Family Grasshopper-warblers and Grassbirds (Locustellidae)

Least Concern

Chestnut-backed Grasshopper-warbler (Locustella castanea)


French: Locustelle marron German: Waldschwirl Spanish: Zarzalero castaño
Other common names: Chestnut-backed Bush-warbler

Turdinus castaneus


, 1893,

Minahasa, north Sulawesi


Previously placed in Bradypterus. Has been suggested as being closest to L. accentor, but that species has boldly spotted underparts and lacks supercilium; close relationship with L. caudata confirmed by DNA analysis, but L. accentor as yet unsampled#R. All three races reported to be vocally distinct (with geographical variation in song reported within Sulawesi populations) and have been separated specifically as a result#R; recognition as different subspecies groups based on this. A fourth taxon, as yet undescribed, was recently (2009) discovered on Taliabu (Sula Is); probably closely related to present species, and speculated also to merit species rank#R#R. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. c. castanea (Büttikofer, 1893) – Sulawesi Grasshopper-warbler – Sulawesi.
  • L. c. disturbans (E. J. O. Hartert, 1900) – Buru Grasshopper-warbler – Buru, in S Moluccas.
  • L. c. musculus (Stresemann, 1914) – Seram Grasshopper-warbler – Seram, in S Moluccas.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–15 cm; c. 14 g. A very reddish-brown or dark brown bush-warbler with remarkably clear and long supercilium. Nominate race is rich chestnut olive-brown above,... read more


    Song (nominate race), generally from low down in dense cover, a short rising and falling buzzy... read more


    Dense undergrowth, vines and other tangles in montane forest on Sulawesi (nominate race). Edge of... read more

    Food and feeding

    No food details other than invertebrates. Typically solitary or in pairs. Forages on or close to ground, rarely above 2m from ground level... read more


    Adult seen searching for grubs to feed to fledgling in early Aug, on Seram. No further information.



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Restricted-range species: present in Sulawesi EBA, Buru EBA and Seram EBA. Widespread and common above c. 1000 m on huge island of Sulawesi; regarded... read more

    Recommended citation

    Madge, S. (2019). Chestnut-backed Grasshopper-warbler (Locustella castanea). 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 22 April 2019).