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Common or Siberian Chiffchaff (Dutch coast, forest near dunes, 22th of October 2021) (1 Viewer)


Frank van de Velde

Over the last couple of weeks I came in different places across 2 very buff/warm coloured Chiffchaffs, that lacked green-yellow tones on underside, breast, flanks and head/back area. (And obviously a saw great many more that did possess green-yellow tones as is usual for Common Chiffchaff).
Yesterday I again saw one such warm coloured Chiffchaff (the 3th) in the Noord-Hollands Duinreservaat. It was in a forest area at the edge of a small forest pond, very near to the actual coastal dunes. Also at least 3 other 'traditionally' greenish-yellowish were present. The bird (see attached images) stood out, with its dark almost reddish brown head (under some angles) and warm tones. Although I also noticed that its legs are not quite black (a ssp. tristis characteristic).
Unfortunately the bird was silent, so I couldn't record its call.

Now I'm starting to be curious if I might have seen one or more Siberian Chiffchaffs over the last weeks. Although I previously associated whitish, grey and cold tones with ssp. tristis, more than these warm brown tones, I also saw many confirmed Siberian Chiffchaff images online with to my eye quite similar warm tones.
But as I saw no less than three candidates (whereas Siberian Chiffchaff is very rare in the Netherlands), I think I might be rushing to wrong IDs.

(From the other 2 mentioned buff/warm coloured Chiffchaffs I encountered I also made photographs, and also a sound recording from one. I could create another Bird ID Q&A post with the images and sound from this bird.)

Hopefully someone can help me with this question?

Regards, Frank


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Frank van de Velde
Chiffchaff is a very variable species - the ID of (sub)species often is only possible using DNA. Personally, I would leave it as Chiffchaff ssp.. In case you are not aware, here's a link to a very neat recent publication:

(PDF) Migrating chiffchaff taxa in the Netherlands: a 10-year genetic study
Thank you Carery for the explanation. Good to know it’s not possible to always reliably ID Chiffchaff from images alone. I’ll read the research (I wasn’t aware of this publication, only of an earlier paper on Chiffchaff identification in Mijendel, Netherlands. Also with interesting conclusions regarding appearance versus DNA matches).

Regards, Frank


Well-known member
I’ve only just seen your thread Frank and have found it extremely interesting!
I had two brown Chiffies through my garden -30th September and 8th October both “strikingly” brown, small and fast, with the October bird not much bigger than a Crest, being very short-tailed and behaviourally more akin to the latter than P.collybita.

Unfortunately I was unable to procure any images as they were both too brief and fast.
However I have been able to image in previous years- 14.10.14 - 3.10.15 and 18.10.15 these last three + this years two, being my “at home”total since 2014.

Supplementary to these I’ve had two other Brown Chiffies on the South coast 2012 and 2013 on September 21st and 22nd respectively and like yourself placed them (reluctantly) under tristis, as they bore no real resemblance to that taxon.

It seems that if one has any doubts about their variable Chiffy, then tristis is the best place to leave it, until such a time that the WIP taxa is fully resolved.

I’ve read Vincent van der Speck’s ten year study of 515 Dutch Chiffies and have found it most interesting, particularly the reference to the two races brevirostris/caucasicus being first time recorded in Western Europe!

These both being found in North East Turkey below 1500 metres although no description of these two were given, it’s interesting that p.lorenzii and sindianus replace both taxons above 1500m to the West and East respectively and they are both “brown” Chiffies.

FWIW image 2 was coastal Sussex.



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