Desert Whitethroat

Information about the Bird Desert Whitethroat

The desert whitethroat (Sylvia minula) is a typical warbler. Until recently, it was considered conspecific with the lesser whitethroat; today these are seen as members of a superspecies. The desert whitethroat together with Hume's whitethroat form an Asian lineage in the superspecies, which have diverged into species adapted to drier lowlands and moister mountain habitats respectively. The name Small whitethroat has also been used by some authors, and desert lesser whitethroat before it was split from lesser whitethroat.

It is distinguished from Hume's and lesser whitethroats by its smaller size (12cm length, 8-13 g weight), smaller bill, the uniformly paler grey head lacking the well-marked dark cheeks of Hume's and lesser whitethroats, and a lighter grey-brown back; in these differences it follows Gloger's rule of pale colour in arid regions. The throat is white, and the rest of the underparts pale greyish-white.
Three subspecies are currently recognised, though some authors only accept the first two as distinct.
The presumed lesser whitethroat subspecies halimodendri and telengitica might actually belong to the desert whitethroat, or alternatively might represent hybrid intergrades between, respectively, S. m. jaxartica and S. m. margelanica and the lesser whitethroat.
Desert whitethroat inhabits arid lowland regions from eastern Iran and Turkmenistan eastwards to Xinjiang in central China, breeding in open dry thorn scrub. The breeding range does not overlap with lesser whitethroat, occurring to the southeast of that; it does overlap geographically with Hume's whitethroat but is separated altitudinally. The desert whitethroat migrates south to the Arabian Peninsula, southern Pakistan and northwestern India in the winter, where it does overlap with wintering lesser whitethroat in many areas, and more locally with wintering Hume's whitethroat.

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