Friday, January 25, 2013


My garden is almost birdless, save for the odd Wood Pigeon & Magpie that drops by. Across the road, Caroline's back garden is a hive of activity and, watching the various birds coming to and fro to feed in the tree outside the kitchen window - decked out like a Christmas tree with a seed dispenser, suet containers & bits of apple hanging off the bare branches - I admit to being green with envy!

Caroline had invited me to watch one of the two female Blackcaps that regularly visit her coconut suet feeder. Females have a brown cap; the males have the black cap which gives this species its name. Here's a bit of footage of the bird feeding:

Before the 1960s you wouldn't see a Blackcap in the UK during the winter. They were all in southern Europe or northern Africa soaking up the sun. But because Caroline, and thousands like her, put out a veritable banquet of tasty bird food during the winter months, some Blackcaps have decided that they would prefer to spend their winters here, despite the cold.

And here's the thing: the Blackcaps in your garden now (and the owner of one garden in a mild southerly part of the Isle of Wight has counted an amazing 9 individuals visiting his bird table!) are not the Blackcaps that were singing in your local countryside last Spring and Summer, but almost certainly originate from Germany and north-eastern Europe!!

Whatever the original reason was for this switch in wintering grounds by these continental birds, it has resulted in a very interesting phenomenon. With the UK and other wintry countries being closer to their summer breeding grounds, they arrive back before the sun-loving migrants and pair up and breed with other winter-loving birds, a process that may very well result in not one, but two separate species at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Amazing, or what!!


  1. That is an interesting theory.

    My friend in south Bucks has Blackcaps in her garden and she says that they have almost entirely fought all other birds away from the feeders, so she isn't best pleased with them.

  2. 6 or 7 in my garden (WSOM); we feed them soaked sultanas which they share with the Robins and Blackbirds. If anything, the competition is confined to any other Blackcap! [Have ringed over a dozen last 2 months in our small orchard]

  3. There seem to be more around than usual this year! The female above was the opposite of agressive and kept getting chased away by a blue tit!!