blackcap/garden warbler song


Well-known member
Last Sunday I realised to my dissapointment that I had not cracked the geaden warbler/blackcap song split as I had hoped. I know the "classic" blackcap starts scratchily and then builds up to a purer climax and is of relatively short duration and moderate tempo, whilst the "classic" garden is faster, somewhat breathless, longer and less changing in timbre. On Sunday I listened to a bird over a period of time which did not precisely fit either. Fairly short fairly hurried, maybe slight change in purity towards the end but nothing obvious. Is there any definitive feature to listen out for that splits these two?


Senior Moment
Hi Graham. I don't know of any definitive feature, but the Garden Warbler has a slightly richer, more "contralto" feel to it, compared to a Blackcap's mezzo-soprano. (Not that I've felt many contraltos, you understand...)

Lucky Birder

Notts Birder
A classic Garden Warbler will go on and on with a sweet dry warble like a babbling brook - sometimes for a minute without pause. However they can also sing in short bursts. Blackcap is a fruitier more exuberant song often with a distinct change of tempo at the end.

If it seems to be more or less at a constant pitch and lacking any higher whistly notes it's probably Garden Warbler.

Unfortunately some Blackcaps can sound very like Garden Warblers but never the other way round.

Ghostly Vision

Well-known member
Pretty good summary from the others.

To my ears, the easy way to do it is - if it has high notes, it's a Blackcap. If it's more throaty and richer-sounding, it's a Garden w.

Occasionally I've heard Garden sing in a rather less musical, scratchy way, with a faster tempo - sounding almost like some sort of Acrocephalus warbler.

This is maybe what you heard that confused you, Graham?

Sorry can't be any more helpful - it's best having someone who knows both songs point them out to you in the field...


Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Blackcap = speeded up Robin
Garden Warbler = speeded up Blackbird

And if you're abroad (or very lucky):
Icterine Warbler = speeded up Song Thrush

Not an exact science maybe, but it works for me.