Christopher Taylor Bird Nature Wildlife Mammal Photography
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Layard's Parisoma Picture

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The typical warblers are small insectivorous birds belonging to the genera Sylvia and Parisoma of the "Old World warbler" (more properly: sylviid warbler) family Sylviidae. There are about 20 species in the genus Sylvia, but their probable closest living relatives, Parisoma might actually belong herein too (Helbig 2001, Jønsson & Fjeldså 2006); the relationship to the African Hillbabbler (Pseudoalcippe abyssinica) and the White-browed Chinese Warbler (Rhopophilus pekinensis) are not entirely resolved but certainly more distant. Typical warblers occur in the temperate and subtropical regions of western Eurasia and adjacent Africa, centered around the Mediterranean.

Many of the Sylvia species show sexual dimorphism, with distinctive male and female plumages. A common feature is that males of some species have black on the heads, replaced by brown, gray or similar dusky colors in females. Species breeding in temperate regions are usually strongly migratory, although some are resident. These are active, constantly moving, warblers usually associated with fairly open woodland, hedges or shrubs.


The typical warblers are now known to form one major lineage in a clade containing also the parrotbills and some taxa formerly considered true Old World babblers (Cibois 2003, Alström et al. 2006). The other "Old World warblers" have been moved to their own families, entirely redelimiting the Sylviidae. Because of their distinctness, the Sylvia-Parisoma group might be considered a subfamily Sylviinae, but it must be noted that several "Old World warblers" are pending restudy with the new data in mind.

As denoted above, the genus Sylvia as presently defined is not monophyletic. The Sylvia-Parisoma group apparently contains one distinct major lineage and several superspecies.

Temperate Eurasian superspecies ("atricapilla-borin group")

  • Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla
  • Garden Warbler, Sylvia borin

Parisoma superspecies

  • Banded Warbler, Parisoma boehmi
  • Layard's Warbler, Parisoma layardi
  • Rufous-vented Warbler, Parisoma subcaeruleum

curruca clade

  • Brown Warbler, Parisoma lugens
  • Yemen Warbler, Sylvia buryi - sometimes placed in Parisoma
  • Red Sea Warbler, Sylvia leucomelaena
  • (Western) Orphean Warbler, Sylvia hortensis
    • Eastern Orphean Warbler, Sylvia (hortensis) crassirostris
  • Lesser Whitethroat, Sylvia curruca
  • Hume's Whitethroat, Sylvia althaea
  • Small Whitethroat, Sylvia minula
    • Margelanic Whitethroat, Sylvia (minula) margelanica

communis-melanocephala assemblage

  • Barred Warbler, Sylvia nisoria - tentatively place here
  • Asian Desert Warbler, Sylvia nana
  • African Desert Warbler, Sylvia deserti
  • Whitethroat, Sylvia communis
  • Spectacled Warbler, Sylvia conspicillata
  • Tristram's Warbler, Sylvia deserticola
  • Dartford Warbler, Sylvia undata
  • Marmora's Warbler, Sylvia sarda
    • Balearic Warbler, Sylvia (sarda) balearica
  • Rüppell's Warbler, Sylvia rueppelli
  • Cyprus Warbler, Sylvia melanothorax
  • (Western) Subalpine Warbler, Sylvia cantillans
    • Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Sylvia (cantillans) albistriata
    • Moltoni's Warbler, Sylvia (cantillans) moltonii
  • Sardinian Warbler, Sylvia melanocephala
    • Sylvia (melanocephala) momus
    • Fayyum Warbler, Sylvia melanocephala/momus norissae - doubtfully distinct, extinct (c.1940)
  • Menetries' Warbler, Sylvia mystacea

The relationships between the last group and the other species are not well resolved (Helbig 2001, Jønsson & Fjeldså 2006).

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