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Summer visitor to scrubby habitats across the county

Photograph by: 
Ian Ballam

The whitethroat (Sylvia communis) is one of Dorset's summer visiting warblers. After spending our winter months in central Africa it makes the long journey back to us for a relatively short stay while it raises its young and then heads back south again. In both directions it has to cross the Sahara desert and is a species that is susceptible to great losses in unfavourable conditions on this part of the journey. It is called the whitethroat of course because of the prominent white plumage on its throat!

A harbinger of spring the first whitethroats start to arrive back here in Dorset from about week 15 at the beginning of April. The bulk of the reports come during April as the number of birds passing through the county is at its highest and then the frequency of reports levels out during the summer months until the autumn exodus starts in week 34 in mid August and continues through until the end of September. Although a nesting species in Dorset there are surprisingly few reports during June and July but that may be because they nest in locations that are not frequently watched.

The distribution map shows the high number of coastal sites that report whitethroat and that reflects the migratory nature of the sightings as birds making landfall are seen. However, as a species preferring open, scrubby areas to breed the inland sites tend to be on the chalk downs where some scrub habitat can still be found. The Purbeck cliffs are also favourable for whitethroats to nest.

One of the best places to get whitethroat on to your Dorset list is to visit Durlston Country Park in May where breeding birds can be seen on the tops of gorse and bramble bushes singing their lengthy churring song.


Common Name Whitethroat
Alternative Name(s) Common Whitethroat
Scientific Name Sylvia communis
Species Group Birds Warblers
Status Local
Interest Level
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
Look for

Harsh, continuous song coming from scrubby bushes on open countryside

Identification Notes
  • Now more numerous and numbers recovering from severe losses on migration some years ago
  • Best found through its song but once seen the white throat stands out as the main feature
  • Browner than the lesser whitethroat, slightly larger and found in more open habitat
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Warblers