2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Birds


Conservation status

Least Concern (LC)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sylviidae
Genus: Sylvia
Species: S. atricapilla
Binomial name
Sylvia atricapilla
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla, is a common and widespread Old World warbler which breeds throughout northern and temperate Europe.

This small passerine bird is migratory, and northern and central European breeders winter in southern Europe and north Africa where the local populations are resident. It is hardier than most warblers, partly because it will readily eat small berries as well as the more typical warbler insect diet. An interesting development in recent years is for substantial numbers of central European birds to winter in gardens in southern England. Presumably the ready availability of food, particularly from bird tables, and the avoidance of migration over the Alps, compensate for the sub-optimal climate. Bearhop et al. (2005) have recently reported that the birds wintering in England tend to mate only with each other, because they arrive back from the wintering grounds earlier than those wintering in the Mediterranean. The authors suggest that the division of the population into different migration routes may be the first step in the evolution of distinct species.

This is a bird of shady woodlands with ground cover for nesting. The nest is built in low shrub, and 3-6 eggs are laid.

This is a robust warbler, mainly grey in plumage. Although most warblers have the sexes identical, several Sylvia species have distinct male and female plumages. The Blackcap is an example: the male has the small black cap from which the species gets its name, whereas in the female the cap is light brown.

The song is a pleasant chattering with some clearer notes like a Blackbird. The song can be confused with that of the Garden Warbler.

A separate race of the Blackcap, heineken, occurs on the Macaronesian islands.

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