Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)


[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Sylviidae | [latin] Sylvia atricapilla | [UK] Blackcap | [FR] Fauvette a tete noire | [DE] Monchs-Grasmucke | [ES] Curruca Capirotada | [NL] Zwartkop


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

Quite large and robust warbler, with rather long wings and legs but rather short tail. Essentially dusky-brown above, pale grey below, lacks white on tail-edges, and marked only by diagnostic short cap – black on male, brownish on female and immature.
Sexes dissimilar, no seasonal variation.

Listen to the sound of Blackcap


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 15 cm wingspan max.: 17 cm
size min.: 11 cm size max.: 13 cm
incubation min.: 11 days incubation max.: 12 days
fledging min.: 10 days fledging max.: 12 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia : Central, West, Southwest


Breeds throughout middle latitudes of west Palearctic in temperate, boreal, and mediterranean climates, oceanic as well as continental. Highly arboreal, preferring to forage and sing in crowns of trees, often in more or less mature forest, although requiring also tall, not too dense shrubby undergrowth, especially for nesting.


Breeds May-Jun in West and North-West Europe, May-July in Finland, Mid April to late July in South West Germany, mid April in South of France, end August to end November in Cape Verde. Nest site is built in low brambles, shrubs, and trees, on branch or among trunk suckers. Less often in creepers, tall herbs, or ferns.
Nest is a finely-constructed cup, often with transparent walls and or bottom, of grass and herb stems and leaves, plus rootlets and small twigs, bound together with spiders’ webs and cocoons, lined with finer grasses, rootlets, and hair. 4-6 eggs are laid, incubation 10-16 days, by both parents.

Feeding habits

Chiefly insects in breeding season, mainly plant material at other times. in breeding season, mainly picks insects from leaves and twigs, at heights of up to 20 m, not significantly different from feeding height of Garden Warbler.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Sylvia atricapilla is a widespread breeder across much of Europe, which constitutes >75% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is extremely large (>25,000,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. The species underwent a slight increase overall during 1990-2000, with almost all national trends either stable or increasing, including those of key populations in France, Germany, Italy and Russia.
Blackcap status Least Concern


Wide variety of strategies, populations from different parts of range varying from resident to migratory. Populations of Mediterranean and Atlantic islands chiefly resident or presumed resident. Northern and eastern birds wholly migratory, southern birds partially migratory, with most birds north of Mediterranean region leaving breeding area. ?Leap-frog? migrant: northern populations move longest distance, reaching south of winter range, and populations further south apparently move progressively less far. Winters within and south of breeding range, south to sub-Saharan Africa, north to Britain and south-west Norway. Main wintering areas in sub-Saharan Africa: West Africa west of Greenwich meridian; southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea; equatorial East Africa south to Lake Nyasa. European populations show migratory divide, those west of 12 degrees E heading chiefly south-west to southern France and Iberia, those east of 12 degrees E chiefly south-east, funnelled from wide area towards Cyprus and Levant; also broad mixed area in central Europe and Scandinavia from which either south-west, south, or south-east heading is possible. Birds wintering in Britain are apparently all from continental Europe. Autumn migration begins chiefly in August. Northern birds leave earlier and migrate faster than southern ones; southern birds tend to leave after passage migrants have passed through. Main movement through northern and central Europe in September, diminishing through October. At British bird observatories, main passage starts late August, and most birds leave by end of September; arrival of winter visitors chiefly October. Spring migration begins early, with prolonged movement late February to May in Egypt and Levant, mid-February to mid-May in Strait of Gibraltar area. Earliest birds reach Britain late March, main arrival late April and early May. Earliest records in Helsinki region (Finland) and Leningrad region (north-west Russia) early May, usually from mid-May.

Distribution map

Blackcap distribution range map

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