BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla)


These striking birds are summer visitors to the UK, but with warming climates, they are increasingly more likely to also spend the winter in the UK. They normally travel back to Africa or Southern Europe in the colder months, but with increasing amounts of garden feeders providing for these birds, they are more willing to stick around. These warblers are solitary and can get quite boisterous at the feeding table, which is understandable after travelling so far. You can spot blackcaps in parks, woodlands, and gardens with lots of bushes and cover.

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Alert Status:

Green 190% increase

Estimated number of breeding territories: 1,650,000

Listen to Blackcap song:


This understated warbler is grey-brown with its distinctive black or red-brown cap (crown and forehead), and a little smaller than a house sparrow. The male has grey-brown upper parts, pale grey underparts and a grey face and throat, and a glossy black cap. The female is similar but has browner upperparts, buff underparts, and a red-brown cap. Both sexes have dark colour bills and grey-brown legs. Juveniles also have a red-brown cap.

Average Length: 13 cm

Average Lifespan: 2-5 Years

Average Wingspan: 20-23cm

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Blackcap diet

During the breeding season, blackcaps take mostly insects from leaves and foliage to feed their young. However, in wintertime, they are particularly partial to fruits and berries, especially mistletoe berries.

How to feed: Bird tables and suet feeders

What to feed: They will sometimes visit bird tables in the winter, and they may feed from suet bars, especially those impregnated with dried flies.

Blackcap breeding and nesting information

As they are primarily migrants to the UK, the breeding birds normally arrive in early springtime to find a nesting site. The nest is a neat cup built by the female from vegetation including grass, stems and mud, and is usually in a hedge, bush, or brambles. Blackcaps will occasionally use shelves in huts and other outbuildings on which to build their nests. They will lay 1-2 broods between late April and mid-June. Females normally lay around 4-5 eggs, which will be incubated by both sexes for around 2 weeks. Blackcap chicks fledge quite quickly after hatching, with only 11-12 days before they are ready to flap their wings.

Threats to blackcaps

Blackcaps are listed as green under the birds of conservation concern and as least concern on the red list. No conservation actions are currently recommended for this species as populations are significantly increasing. Threats to them would likely be the same as many other species however, with factors such as climate change and habitat loss.

How you can help

Fill your bird tables with lots of fruits and berries if you want to attract blackcaps and place them near to hedges.

Keep a constant supply of fresh, clean water available year-round.

Planting large amounts of hedges, shrubs and trees will provide a great habitat for blackcaps.

Fascinating Fact

Did you know that blackcaps arefantastic at spotting cuckoo eggs in their nests? Blackcaps reject cuckoo eggsat a rate of ~90% even though they are very infrequently parasitised. Instudies they also mobbed cuckoo dummies when presented with them, showing veryaggressive behaviours that would suggest they evolved these behaviours inresponse to being highly parasitised in the past.
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BirdLife International (2022) Speciesfactsheet: Sylvia atricapilla. Downloaded from on 20/06/2022.

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Morelli, F., Benedetti, Y., Hanson,J.O., Fuller, R.A. (2021) Global distribution and conservation of avian dietspecialization. Conservation Letters. 14(4):


Požgayová, M., Procházka, P., Honza,M. (2009) Adjustment of incubation according to the threat posed: a furthersignal of enemy recognition in the Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla? Journal ofOrnithology. 150:569-576.


Risely, K., Toms, M., Plummer, K.(2016) The BTO Garden BirdWatch: data and research. In: (ed. A. Anselin)Bird Census News. 29(1-2): pp 30-36.


Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts:profiles of birds occurring in Britain & Ireland. BTO, Thetford(, accessed on 28 March 2022)


Stanbury,A.J., Eaton, M.A., Aebischer, N.J., Balmer, D., Brown, A.F., Douse, A.,Lindley, P., McCulloch, N., Noble, D.G., Win, I. (2021) The status of our birdpopulations: the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern in the United Kingdom,Channel Islands and Isle of Man and second IUCN Red List assessment ofextinction risk for Great Britain. British Birds. 114 


Van Doren, B.M., Conway, G.J., Phillips,R.J., Evans, G.C., Roberts, G.C.M., Liedvogel, M., Sheldon, B.C. (2021) Humanactivity shapes the wintering ecology of a migratory bird. Global ChangeBiology. 27(12): 2715-2727.


Woodward, I., Aebischer, N.,Burnell,D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D. & Noble, D. (2020)Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. BritishBirds. 113: 69–104.

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