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Birds on the Common: Blackcap

Black Cap AW. April 2020

Birds on the Common: Blackcap

If there is one bird that will be in full song during April out on Barnes Common, it will be the Blackcap.

This bird is another warbler and a summer visitor, arriving in March from its wintering quarters in Iberia and West Africa.

It has a clean fluting song, where the notes are rich but incredibly clear. It has been called the Northern Nightingale and while in truth, it’s some way from the Nightingale’s repertoire, it is one of the Common’s more charismatic songsters.

Blackcaps have been particularly successful in recent years with perhaps 20 pairs on the Common. They really like the large patches of brambles and nettles where their cup size, woven grass nests are usually located. Food includes insects, caterpillars, flies and spiders.

If you see a Blackcap with a rufous or chestnut cap, then you are looking at a female while scruffier looking individuals with chocolate brown caps are generally the youngsters. If you also hear what sounds like two pebbles striking one another, this is the Blackcap’s “tacc” alarm call.

Blackcaps also like fruit and berries and in late summer can be seen fuelling up on blackberries, ready for their journeys back south when they leave the Common in late August and early September.

However with climate change, Blackcaps are increasingly found in the winter too. These are generally birds from continental Europe, particularly Germany and Scandinavia that have decided to chance the UK, rather than make a long journey to Africa and can sometimes be seen at bird feeders in the winter months, especially where suet is on offer.