Male Chiffchaff

Neil Bygrave (NATURELENS)

Exeter, United Kingdom

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Male Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) – Devon, UK

Canon 7D
Canon 500mm F4 L IS plus 1.4x Extender and Canon Extension Tube EF 25 II
F6.3
ISO320
1/1000th
Tripod
Evaluative Metering -1

Text adapted from – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiffchaff

The Common Chiffchaff, or simply the Chiffchaff, is a common and widespread leaf-warbler which breeds in open woodlands throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia.

The male Chiffchaff is highly territorial during the breeding season, with a core territory typically 20 metres (66 ft) across, which is fiercely defended against other males. Other small birds may also be attacked. The male is inquisitive and fearless, attacking even dangerous predators like the stoat if they approach the nest, as well as egg-thieves like the Eurasian Jay. His song, given from a favoured prominent vantage point, appears to be used to advertise an established territory and contact the female, rather than as a paternity guard strategy.

Beyond the core territory, there is a larger feeding range which is variable in size, but typically ten or more times the area of the breeding territory. It is believed that the female has a larger feeding range than the male. After breeding has finished, this species abandons its territory, and may join small flocks including other warblers prior to migration.

The male Chiffchaff returns to its breeding territory two or three weeks before the female and immediately starts singing to establish ownership and attract a female. When a female is located, the male will use a slow butterfly-like flight as part of the courtship ritual, but once a pair-bond has been established, other females will be driven from the territory. The male has little involvement in the nesting process other than defending the territory. The female’s nest is built on or near the ground in a concealed site in brambles, nettles or other dense low vegetation. The domed nest has a side entrance, and is constructed from coarse plant material such as dead leaves and grass, with finer material used on the interior before the addition of a lining of feathers. The typical nest is 12.5 centimetres (5 in) high and 11 centimetres (4 in) across.

The clutch is two to seven (normally five or six) cream-coloured eggs which have tiny ruddy, purple or blackish spots and are about 1.5 centimetres (0.6 in) long and 1.2 centimetres (0.5 in) across. They are incubated by the female for 13–14 days before hatching as naked, blind altricial chicks. The female broods and feeds the chicks for another 14–15 days until they fledge. The male rarely participates in feeding, although this sometimes occurs, especially when bad weather limits insect supplies or if the female disappears. After fledging, the young stay in the vicinity of the nest for three to four weeks, and are fed by and roost with the female, although these interactions reduce after approximately the first 14 days. In the north of the range there is only time to raise one brood, due to the short summer, but a second brood is common in central and southern areas.

Although pairs stay together during the breeding season and polygamy is uncommon, even if the male and female return to the same site in the following year there is no apparent recognition or fidelity. Interbreeding with other species, other than those formerly considered as subspecies of P. collybita, is rare, but a few examples are known of hybridisation with the Willow Warbler. Such hybrids give mixed songs, but the latter alone is not proof of interspecific breeding.

Like most Old World warblers, this small species is insectivorous, moving restlessly though foliage or briefly hovering. It has been recorded as taking insects, mainly flies, from more than 50 families, along with other small and medium-sized invertebrates. It will take the eggs and larvae of butterflies and moths, particularly those of the Winter Moth. The Chiffchaff has been estimated to require about one-third of its weight in insects daily, and it feeds almost continuously in the autumn to put on extra fat as fuel for the long migration flight

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