Chinese Leaf Warbler

Chinese Leaf Warbler

Chinese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus yunnanensis, Cape Nanhui, Shanghai, September. (Stephan Popp & Xueping Popp)

Chinese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus yunnanensis breeds eastern Qinghai and western Sichuan to southern Gansu and Shaanxi and east to Liaoning; non-breeding Southeast Asia. Very rare vagrant Shanghai. HABITAT Broadleaf forest, usually with slight admixture of coniferous trees; less commonly in predominantly coniferous forest. Mainly between 1000–2800 m (3,280–9,190 ft.), but can range as high as 3200 m (10,500 ft.) and (especially in northeast of range) as low as 200 m (660 ft.). Generally at lower elevations than Gansu Leaf Warbler P. kansuensis. ID & COMPARISON Palest and least boldly marked member of Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Complex. Retains basic pattern of Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus, but crown-stripe paler and less distinct, especially anteriorly; in some individuals it resembles spot on rear crown. Pale olive-grey lateral crown-stripes. Supercilium generally buffish, not yellowish, anteriorly, turning whitish posteriorly. Long, greyish-black eye-stripe is paler and generally lacks hook at rear, being instead square-ended; also lacks pale spot at rear ear coverts, usually present in close relatives. Unique within the complex, lacks dark bar on bases of secondaries, and dark band on greater coverts less contrasting. Structurally, Chinese is slightly larger and slimmer with a longer bill and has a large, less rounded head (like a large-headed Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus). Clearly defined yellowish-white rump and yellowish-white wingbars on median and greater coverts (wingbar on greater coverts is more prominent). BARE PARTS Bill brownish-black with brownish-yellow base to lower mandible. Feet brownish-pink. VOICE Distinctive vocalizations most readily distinguish Chinese Leaf Warbler from close relatives. Song a rolling, monotonous, and prolonged tsridi-tsridi-tsridi often lasting 10–15 seconds. Call or alternative song, heard frequently on breeding grounds, a rapid-fire tueet, each syllable spit out in quick succession before falling in pitch and frequency after a few seconds. Other call, a sharp wit, shorter, sharper, and repeated more quickly than Sichuan Leaf Warbler P. forresti and much softer and even more readily distinguishable from dweet call of Pallas’s Leaf Warbler. — Craig Brelsford

THE LEAF WARBLERS OF CHINA has research on most members of Phylloscopus in China. Click any link below:

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Buff-barred Warbler P. pulcher
Ashy-throated Warbler P. maculipennis
Hume’s Leaf Warbler P. humei
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus
Chinese Leaf Warbler P. yunnanensis
Lemon-rumped Warbler P. chloronotus
Sichuan Leaf Warbler P. forresti
Gansu Leaf Warbler P. kansuensis
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus
Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi
Sulphur-bellied Warbler P. griseolus
Tickell’s Leaf Warbler P. affinis
Smoky Warbler P. fuligiventer
Dusky Warbler P. fuscatus
Buff-throated Warbler P. subaffinis
Willow Warbler P. trochilus
Mountain Chiffchaff P. sindianus
Common Chiffchaff P. collybita
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus
Ijima’s Leaf Warbler P. ijimae
White-spectacled Warbler P. intermedius
Grey-cheeked Warbler P. poliogenys
Green-crowned Warbler P. burkii
Grey-crowned Warbler P. tephrocephalus
Whistler’s Warbler P. whistleri
Bianchi’s Warbler P. valentini
Alström’s Warbler P. soror
Martens’s Warbler P. omeiensis
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus
Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides
Emei Leaf Warbler P. emeiensis
Large-billed Leaf Warbler P. magnirostris
Sakhalin Leaf Warbler P. borealoides
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler P. tenellipes
Japanese Leaf Warbler P. xanthodryas
Kamchatka Leaf Warbler P. examinandus
Arctic Warbler P. borealis
Chestnut-crowned Warbler P. castaniceps
Limestone Leaf Warbler P. calciatilis
Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti
Yellow-vented Warbler P. cantator
Blyth’s Leaf Warbler P. reguloides
Claudia’s Leaf Warbler P. claudiae
Hartert’s Leaf Warbler P. goodsoni
Kloss’s Leaf Warbler P. ogilviegranti
Hainan Leaf Warbler P. hainanus
Davison’s Leaf Warbler P. davisoni
Grey-hooded Warbler P. xanthoschistos


Use Per Alström’s 40-page presentation on the leaf warblers of China. The document is available in PDF and jpeg:

Presentation on the Identification of Leaf Warblers in China, by Per Alström (PDF version)

Presentation on the Identification of Leaf Warblers in China, by Per Alström (zip folder containing jpegs that can be synced like photos to one’s smartphone)


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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