Whitethroat

Sylvia communis

14cm

Appearance

The Whitethroat has a long tail and the head has a slight peak. Males are bluish-grey on the face and top of head, they have greyish brown upperparts, reddish brown margins on the wing feathers, a white throat with otherwise buffish-pink underparts, brownish yellow legs, a dark tail with white edges, and a dark-tipped yellowish bill. Colours fade through the breeding season. Females are browner on the head and she is less vivid overall, with more buffish underparts. Juveniles resemble females, but first-winter birds are a richer brown.

Habitat

Breeding occurs in dense hedges and scrub, in the margins of woods, in brambles and gorse or similar territory. The Whitethroat may occasionally venture into more populated areas (as long as there is ample vegetation) such as parks and gardens.

Character

Has a sporadic songflight and regularly visits singing perches during spring. Moves quickly between foliage cover. Whitethroats are territorial during breeding season, but some young birds form flocks towards the end of summer, sometimes with other species such as the Blackcap and Blue Tit. Males may have two female partners.

Food

Diet includes beetles, aphids, caterpillars and flies. Also eats fruit and berries when available.

Breeding

Female lays 4 or 5 eggs during April and May, and both adults incubate the clutch for 12-13 days. Both parents tend to the young, which depart the nest at about 12-14 days old, but remain close to parents for a further 15-20 days. Broods may be divided between parents and there is sometimes a second brood.

Population

The Whitethroat is a summer visitor, with approximately 1.1 million territories in the UK and 20 000-100 000 in Ireland. Most birds arrive in April and May, and depart to the south-east, headed to France and then to Spain and Portugal, eventually arriving in Africa.

Observation Tips

The Whitethroat is not characteristically timid, so it's quite possible to hear its song as well as gain visual during the spring months.

Voice

The most often heard calls are a 'tacc, tacc' and a harsh 'tch-urr'. Has varied song, one of which is un-melodic and loaded with short phrases, and the other is usually used at the start of the breeding season and is more musical. Also has a 'check' call used when disturbed.
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