Species Of The Week Number 29: Chiffchaff

Chiffchaffs provide the sound track to early spring. You cant fail to hear them if you walk around Meanwood Valley this week.

Whilst increasing numbers of Chiffchaffs stay in the UK all year-round, most migrate here from Africa. Thats an impressive 2000 kms for a bird weighing in at less than a £1 coin.

One of the earliest migrants to arrive from early April, the males get here first and immediately start to call as they establish and defend a territory, waiting for females to arrive some three weeks later.

Its onomatopeic name in English references its loud repetitive song. Similar names exist in European languages, such as Zilpzalp (German), Tiltaltti (Finnish), Tjiftiaf (Dutch) and Siff-saff in Welsh.

Its song is certainly more distinctive than its looks - a dullish green-brown bird which is easily confused with its cousin the Willow Warbler. The slightly longer wings and paler legs of the Willow Warbler warbler are the best way to differentiate them by sight - but by call is much easier.

Now is the best time to spot Chiffchaffs before the trees are in leaf, as they fly around in the tree canopy singing or picking off insects. Chiffchaffs need to eat about one third of their own body weight in insects every day.

The female builds a nest on the ground, deep within the undergrowth. A couple of years ago one was nesting next to the Urban Farm's pond but I think sadly the young when were taken by local cats, before they left the nest.

As well as being the first to arrive it is also one of the last to leave, with some of the migrating birds still here in early October.

Publicado el 12 de abril de 2023 por clunym clunym


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