Earlier this month I discovered a warbler in full song, perched in a leafing ash tree.  I was unsure what species it was because although I’m not bad at the visual identification of birds, I’m not so good at identifying them by their song.  I thought it was a blackcap from its song but this confused me because when I spotted it, the tell-tale black head cap of the male was absent.  Surely this wasn’t a female (they have a brown cap just to confuse) blackcap singing?  My thanks to ornithologist Mike Rogers who later confirmed from this recording that it was indeed a blackcap 1.

Listen carefully and you will also hear a chifchaff with its distinctive chiff-chaff, chaff-chaff,chiff-chaff,chiff-chiff,chiff-chaff …. and the melodious tones of a robin in the background.

Gabriel Hemery

1 Ornithologist Mike Rogers, the Earth Trust.


  1. Hi Gabriel,
    This bird is a Garden Warbler both by song and by sight. In general it’s rare for female birds to sing. The mellow song, the lack of a cap and the general jizz confirms the identification as a Garden Warbler. I always think that Garden Warbler has a blackbird-like quality to its song, whilst Blackcap has a robin-like quality. A little in-joke in the birding community is that the scientific name of Garden Warbler is Sylvia borin (boring!- as it’s quite drab and non-descipt). Hope this helps.

  2. Gabriel – whilst I’m sure Mike is right there is a ‘capless’ alternative, Garden Warbler, which has a very similar song & habitat. It’s the bird famously described as being distinguishable because it has no distinguishing features ! It is a very regular green, noticeably larger & fatter built than Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Wood Warbler.

    1. Author

      A Garden warbler was my first thought Rod, but I rely totally on the real expert who told me that there was no doubt that it was a blackcap! I looks to me in a one or two of the photos that it did seem to have the brown cap of a female. If any other ornithologists wish to comment, that would be helpful.

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