lowland heathland in the south east of England and south Wales. Look out for them at the locations listed below:

What to look for

As well as listening out for the rattling song, pay attention to the other birds around you.  Dartford warblers have a habit of following stonechats around, so if you see a stonechat, check out the bushes around and below it.  You may find a Dartford warbler quietly picking off insects nearby. Unusually for a warbler, this is a resident bird, staying in the UK through the winter. This isn’t always such a good strategy, as many birds have died during the hard winters of recent years.

If you can't get to these places

Try looking out for a close relative of the Dartford warbler, the whitethroat which has a similar liking for gorse bushes, as well as hawthorn hedges and other spiny bushes: the whitethroat can be found throughout the country, so you shouldn’t have to go far to find one.

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