Family Old World Warblers and Parrotbills (Sylviidae)

Least Concern

Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans)


French: Fauvette passerinette German: Weißbart-Grasmücke Spanish: Curruca carrasqueña

Motacilla (cantillans

) Pallas

, 1764,



Until recently considered conspecific with S. subalpina (which see). Race inornata also proposed for species rank in course of separation of S. subalpina and description of iberiae#R#R, but plumage differences relatively weak and call differences slight#R. Some authors propose that albistriata be treated as a full species, but evidence not conclusive. Has apparently hybridized with S. melanocephala#R. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. c. iberiae Svensson, 2013 – Iberian Peninsula, S France and extreme NW Italy (parts of Liguria and Piedmont); non-breeding S Morocco, C & S Algeria and from Senegal and S Mauritania E to Niger#R#R.
  • S. c. inornata Tschusi, 1906 – Western Subalpine Warbler – NW Africa from Morocco (W High Atlas) E to N Tunisia, locally in NW Libya; claimed to be short-distance migrant or resident#R.
  • S. c. cantillans (Pallas, 1764) – Eastern Subalpine Warbler – Sicily and C & S Italy (N to Umbria and Marche), locally in NC Italy (Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna); non-breeding presumably in W Sahel.
  • S. c. albistriata (C. L. Brehm, 1855) – extreme NE Italy (Trieste) and S Slovenia, S along N Adriatic coast to Albania and E to S Bulgaria, Greece, Crete and W Turkey, once in SW Romania; non-breeding C & E Sahel (from about E Mali E to NW Sudan).
  • Descriptive notes

    12 cm; 7–16·1 g (nominate), 8·9–12·6 g (albistriata). Small warbler with rather short and square-ended tail, and moderately pointed... read more


    Song, from bush or in flight, less frequently from treetop or within cover, a rather long,... read more


    Favours tall and dense heterogeneous maquis with sparse tree cover in dry Mediterranean areas,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly small insects and their larvae; also berries and fruits, mainly outside breeding season and, particularly, before autumn migration (... read more


    Season in most of range late Mar to late Jun, most clutches laid between mid Apr and mid May (peak late Apr and early May); broods reported... read more


    Long-distance migrant; supposed sedentary nature of those at Beni Abbès (NW Algeria)... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common to very common in most of its range; NW African population (race inornata) not well known, but appears to be... read more

    Recommended citation

    Aymí, R., Gargallo, G., Christie, D.A. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans). 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 29 February 2020).