Common Chifchaf

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Common Name: Common Chifchaf
Scientific Name: Phylloscopus collybita

Size: 4-4.7 inches (10-12 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia and Africa; Winters: Southern and western Europe, southern Asia and North Africa. Summers: Northern Europe and Siberia.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 200,000,000 - 700,000,000 Mature individuals. In Europe, trends since 1980 show that populations have undergone a moderate increase.

Diet: Insects.

Breeding: Females builds a domed nest on or near the ground, and assumes most of the responsibility for brooding and feeding the chicks, whilst the male has little involvement in nesting, but defends his territory against rivals, and attacks potential predators.

Cool Facts: The British naturalist Gilbert White was one of the first people to separate the similar-looking Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Wood Warbler by their songs, as detailed in 1789 in The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, but the Chiffchaff was first formally described as Sylvia collybita by French ornithologist Louis Vieillot in 1817 in his Nouvelle Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle. The chifchaf more recently has been to its own family Phylloscopidae. The Chiffchaff's closest relatives, other than former subspecies, are a group of leaf warblers which similarly lack crown stripes, a yellow rump or obvious wing bars; they include the Willow, Bonelli's, Wood and Plain Leaf Warblers.

The Chiffchaff has three still commonly accepted subspecies, together with some from the Iberian Peninsula, the Canary Islands, and the Caucasus which are now more often treated as full species.

  • P. c. collybita, the nominate form, breeds in Europe east to Poland and Bulgaria, and is described below. It mainly winters in the south of its breeding range around the Mediterranean and in North Africa. It has been expanding its range northwards into Scandinavia since 1970 and close to the southern edge of the range of P. c. abietinus.
  • P. c. abietinus occurs in Scandinavia and northern Russia, and winters from southeastern Europe and northeastern Africa east to Iraq and western Iran. It is intermediate in appearance between P. c. tristis and P. c. collybita, being grey-washed olive-green above with a pale yellow supercilium, and underparts whiter than in P. c. collybita, but it has very similar vocalisations to the nominate subspecies. Due to individual variation, it can be difficult to reliably separate P. c. abietinus and P. c. collybita outside their main breeding and wintering ranges. Some Chiffchaffs in the Middle East are browner and have a more disyllabic swee-hu call than P. c. abietinus, and may belong to a poorly known taxon "brevirostris"; further research is needed to clarify the affinities of this form.
  • P. c. tristis, the Siberian Chiffchaff, breeds in Siberia east of the Pechora River and winters in the lower Himalayas. It is also regularly recorded in western Europe in winter, and it is likely that the numbers involved have been underestimated due to uncertainties over identification criteria, lack of good data and recording policies (Sweden and Finland only accept trapped birds). It is a dull subspecies, grey or brownish above and whitish below, with little yellow in the plumage, and the buff-white supercilium is often longer than in the western subspecies. It has a higher pitched suitsistsuisit song and a short high-pitched cheet call. It is sometimes considered to be a full species due to its distinctive plumage and vocalizations, being similar to P. s. sindianus in these respects. Nominate P. c. collybita and P. c. tristis do not recognize each other's songs.

Found in Songbird ReMix European Edition 2

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