Alert Status: Green
Identifying Features: Brownish green in colour with a dark eye stripe.
Average Length: 10 - 11 cm
Average Lifespan: 2 years
Average Wingspan: 15 - 21 cm
Beak type: Insects
Natural: Insects, such as midges and other flies, and caterpillars and moths
How to feed: Ground feeders & bird tables
What to feed: Mixed seeds
Nesting: Domed in shape, on the ground or very close to it. Constructed with dead vegetation (stems & leaves) with a feather lining
Where to see: Most of UK apart from Highlands of Scotland. Lowland, woodlands, parks & large gardens
The chiffchaff is from the warbler family, quite bland in colour, with an olive-green plumage with hints of brown and buff underparts. They are tricky to tell apart from willow warblers, and there is often confusion between
the two! One feature which does separate them is the leg colour, willow warblers have pale coloured legs while the chiffchaff’s legs are much darker.
Being about the same size as a blue tit, the chiffchaff is one of the smallest birds in the UK, and is energetic,
lively and quick, especially when flitting among trees and shrubs. They are well-known for their distinctive
quick tail-wagging movements.
The chiffchaff gets it's common name in several languages from the sound of its song, describing the mechanical way in which the bird sings its two-note, simple “chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff”. In Germany,
it is called the Zilp Zalp and in Wales the Siff-Saff!
Chiffchaffs are migratory birds to some parts of the UK, and resident in others. They spend the summer in the north of the UK except certain parts of north and northeast Scotland. One of our earliest arrivals, they can be heard singing their hearts out from the end of February onwards!
Chiffchaffs are insectivorous and prefer leaf insects such as caterpillars, gnats and midges. Their scientific name means ‘leaf explorer’; and they enjoy nothing more than feeding on the undersides of leaves where aphids gather due to the build-up of sugary sap. They are also keen on flies. In fact, their agile performance in the air is so good they can feed mid-flight!
Chiffchaffs begin breeding between April and May which coincides with their early arrival to the UK. They can produce up to 2 clutches each season, each with 4-9 eggs. The female builds the nest, which is dome-shaped and usually near the ground in tall grasses, bushes or wall-creeping plants. The male chiffchaff is not a particularly considerate father, leaving the majority of the responsibility for feeding the young chicks to
Did you know?
A group of warblers has many collective nouns including a ‘bouquet’, ‘confusion’, ‘fall’, and ‘wrench’ of warblers
It is widely believed that chiffchaffs will only sing in trees that are more than 5 metres high
In 1968 a group called the Small Faces used the song of a chiffchaff at the end of their song “Lazy Sunday”
which reached number 2 in the UK singles chart