Sylvia atricapilla

Photo by Andy Bright (Mango Verde)

Common name:

Order Passeriformes
Family Sylviidae

These birds are found breeding from western Europe to south-western Siberia, and south to the Mediterranean, Turkey and south-western Russia. It also occurs on islands in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Azores, Cape Verde Islands, Canary Islands and Madeira. The northern and eastern population migrate south to winter in southern Europe, the Middle East and in Africa.

Blackcaps are 13-15 cm long and have a wingspan of 20-23 cm.They weigh 14-22 g.

They breed in a variety of woodlands and other forested habitats, but also in orchards and fruit-tree plantations, as well as parks and gardens with plenty of trees and scrubs. In winter they are typically found in areas rich in berries and other fruits, including olive groves, gardens and palm plantations, but may also be found in lowland savannas, mangroves, riverside woodlands, and mountain scrublands and forests. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 2.200 m.

The diet of the blackcap varies seasonally. During the breeding season they mostly hunt invertebrates, including mayflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, moths, beetles, spiders, woodlice, snails and earthworms. Outside the breeding season they tend to eat more fruits and berries, including cultivated figs, cherries and olives and a wide variety of wild plants, sometimes also taking nectar and flower blossoms.

Blackcaps breed in April-August. The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a cup of grasses, twigs and roots, lined with grass and hair. The nest is usually placed in a scrub, bush or small tree, or in dense vegetation, such as a stand of ferns. There the female lays 3-5 greyish eggs with brown spots, which are incubated by both parents for 10-16 days. The chicks cared for by both parents and fledge 10-15 days after hatching, but only become fully independent 2-3 weeks later.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and a global population of 80-200 million individuals. The population is suspected to be increasing owing to afforestation and land use changes leading to increased scrubby growth in parts of its range.

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