Sep 16, 2021 at 16:04


The blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) is a bird that, like the other members of the genus Sylvia (warblers), is small, graceful, with restless and determined movements. It can be seen moving between the branches of the undergrowth and it mainly feeds on insects and fruits. Therefore, as a good insectivore, it plays an iimportant role in controlling insect populations and helping to maintain balance in ecosystems.

It cannot be said to be a threatened species. Fortunately, their populations are not only stable, but appear to be on the rise across Europe. It is distributed throughout Spain, both in the Peninsula and in both archipelagos.

It measures between 13 and 15 centimeters in length. The male and female have different plumages. The first is unmistakable. Its upperparts are greyish brown, with the upper part of the head and forehead a glossy black. The female differs from the male mainly by the head, whose upper part is brown or reddish brown. The chest and flanks are paler in tone.

It breeds throughout Europe and the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, where it is characterized by being one of the most abundant birds at all levels, although in winter they appear in greater numbers. This is so due to the arrival of a multitude of specimens towards the end of September and in October, coming from other parts of Europe.

Four subspecies in Spain

The blackcap has nine subspecies, of which there are four in Spain. One of them is the nominal (S. atricapilla atricapilla), widely extended, except for deforested areas of the northern sub-plateau, the Ebro valley and the Iberian páramos. Another subspecies is the S. atricapilla heineken, which is found in the southern half of the Peninsula and the Canary Islands. On the other hand, S. atricapilla obscura it is endemic to the Canary Islands. And finally, S. atricapilla paulucii It is in the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.

This bird is basically forest. Breeds in wooded, shady land with a dense undergrowth, although it can also be seen in parks and gardens with abundant vegetation.

There we will see the warbler jumping from cup to cup, from bush to bush, and moving restlessly, without stopping for just a moment, from branch to branch. The same behavior is exhibited by other warblers, such as the black-headed or the mosquito net.

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During the spring, it basically feeds on beetle and dipteran insects, but also caterpillars and larvae. He is also a lover of fruit, as chickens are fed by their parents with cherries, figs and other wild fruits. In winter, for example, they eat a lot of apples.

The beautiful and restless blackcap, ally of the field

They have a pleasant song, beginning with a rich and somewhat messy chirp, followed by a short series of whistles. The chorus presents variations according to the areas and according to the clans that make up the blackcap.

The mating season takes place in autumn and winter. In order to dominate a certain territory where there are females, the male becomes especially showy, fully ‘inflating’ his plumage and thus increasing its volume, while dropping the wings, which are left hanging as if they were too heavy. At the same time, the queue opens and closes.

Nest: male says where and female builds

When approaching females, males offer a wide repertoire of trills. It is his, in short, a whole wedding choreography in which he displays all his weapons.

Once you have a partner, you will build a very simple nest, light and with few materials. It is usually the male who chooses the place by simply placing a few dry herbs, as an indicative signal. But, finally, it will be the female who builds it. Between them, they manage to have it ready in three or five days.

The beautiful and restless blackcap, ally of the field

The blackcap usually lays between 3 and 5 eggs and they breed between the months of May and July after an incubation period of 11 or 14 days.

The population of this species is growing. It is estimated that in Europe there are between 25 and 49 million couples, while in Spain there could be, according to the latest censuses, between 850,000 and 1,500,000 pairs, as a nesting population. It is considered out of danger and, therefore, is not included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Photos: Wikipedia

Warbler file in El Miteco:

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