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A summer visitor but also an influx from the north in winter


Blackcap: is it coming or going?

Post date: Sunday, 9 March, 2014 - 00:00

It may not be a common sight but a blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) in gardens in winter is certainly not unusual. Now to me the blackcap is a welcome summer visitor to our woodlands and hedgerows. Its lovely, intense, warbling song is one of the highlights of spring each year. Frequently the song will be heard but the bird will be difficult to spot as it often sings from the among leaf canopy; a real poor man's nightingale! It is also a bit of a fidget and keeps moving around! 

However, this is not the only side of the blackcap as this picture taken on our garden bird feeders clearly shows! We usually get a least one blackcap visit our garden each winter but I just said that the blackcap is a summer visitor so what is it doing turning up in a Dorset garden in winter? When I started 'birding' nearly forty years ago people were puzzled as to why most blackcaps went south in the autumn but a few stayed behind. Nowadays our knowledge is so much more developed and, thanks to ringing, we now know that these wintering birds are not the same ones that spend the summer here. These are birds from much farther north in Europe and for them the long winter trip south is to us here in southern England.

So, as our wintering blackcaps leave us in spring to return north the summer migrants are coming back to our shores and from mid-April we have the joy of seeing and hearing them in our countryside. 


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

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Blackcap
Scientific Name Sylvia atricapilla
Status Frequent
Interest Level
Species Family Warblers
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
Preferred Environment
  • Hedgerows
  • Woodland - broadleaf
Look for A small warbler with a black cap
Additional Identification Notes
  • The black cap of the male is clearly diagnostic, this is brown in the female
  • Can be seen in gardens in winter and these are immigrant birds from Europe
  • Noted for its lovely song and known as the poor man's nightingale!