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Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

Named after its song, this diminutive bird is a summer migrant.

Scientific name: Phylloscopus collybita

Family: Sylviidae (warblers and allies)


Small, slender bird that predominantly green in colour, though can vary from grey to brown.

Head: green-brown head with a paler eye stripe above the dark eye. Dark brown-black stripe across the eye and cheek, which can make the white eye ring stand out. 

Wings: short wing tips. Wings are darker in colour than the body and have yellow markings. They are short distance migrants and so have short primary feathers giving the wings and short, dumpy appearance.

Body: main body has a green-brown plumage but the underparts are lighter in colour.

Legs: dark brown or almost black.

Could be confused with: the willow warbler, which is also a small, greenish warbler found in the same habitat. You can tell them apart by their song. The chiffchaff has a two-note, mechanical-sounding song. Willow warblers have a beautiful liquid song with a descending melody that rises in volume.

Listen to the chiffchaff:

Where to spot

Chiffchaffs are migrant birds that will usually arrive in March and depart once the summer is over in September.However, a growing number are spending winter in the UK too, possibly benefiting from warmer winters caused by climate change.

This little bird can be found across the UK, except some areas of the Scottish Highlands. Look for it in woodlands, scrub, gardens and along hedgerows.


Feeds on invertebrates and occasionally fruit and berries.


The chiffchaff will start breeding in April or May, and lay five to six eggs. A domed nest is constructed at a low level in bushes, or grass. Chicks fledge at around 15 days old.


  • The chiffchaff got its name from its characteristic song in which it appears to repeat its name.
  • In winter, many chiffchaffs will migrate to the Mediterranean and even west Africa.

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