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A common summer visitor that nests in Dorset


Chiffchaff: chuffed to hear the chiffchaff

Post date: Monday, 24 March, 2014 - 00:00

I usually reckon to hear my first chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) on, or just after, the 15th March each year; they are suddenly there in the bare branches of the trees calling their repetitive "chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff "song. I am always pretty chuffed when I first hear them as they are one of the heralds of spring for me but after a while they are quickly taken for granted and I look for 'more interesting' things!

The chiffchaff is usually back here a good three weeks or so before its close cousin, the willow warbler. The two are virtually indistinguishable in appearance up in the tree tops and it is through their songs that one can confidently tell them apart. Often heard but not always seen, the chiffchaff can be difficult to track down and photograph as it is continually on the move amongst the branches. It is obviously easier to do it early in the spring before the leaves appear on the trees.

Despite generally being a migrant species wintering in Africa you may see a chiffchaff during the winter months and it was once thought that some birds just decided not to head south in the autumn but ringing has shown that our winter birds are generally migrants from colder parts of Europe who decide that Dorset is warm enough for them and heading even further south is not worth the effort.


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 Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Chiffchaff
Scientific Name Phylloscopus collybita
Status Common
Interest Level
Species Family Warblers
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
Preferred Environment
  • Hedgerows
  • Woodland - broadleaf
Look for The unmistakable continuous chiff-chaff song
Additional Identification Notes
  • Hard to distinguish from the willow warbler other than by song
  • Prefers more dense woodland than the willow warbler
  • Can also occasionally be seen in winter with migrant birds arriving from northern Europe