Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata)

Cover image: Namaqua Warbler by Sue Gie – Aquila Game Reserve, Western Cape – BirdPix No. 175614


The Namaqua Warbler is a small, slender, prinia-like species. Its most diagnostic features are the pale whiteish face and supercilium combined with the russet back and rump. The tail is long and graduated and lacks buff-coloured terminal spots. The breast is variably but finely streaked. This streaking is confined to the breast and does not extend onto the belly or flanks.

The sexes are similar but males show more prominent streaking on the breast.

Identification Namaqua Warbler
Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata) – Near Aliwal North, Free State
Photo by Dawie De Swardt

Immatures are similar to adults but are paler brown above and have shorter tails. The supercilium and facial area is also buff-coloured as opposed to the whitish face of the adults. Young birds have less conspicuous streaking on the breast.

Identification immature Namaqua Warbler
Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata) – Ouberg Private Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Status and Distribution

The Namaqua Warbler is endemic to South Africa and southern Namibia. It is localised but fairly common in suitable habitat.

In South Africa it is found throughout the Northern Cape and in the drier parts of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State provinces. The paucity of records from the northern Karoo and Bushmanland, south of the Orange river is largely due to a lack of drainage lines in that region.

SABAP2 distribution Namaqua Warbler
SABAP2 distribution map for Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata) – January 2023.
Details for map interpretation can be found here.


The Namaqua Warbler is found throughout the Karoo but is characteristically associated with water-courses, where it occupies fringing thickets and reeds. It favours drainage lines with a mix of Acacia (Vachelia) Karoo thicket and Phragmites reeds. It also forages in nearby karoo scrub and has adapted to overgrown gardens and orchards along drainage lines. Dry water courses may provide suitable habitat but a prolonged absence of water can cause the habitat to become unsuitable.

Habitat Namaqua Warbler
Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata) – Near Loeriesfontein, Northern Cape
Photo by Zenobia van Dyk


During the breeding season the Namaqua Warbler is usually to be found solitarily or in pairs. They are found in small family groups after breeding.

Forages by searching among leaves, twigs and tangled vegetation, sometimes forages on the floor. Keeps largely to dense bushy growth. Their movements are quick and restless. Males sing from the tops of trees or bushes

The diet consists largely of insects and other small arthropods. Also feeds on small berries and fruit when available.

Phragmacia substriata
Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata) – Near Ceres, Western Cape
Photo by Gerald Wingate

Breeding may take place from August to April. The nest is a deep cup composed of grass and strips of bark. The nest is attached to upright plant stems with grass. The nest interior is lined with feathers, fluffy seeds, hair and other fine plant material. The outer parts of the nest are camouflaged with lichen, twigs, dead leaves and bits of bark.

2 to 4 (3) eggs are laid per clutch. The eggs range in colour from pale to deep blue with red-grey spotting. The incubation period lasts around 16 days and the chicks are fully fledged after at least another 15 days.

Phragmacia substriata
Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata) – Middelburg, Eastern Cape
Photo by Tino Herselman

Further Resources

Species text adapted from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

The use of photographs by Dawie De Swardt, Gerald Wingate, Sue Gie, Sybrand Venter, Tino Herselman and Zenobia van Dyk is acknowledged.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

Other common names: Namakwalangstertjie (Afrikaans); Namaqua-prinia (Dutch); Prinia du Namaqua (French); Namasänger (German); Prínia da Namaqua (Portuguese)

Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2023. Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata). Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at

Namaqua Warbler
Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata) – Carnarvon District, Northern Cape
Photo by Sybrand Venter

Bird identificationbirding

Ryan Tippett
Ryan Tippett
Ryan is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the Virtual Museum since 2014 and has currently submitted over 12,000 records. He is on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Ryan is a well-qualified and experienced Field Guide, and Guide Training Instructor. He has spent the last 18 years in the guiding and tourism industries. Ryan loves imparting his passion and knowledge onto others, and it is this that drew him into guide training in particular. Something that he finds incredibly rewarding is seeing how people he's had the privilege of teaching have developed and gone on to greater things. His interests are diverse and include Dragonflies, Birding, Arachnids, Amphibians, wild flowers and succulents, free diving and experiencing big game on foot. With this range of interests, there is always likely be something special just around the corner!