Family Old World Warblers and Parrotbills (Sylviidae)

Least Concern

African Hill-babbler (Sylvia abyssinica)


French: Fauvette d’Abyssinie German: Hochland-Grasmücke Spanish: Curruca abisinia

Drymophila abyssinica


, 1840,

Simen Mountains, Begemdir Province, northern Ethiopia


Often treated as conspecific with S. atriceps (which see). Race stierlingi forms distinctive single-taxon group with black lores, blackish forecrown and face (3) and broad vague blackish-and-white streaking on throat and breast (2), but vocally undifferentiated. Race ansorgei sometimes regarded as inseparable from nominate. Proposed race chyulu (from Chyulu Hills, in Kenya) a synonym of nominate; stictigula (N Malawi and NW Mozambique) a synonym of stierlingi. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. a. monachus (Reichenow, 1892) – Mt Cameroon, in W Cameroon.
  • S. a. claudei (Alexander, 1903) – Bioko.
  • S. a. abyssinica (Rüppell, 1840) – African Hill-babbler – C Ethiopia, SE South Sudan, E Uganda, W & S Kenya and NE Tanzania.
  • S. a. ansorgei#R (Rothschild, 1918) – WC & SW Angola, SE DRCongo and W Tanzania.
  • S. a. stierlingi (Reichenow, 1898) – Stierling's Hill-babbler – EC & SW Tanzania, Nyika Plateau (extreme NE Zambia and N ­Malawi), and NW Mozambique.
  • Descriptive notes

    13–15 cm; 14–25 g. Nominate race has crown and head side grey, upperparts and tertials rich brown, upperwing and tail dark brown with rich brown fringes; chin and... read more


    Song (by both sexes) a beautiful rich clear warble of 5–20 notes (usually 8–13),... read more


    Understorey, light-gaps and middle-storey creeper-laden thickets of broadleaf montane evergreen... read more

    Food and feeding

    Bark beetles (Scolytidae), coleopteran larvae, caterpillars of noctuid and geometrid moths, also small molluscs; small berries, fruits and... read more


    Season Nov–Mar in Cameroon, Apr–Jul in Ethiopia and Nov–Jan in Sudan; breeding-condition birds in May and Aug, and with... read more


    Resident. Reported seasonal movements unconfirmed by any hard evidence.

    Status and conservation

    Not assessed. Common above 1600 m on Bioko I; secure on Mt Cameroon, in W Cameroon; common in Angola. Frequent in Ethiopian Highlands and common in mountains in extreme SE... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. & Robson, C. (2020). African Hill-babbler (Sylvia abyssinica). 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 19 February 2020).