Grey-headed warbler -- 灰头王森莺 (Basileuterus griseiceps)

Grey-headed warbler perched
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Grey-headed warbler fact file

Grey-headed warbler description

GenusBasileuterus (1)

The grey-headed warbler (Basileuterus griseiceps) belongs to a family of birds often described as ‘jewels of the forest’ due to their areas of dazzling, brightly coloured plumage (2). As its name suggests, this species has a grey head, with distinctive white spots above the eyes and white speckling on the ear-coverts. Its upperparts are deep olive-green, and its underparts and throat are a bright yellow colour (3). The grey-headed warbler has tiny, flesh-coloured legs and a black bill (4).

Both the male and female are similar in appearance. The juvenile has a dark grey hood extending down the breast, its body is brown and its underparts and legs are paler (4).

The grey-headed warbler’s song consists of a lively ‘(hu)wee-che-tseew’. A thin ‘tsip’ call is used in communicating with other birds, and a harsher ‘tseck’ or ‘chack’ is used when the warbler is excited (4).

Also known as
Gray-headed warbler.
Adult length: 14 cm (2)

Grey-headed warbler biology

Although little is known about the breeding habits of the grey-headed warbler, species in the Parulidae family, also known as New World warblers, are all believed to have similar reproductive behaviours (5) (6). The male and female usually remain pair-bonded throughout the breeding season. Three eggs are typically produced per clutch, although the number of eggs laid varies according to the amount of food that is available. The incubation period usually lasts 12 days, and during this period the female stays with the eggs while the male provides food (2). The breeding season for the grey-headed warbler begins in May and July, and juveniles fledge in August (3).

The nest of the grey-headed warbler is shaped like a domed cup, and has a side entrance. It is built mainly with bamboo leaves and palm material and is usually found approximately 1.5 metres above the ground (4).

Like other species of New World warbler, the grey-headed warbler feeds mainly on insects (2) and other invertebrates (4). Its thin, pointy bill is well adapted to foraging for its small prey, and it may also forage for seeds and berries. This species is elusive, and will flit at high speed from branch to branch (2).


Grey-headed warbler range

The grey-headed warbler is endemic to northeast Venezuela. This species has a small range, and has recently been recorded in just seven locations in the Cordillera de Caripe, a mountain range in Venezuela (3).


Grey-headed warbler habitat

The grey-headed warbler is found in a variety of forest habitats, including undisturbed montane and cloud forest. It also inhabits forest edges and clearings, where the understory is very dense. This species may survive in disturbed forest where the understory remains intact, although its abundance is lower in fragmented forests (3) (4).


Grey-headed warbler status

The grey-headed warbler is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Grey-headed warbler threats

The main threat to the grey-headed warbler is habitat destruction. Large areas of the Cordillera de Caripe have been cleared for agriculture and pasture. Forest clearing and burning for coffee and fruit plantations are degrading the montane forest habitat, reducing the available understory on which the grey-headed warbler depends for survival (3).


Grey-headed warbler conservation

Large areas of the grey-headed warbler’s habitat are protected within El Guácharo National Park, and the reserve was recently expanded to include a further 500 square kilometres of largely undisturbed forest. Increasing the area of protected habitat further will help protect the grey-headed warbler (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

More information on the grey-headed warbler:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Cloud forest
A tropical mountain forest with a high incidence of cloud cover throughout the year.
The circle of small feathers covering the ear opening of a bird. Also called auriculars.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Of mountains, or growing in mountains.
Montane forest
Forest occurring in mountains.


  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2011)
  2. Hutchins, M., Jackson, J.A. and Block, W.J. (2003) Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Volume 11: Birds IV. Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.
  3. BirdLife International (December, 2011)  
  4. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Christie, D.A. (2010) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 15: Weavers to New World Warblers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  5. Morse, D.H. (1989) American Warblers: An Ecological and Behavioural Perspective. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  6. Elphick, C., Dunning Jr, J.B. and Sibley, D. (2001) The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behaviour. Christopher Helm, London.

Image credit

Grey-headed warbler perched  
Grey-headed warbler perched

© Phil Gunson

Phil Gunson


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