Chiffchaff

Chiffchaff-Perched-Sep-17-BlogAs autumn approaches many British birds are readying themselves to depart in search of milder climes. One of these is the chiffchaff. Most spend their winters in Mediterranean countries like Spain or Morocco. But, perhaps due to the warming climate, a good many chiffchaffs stay in the south of Britain all year round.

Chiffchaffs are small birds, about the same size as blue tits. They look very similar to their relations, willow warblers. Both birds have browny-green backs, light brown bellies and pale ‘eyebrows’. They’re so alike that the two are often mistaken for one another, though chiffchaffs are not as yellow as their cousins and have darker legs. To help you remember, try this mnemonic: ‘The chiffchaff is riffraff and has filthy legs.’

The best way to tell the two birds apart is to listen to them sing. The chiffchaff gets its name from the noise it makes (you can hear a recording on this RSPB page) whilst the willow warbler (as its name suggests) is much more melodic.

Chiffchaff-Making-Nest-Sep-17Those chiffchaff who do migrate are amongst the first to return in spring – and then the breeding season gets underway. Male chiffchaffs build nests quite low down, usually in meadows or bushes. These are elaborate constructions with domed roofs – and they have to be. The females chooses her mate by looking at his nest. Only the best is good enough!

Once his female has laid her eggs the male’s job is almost done. He will find food for her until the eggs hatch but then she’s on her own – with several mouths to feed. Chiffchaffs don’t make great dads!

As spring and summer birds, chiffchaffs feed mostly on insects – caterpillars, moths, flies and the like. But those chiffchaff who remain here all year round face a problem – the insects have all died off or gone into hibernation in the winter. So what do they eat? Berries for the most part, but these can become very scarce. If you want to help any chiffchaffs near you then a ball of suet in your garden will be much appreciated.

If you like birds then take a look at our free to play nature quizzes. We have over 60 and almost half are about our feathered friends. Have a go and see if you can sort the warbler from the chiffchaff!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *