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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Chiffchaff

Bird Sightings - Chiffchaff


(Common Chiffchaff)

Phylloscopus collybita

Gaelic: Caifean

Photography © Kim Park
Gisla - Uig - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
21st April, 2006


Our Chiffchaff photographs




  • Chiffchaff
  • Phylloscopus collybita
  • Gaelic: Caifean
  • UK: 700,000-800,000 pairs breeding (summer) , winter 500-1000 birds
  • UK: Migrant breeder
  • WI :Rare migrant breeder (1-9 breeding records), otherwise uncommon passage visitor (low numbers)
  • Diet: Insect-eater: Insects, fruit, nectar
  • Tiny warbler - wren-sized 10-11cm. Round head. Short wings. Long tail. Olive-brown upperparts (yellowish tinged). Underparts pale-buff. Pale stripe through eye (with a dark smudge through it). Brown wings which have no wingbars. Brown tail.Similar to a Willow Warbler but is brighter coloured and has dark blackish legs. Colouring is generally brighter in autumn.
  • Listen to a Chiffchaff (RSPB site)


The Chiffchaff has been described as elusive, active, confident (and exasperating!) in nature.

This bird has the pointed beak of an insect-eater. It favours mature woodland with well developed undergrowth, where it darts about picking insects from trees, and also catching them in flight. It can briefly hover. Fruit, and occasionally nectar are also part of the Chiffchaff's autumn and winter diet.

Between 700,000 and 800,000 pairs of Chiffchaff breed in the UK in summer, nesting either on the ground or in the branches of bushes, laying 4 - 9 eggs, which are white with dark-speckles.

The Chiffchaff is a scarce bird in the Western Isles, it is most often seen on its migration journey during October, and November, (a few in the spring). Generally less than 50 records a year, with a just a couple of probable breeding pairs.


Most of the UK breeding birds migrate to the Eastern Mediterranean, India and South of the Sahara in Africa in late August, early September, leaving only 500 to a thousand resident birds to over-winter in the UK.


Distinguished from the Willow Warbler by having dark legs, and by it's song which instead of being the melodic warble of a Willow Warbler sounds a bit like "chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff..."


Chiffchaff records in the Western Isles

Rare migrant breeder (1-9 breeding records), otherwise uncommon passage visitor (low numbers)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Chiffchaff is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)




Visit Kim's web site of her photography of the Western Isles

Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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