Old world warblers are difficult for North American birders. That is obvious. Rather than trying to learn them North American birders are well-advised to do all of your birding in areas where old world warblers might be encountered in the company of old world birders. It makes things much easier.
But if you are a North American birder and you insist upon trying to learn the old world warblers you can do worse than to start with the Great Reed Warbler. It is not shy, it has a very distinctive vocalizations, and once you have a good encounter with Acrocephalus arundinaceus it is unlikely that you will forget how to identify it. At least, that is what this North American birder thinks – we’ll know for sure if I ever encounter one again!
This particular individual was encountered on the shore of Lake Tisza on the grounds of the Tisza Balneum Hotel, near the rightfully famous Hortobágy National Park. It cooperated wonderfully, singing on leafless branches and foraging down in the reeds.
The vocalizations of the Great Reed Warbler were, to me, vaguely reminiscent of Yellow-breasted Chat in their randomness and harshness and their appearance was like that of a huge Red-eyed Vireo with ten percent more toughness. (If that makes any sense at all.)
Great Reed Warblers breed across huge chunks of Europe and Asia and winter across large swaths of southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Acrocephalus arundinaceus is considered a Species of Least Concern by BirdLife International because of their extremely large range and population, though there does seem to be a downward trend in population levels.
So, North American birders, get yourself to the old world and make sure to check out this easy-to-identify old world warbler. Few are as easy to figure out!
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My week-long trip to Hungary was a familiarity trip organized by the wonderful folks at Swarovski Optik to introduce their new line of superior spotting scopes, the ATX and the STX modular telescopes, which were used to digiscope all of the images in this post. We visited Hortobágy National Park, the Bükk Hills and places in between. Many thanks to Swarovski Optik for inviting me along and letting me experience both some awesome new optics and the natural wonders of the wonderful country of Hungary.