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Common chiffchaff


Common chiffchaffs are small, compact and short-winged leaf warblers with a rather large head and without conspicuous markings. The body length is 10-12 cm, the weight 6-10 g. The sexes do not differ in appearance and weight, but males are slightly longer-winged than females. 

The upperparts are greyish-brownish green, the rump is often slightly lighter green. The throat, the underpart of the rump and undertail coverts are dirty white with individually very variable amounts of yellow and beige on the throat and breast. Especially in autumn, the flanks are often covered in beige-brown. Wing feathers and tail feathers are grey-brown, the edges of the outer plumes are narrowly fringed with yellow-green. A yellowish supercilium is clearly visible in front of the eye, behind the eye usually only indistinctly. The dark eye stripe divides the light eye ring into a lower and an upper half. The area below the eyes and the ear coverts are quite dark, so that the lower part of the light eye ring contrasts clearly with it. The short and fine beak is usually not very noticeably bright orange at the base and sides, and dark horn-coloured for the rest. The legs are usually dark brown or greyish black, rarely lighter brown.

difference to the willow warbler

In Central Europe, the European chiffchaff is most likely to be confused with the very similar and also common willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus); they are sibling species. The willow warbler is somewhat more slender and long-winged than the common chiffchaff. The legs of the willow warbler are usually much lighter, the supercilium is longer and more pronounced, especially behind the eye. The primaries projection, i.e. the projection of the primaries over the tertials, is much larger in the willow warbler. Furthermore, in the common chiffchaff the fifth wing has a narrowing on the inside of the outer vane, which is absent in the willow warbler. However, this distinctive feature can only be recognised if the birds are held in the hand.


The species inhabits a wide range of wooded habitats and is also frequently found in parks and the greened outskirts of towns. Forest areas with a structured tree layer, a well-developed shrub layer and at least a sparse shrub cover and correspondingly structured green spaces are preferred. The species hardly ever occurs in monotonous stands with largely no undergrowth, such as in closed copper beech forests. In Central Europe, the highest settlement densities are reached in alder swamp forests and wet riparian forests with 7 to 14 territories/10 ha.

The text is a translation of an excerpt from Wikipedia (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zilpzalp). On wikipedia the text is available under a „Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike“ licence. Status: 01 December 2021