Warblers at Wicken

Wicken Fen - Reed Warbler and Cuckoo chick

It's possible to see some species of warbler year round at Wicken Fen, but the vast majority arrive in early spring and depart for warmer climes in late August or September. Here's a few species to look or listen out for when visiting the Fen.

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler
Close up of Reed Warbler with grubs in beak
Reed Warbler

This tiny warbler with its brown back & lighter buff underside arrives in mid-April.

It builds tiny nests between 4 or 5 reed stems along the banks of the lodes, ditches or in the reedbeds.

At Wicken Fen, reed warblers’ nests can be parasitised by female cuckoos, who remove a warbler’s egg and lay one of their own, leaving the warblers to rear the chick when it hatches.  Why the warblers rear a chick that is so much bigger than themselves is one of the mysteries of nature.

Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler
Close up of Sedge Warbler in reeds
Sedge Warbler

A small plump warbler, with a distinctive creamy strip above its eye.

It can be found amongst the tall grasses and reedbeds at Wicken Fen, and can also be seen performing a parachute-like display in flight.

The sedge warbler’s song is varied and rambling with less repetition than the reed warbler.

Cetti's Warbler

Cetti's Warbler
Close up image of Cetti's Warbler
Cetti's Warbler

A dark, stocky bird with a rounded tail.  They are often difficult to see as they like to find cover in damp areas, so Wicken Fen’s wetland habitats are ideal.  Their song is easily identifiable by its short bursts of 6 or more loud notes. Cetti’s warblers are resident on the fen year round.

Chiff Chaff

Chiff Chaff
Close up of a chiff chaff in a tree
Chiff Chaff

A small olive brown warbler, weighing around eight grams.

The chiff chaff gets its name from its distinctive 'chiff chaff'' call.

The birds can be seen year round but most arrive in the spring.

Grasshopper Warbler

Grasshopper Warbler
Close up of singing grasshopper warbler
Grasshopper Warbler

You’re more likely to hear rather than see this warbler as it has a very distinctive and unusual song. The sound is just like a grasshopper or the reel of a fishing rod and is quite high pitched.  It can be difficult to hear as our hearing declines with age.  The species has suffered a serious decline in recent years and is now classified as a Red List species.