Family Old World Warblers and Parrotbills (Sylviidae)

Least Concern

African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti)


French: Fauvette du désert German: Saharagrasmücke Spanish: Curruca sahariana

Stoparola Deserti


, 1858,

Algerian Sahara


Until recently considered conspecific with S. nana, but differs in its sandier-rufous (less greyish) crown to back (2); greatly reduced blackish centres of inner tertials and central rectrices (2); whiter underparts (1); slightly longer bill (effect size 1.58, score 1); but slightly shorter wing, indicating non-migratory habit (effect size –1.48, score 1). Claims of “very different” voices#R (apparently responsible for near-universal acceptance of split) could not, however, be confirmed in independent analysis of available recordings#R, although variable level of divergence may exist. Form described as S. ticehursti on basis of single specimen from S Morocco (near Ouarzazate), and treated either as a separate species or as a race of S. deserticola, is probably aberrant individual of race maroccana of latter (which it resembles in general structure and in tail and tertial patterns), or hybrid between it and present species (which it resembles in having pale sandy-brown upperparts). Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

NW Africa from Western Sahara N to S High Atlas (Morocco) and Saharan Atlas (Algeria) and E to W Libya.

Descriptive notes

11·5 cm. Small, compact, rather short-tailed warbler with relatively short wings. Adult breeding has crown to back pale sandy-rufous, rump and uppertail-coverts more rufous-... read more


Song, delivered from cover or from top of tree, occasionally in flight or from ground, a very brief... read more


Prefers sandy deserts with sparse scrub and grass and, especially, areas with dense clumps of ... read more

Food and feeding

Appears to feed mostly on small insects and spiders, supplemented with some berries and seeds when available. Insects eaten include... read more


Laying from Jan to early Mar in S of range, where perhaps two broods, and from late Feb (mostly late Mar) to May, rarely later, in N, where... read more


Resident to partially migratory. Probably largely sedentary or undertaking erratic movements within... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common but rather locally distributed. There is no evidence of any declines in this species’ numbers nor of any significant... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2020). African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 February 2020).