British wildlife recordings
Phylloscopus collybita : Chiffchaff - Sylviidae
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Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita
The random arrangements of high-pitched “chiff” and lower “chaff” notes constitute the distinctive call of this small and graceful warbler. Both male and female birds have grey-green upperparts and pale-yellow underparts. Young birds are yellower and can often be confused with the similar willow warbler. When feeding, the Chiffchaff flies restlessly in tree canopies. Sometimes it can be seen to dart out into the air from a branch in order to catch its usual insect quarry. During courtship the male hovers in the air, performing a slow “descent” to its mate. The nest often forms a dome-shape and has been locally known as an “oven”, “jug” or “bottle”. It is usually placed in dense vegetation, such as brambles and other low bushes. Six or seven white eggs, speckled purple-brown, are incubated for two weeks by the female. Both parents can raise up to two broods each year. Chiffchaffs are often heard high in the trees of their woodland haunts. They are one of Britain’s earliest summer visitors and their calls are characteristic of early spring. In winter months most birds reside in Africa although there are a small number that remain in southwestern England.