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Dartford Warbler

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A nationally rare species with its stronghold being the heaths of Dorset.


Photograph by: 
Hamish Murray

Dartford Warbler: of gorse it is

Post date: Wednesday, 13 April, 2016 - 00:00

You will see many lovely photographs of Dartford warblers (Sylvia undata), they seem to be a favoured species amongst photographers. In spring the males perch on the top of gorse bushes to sing and proclaim their territory and so they can be sitting target for the cameraman with the big telephoto lens! I have no telephoto lens and, actually, are fairly unlucky with Dartford sightings overall so my effort with the camera is a bit disappointing. However, it does represent the sort of view you will get when out walking as they are nervous birds and easily spooked if you attempt to get too close.

To quote the much used phrase of the Springwatch team, the Dartford warbler is the 'iconic' species of the Dorset heath. Dorset is its stronghold along with the New Forest. They do occur on heath elsewhere in Surrey, Norfolk, Staffordshire and possibly elsewhere but if you want to be sure of seeing a 'Dartie' come to Purbeck in Dorset, find some gorse bushes, then wait and hope! They feed on small spiders that thrive on gorse and they nest in the middle of gorse bushed for protection so you will not find a Dartford unless there is gorse close by. 


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Dartford Warbler
Scientific Name Sylvia undata
Status Local
Interest Level
Species Family Warblers
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Heathland
Look for A heathland bird with a long, often cocked, tail
Additional Identification Notes
  • ONLY found on heathland
  • Likes to sing from the top of gorse bushes in spring
  • The dark colouration and the longish, cocked tail make it visible from some distance

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
H1: Dry Heath Indicator