Family Old World Warblers and Parrotbills (Sylviidae)

Least Concern

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)


French: Fauvette grisette German: Dorngrasmücke Spanish: Curruca zarcera
Other common names: Greater Whitethroat

Sylvia communis


, 1787,

Kent, England


Geographical variation largely clinal, but races form two rather well-differentiated groups: NW group contains nominate race and volgensis, which intergrade widely in E Europe, and SE group comprises icterops and rubicola; groups intergrade in SE Europe, Turkey, Caucasus and Altai. Proposed races jordansi (from British Is except SE & E England), cinerea (Scandinavia, Germany S to N Greece) and hoyeri (E from E Poland) synonymized with nominate, and traudeli (E Asia Minor) included in icterops. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. c. communis Latham, 1787 – Western Greater Whitethroat – Europe (E to N European Russia and Ukraine), N Turkey and NW Africa; winters mainly in W & C Africa.
  • S. c. volgensis Domaniewski, 1915 – SE European Russia E to SW Siberia and N Kazakhstan; non-breeding quarters poorly known, probably NC & E Africa.
  • S. c. icterops Ménétries, 1832 – Eastern Greater Whitethroat – Turkey, Levant, Caucasus, Transcaucasia, and N Iran E to Turkmenistan; non-breeding visitor to E & S Africa.
  • S. c. rubicola Stresemann, 1928 – C Asian mountains, from Russian Altai S to SE Uzbekistan and E to N Mongolia and S Transbaikalia; non-breeding visitor to E & S Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    14 cm; 14–17 g. A medium-sized Sylvia, quite slim, with rather large head and long tail, and moderately long wings with noticeable rufous wingpanel. Male... read more


    Song, from dense cover, open perch or in flight, variable and complex (up to three types of song... read more


    Open country in wide variety of landscapes, mostly sunlit areas with scattered bushes and shrubs... read more

    Food and feeding

    Well known; detailed studies based on analyses of both stomach contents and collar-samples carried out mostly in Europe. Invertebrates... read more


    Mostly Apr–Jul, starting later in N Europe, and precise timing varies markedly with altitude; generally one clutch per season, but... read more


    Migratory. All populations spend non-breeding season in sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal E to Sudan... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common. Recent estimates put European population at more than 14,000,000 breeding pairs, and considered largely stable in period 1970–1990,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Aymí, R. & Gargallo, G. (2019). Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). 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 16 December 2019).