Mega Yellow-browed Warbler Year?


by Ben Sheldon

Yellow-browed Linosa MikiYellow-browed Warbler on Linosa in Nov 2011 by Miki Vigiano

Ben Sheldon got in touch furnishing more details following ‘rumours on Yellow-broweds’. This next month could be fascinating, featuring one of my all-time favourite birds!

Hi Martin

Don’t know if you’re aware, but something extraordinary is happening with Yellow-browed Warbler this autumn in Scandinavia.

Finland has had a lot – I think 350 already, probably already their best ever year, but the really amazing stuff has been the build up over the last three days in NW Norway. Husøy has built up to 50 today, Røst up to 80 and Værøy up to 160 today. They are not huge places – the first two only 1-2 km sq, the last a bit bigger (Røst and Værøy are pretty close to each other). Previous day record in Norway was 35 – further south on Utsira back in 2005.

Nearly 300 on 3 islands on one day…. seems like this species has really stepped up a gear to being a common autumn migrant to Europe. Not sure how long this flood will take to hit Shetland!



Prof. Ben Sheldon
Luc Hoffmann Professor of Field Ornithology
Edward Grey Institute
Dept of Zoology
University of Oxford

Roger Riddington and Brydon Thomason, ‘live’ from Shetland have added:

Hi Martin
 Yes, interesting. Very good numbers here but, unlike Finland, I don’t think the numbers in Shetland are (yet) exceptional compared with some recent years. They are exceptional compared with 20 years ago though, and something is surely ‘happening’ with Yellow-broweds. Plenty of time for this year to get exceptional of course…
Morning Mr G.
  Cheers for this, it’s very interesting indeedy! We were actually just talking about this very subject a couple of days ago here on Unst saying that even already with good numbers getting through so early that perhaps it could be a big year. It certainly sounds like something  very special is underway!
And we haven’t even really had wind from the east, asides from the nice calm cyclonic spells. Interestingly I also had a fairly early ‘Sibe’ Chiff last week, same time as my first Yellow-browed.

Shetland Nature.indd

9 thoughts on “Mega Yellow-browed Warbler Year?

  1. narhvalur

    Birdlife Sweden writes that record many Warblers have been sighted in Sweden, many hundreds. Their usual Winter quarters are in South east Asia , and they have navigated wrongly , due to disturbances in the Earth’s magneticm. Unfortunately , most Warblers will die in the Atlantic.

  2. thedrunkbirder

    Narhvalur – I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Yellow-broweds have been increasingly common migrating West instead of East. There is much speculation that rather than this being ‘wrong’ navigation it is to expand wintering opportunities. Birds are now being seen in Spain in winter and thee are records on Spring migration. We have much to learn…

  3. narhvalur

    Birdlife Sweden states that something is wrong with the Young Warblers navigation system and sure some survive and have been observed, but the spring migration is only 1 % of the fall migration.

  4. Jochen Dierschke

    Well, the magnetism is just one hypothesis of many concerning vagrancy – and in my opinion not a very likely one. However, none of these is proven so far. Reasons for a weak spring migration might be other migration routes, different habitat etc. – there have been plenty of discussion on that. But personally I’m rather sure YBW is not a “bird lemming” – w’re talking of 1000s of birds seen every year and therefore probably 10.000s of birds …

  5. Ottavio Janni

    There are hints that it’s shaping up to be a very good year for the King of Birds in Italy, too. The earliest fall record ever was Sept. 27, but two have already been found this week (both in the Alps). As far as I know there are no birders or ringers on any small island yet so we don’t know what’s going on there – can’t wait to be on Linosa with the rest of the crew next month!

  6. Lukasz Lawicki

    The influx of Yellow-browed Warblers also in Poland (of course, not as spectacular as in Scandinavia). From 15th to 23rd September in Poland we have 10 records, mainly on the Baltic coast (the best September in history) plus a single Arctic Warbler (on 11th September – trapped and ringed – the second record in Poland).

  7. Louis Sallé


    Big counts in France also, with a extremely good (probably record) year for YBW on Ouessant (Brittany), with a few days with about 40 individuals on the island. No definitive count has been released yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been more than 150/200 birds in Brittany this autumn. We also had a record number of at least 15 birds on the Med coast, another 38 birds in the north and several inland and west coast records…




Leave a Reply