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ES Views: Wild London: A small bird with a much bigger voice
13.09.2017

ES Views: Wild London: A small bird with a much bigger voice

Chiffchaffs are predominantly woodland birds, but they adapted long ago to London’s parks, gardens and railway corridors
September is generally the last chance to enjoy the bird species that came here in spring to mate and raise their young before they return to warmer countries for winter. These include the warblers, elegant robinsized birds, of which the chiffchaff is perhaps the most well-known in London — more for its loud, distinctive two-tone song than its modest plumage.

Chiffchaffs are busy little birds, flitting amongst the foliage of trees and shrubs busily looking for insects, such as aphids, midges, and caterpillars, actively flicking their wings and energetically wagging their tails as they hunt. But they’re difficult to see, with their yellowy-olive plumage and whiteish undersides providing excellent camouflage among the leaves.

What makes chiffchaffs stand out is when they loudly announce their whereabouts from the tops of trees, belting out a characteristic, repetitive and loud “chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff”, from which they get their name. Their simple staccato call helps them to define their territory and attract mates, and makes them easy for us to hear, even above the din of traffic.

Chiffchaffs are predominantly woodland birds, but they adapted long ago to London’s parks, gardens and railway corridors — anywhere with mature leafy trees. Numbers have grown in recent decades and they now breed across much of the capital. However, they remain shy; only rarely visiting bird tables, and prefer to stay high in the canopy of trees. Large numbers have been recorded in Regent’s Park and at Walthamstow Wetlands, and we regularly hear them at many of our London nature reserves.

By now the females will have reared their chicks in readiness for the long journey back to southern Europe and North Africa. However, recent milder winters mean that increasing numbers overwinter in Britain, and they may become future residents of London.

The London Wildlife Trust campaigns to protect the capital’s wildlife and wild spaces. Backed by Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts.

https://www.standard.co.uk

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