Family Old World Warblers and Parrotbills (Sylviidae)

Least Concern

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)


French: Fauvette babillarde German: Klappergrasmücke Spanish: Curruca zarcerilla

Motacilla Curruca


, 1758,

south Sweden


Until recently considered to constitute several species, with splits of althaea and minula (with margelanica), and this may ultimately be more appropriate. Nuclear DNA, however, fails to support clades based on mtDNA, and, although althaea is relatively well marked, characters used to define species (and subspecies) limits prove too weak for taxa to pass tests of diagnosability#R. Treatment of these forms under a single species currently therefore inevitable#R. Geographical variation largely clinal, race halimodendri intergrading widely with nominate in S Siberia. Proposed races caucasica (Turkey, Caucasus and N Iran) and zagrossiensis (SW Iran) barely separable from nominate; similarly, telengitica (Russian Altai and Mongolia) included in margelanica. Proposed race snigirewskii (Turkmenistan) largely inseparable from minula, and jaxartica (S Kazakhstan) falls within range of clinal variation of halimodendri; poorly differentiated chuancheica (upper R Huang He, S of Gobi, in N China) included in margelanica. Birds from Alai and Pamir Ranges E to Tien Shan sometimes separated as race monticola, but not reliably distinguishable from those in rest of range of althaea. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. c. curruca (Linnaeus, 1758) – Lesser Whitethroat – Europe (E from S Fennoscandia, Britain and N, C & SE France) E to the Urals, S to N Italy, Balkans, Asia Minor, Levant, the Caucasus and NW & SW Iran; winters mainly in C & NE Africa, but also in the Middle East.
  • S. c. blythi Ticehurst & Whistler, 1933 – boreal forests from the Urals E to Transbaikalia, S to N Altai, N Mongolia and S Siberia#R#R; non-breeding probably in NE Africa, the Middle East and S Asia.
  • S. c. halimodendri Sushkin, 1904 – Kazakhstan (from lower Volga) E to W Mongolia, S to SE Caspian region, E Iran, W Afghanistan, N Tien Shan and extreme NW China (N Xinjiang)#R#R; winters mainly in Arabia, S Asia and probably NE Africa.
  • S. c. minula A. O. Hume, 1873 – Small Whitethroat – dry steppes in W China (Tarim Basin in Xinjiang and W Qinghai); non-breeding in Pakistan and NW India.
  • S. c. margelanica Stolzmann, 1898 – CN & N China from SW Gobi S to Lop Nur and Qaidam Pendi, E to Ningxia (R Huang He); range probably also includes Russian Altai and NW & E Mongolia#R. Non-breeding range presumed S Asia.
  • S. c. althaea A. O. Hume, 1878 – Hume's Whitethroat – mountains of SE Kazakhstan (Karatau Mts) E to SW & C Tien Shan, S in mountains to NW Himalayas (Kashmir, Ladakh), S Turkmenistan, NE & SE Iran, Afghanistan and W Pakistan; non-breeding from S Iran (probably also S Iraq and S Afghanistan) E to S India and N Sri Lanka, probably also SE Arabian Peninsula.
  • Descriptive notes

    12·5–14 cm; 9·5–18 g. Small and slim Sylvia with greyish-brown general appearance, narrow and moderately long tail, rather short bill.... read more


    Song, normally from dense cover, rarely in flight, consists of two different parts (not always... read more


    Breeds in open country or near forests in wide range of habitats rich in dense cover and lower-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly insectivorous during breeding season. Studies of stomachs contents revealed some predominance of lepidopteran larvae, beetles (of... read more


    Season late Apr to early Aug, up to two weeks earlier in C Europe than in N; one brood per season, two broods exceptional. Monogamous;... read more


    Long-distance migrant. European populations (nominate race) migrate SE & E through... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and reasonably common in most of breeding range. European population estimated at more than 4,800,000 breeding pairs and considered to be... read more

    Recommended citation

    Aymí, R. & Gargallo, G. (2020). Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca). 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 24 February 2020).