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Common Chiffchaff - BirdForum Opus

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Alternative name: Eurasian Chiffchaff

Photo by Rayh
Spurn Point, October 2003
Phylloscopus collybita

Includes: Siberian Chiffchaff


10-12 cm (4-4¾ in)

  • Greenish olive-brown upperparts
  • Off-white underpart
  • Yellowish flanks
  • Short white supercilium
  • Fine dark bill and legs - but beware of recording willow warbler's legs as dark when they are in shadow.
  • Constantly dips tail when moving around in foliage.
Chiffchaff on the left and Willow Warbler on the right
Photo by Steve G

Confusion Species

See this discussion thread for differences between Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.


Breeds thoughout much of Europe and Asia, wintering in south and west Europe, southern Asia and northern Africa. Very patchy distribution in Scotland.

Subspecies P. c. tristis aka Siberian Chiffchaff
Photo by Alok Tewari
Basai Wetlands, Gurgaon, Haryana, India, January-2018


The Canary Islands Chiffchaff and the Iberian Chiffchaff have been considered conspecific with this species.


Six subspecies are recognized:[1]

  • P. c. abietinus:
  • P. c. collybita:
  • P. c. brevirostris:
  • Highlands of western Turkey and Black Sea coastlands of northern Turkey
  • P. c. caucasicus:
  • East of range of brevirostris at lower elevations south to Armenia
  • P. c. menzbieri:
  • Mountains of north-eastern Iran, eastern Alborz and Khorasan mountains n to adjacent Turkmenia
  • P. c. tristis:
  • Ural Mountains to north-eastern Iran, northern India and Bangladesh

Tristis is sometimes accepted as full species, called Siberian Chiffchaff.

Photo by the late Jim Wood
Shetland, 2011


Open woodlands, tall trees are required for singing in the breeding season. Low shrubs, brambles etc for nesting.


Flicks tail, downwards (this habit is not seen in Willow Warbler).


The female builds a domed nest with a side entrance, made from dead leaves and grass. Two to seven cream eggs with reddish-purple or blackish spots, are laid and incubated by the female for 13–14 days; the female cares for the young for about two weeks until they fledge.


The diet includes insects.

Photo by Scridifer
Goritsa, Bulgaria, May 2017


Song: the most reliable way to distinguish from Willow Warbler. It sings its name chiff chaff, chiff chaff, though sometimes mixes up to chiff chiff, chaff, chaff.
Call: a soft wheett

It sounds at first like a tristis but is much too downslurred and not flat enough.
Recording by Andrew Whitehouse
Nigg Bay, Aberdeen, Scotland, November 2016
More information about this recording can be found in this post


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Birdforum thread discussing finer points of identification between Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler
  3. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  4. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  5. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  6. Wikipedia

Recommended Citation

External Links

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