Saturday, 10 April 2010

Sorting the Chiffs from the Chaffs

When I was a lad, all you needed to do to ID a Chiffchaff was to look for dark legs and listen for either it's song, chiff-chaff or it's call hweet, hweet ........simple. But that has all changed.

Advances in taxonomy, thanks to birdbrains at the London Institute of Bird Science, now means that there are several different types of Chiffchaff. And what's more it takes more than a few good field notes to tell them apart. Now you'll need a Chiffchaff testing kit.

Portable Chiffchaff testing kit

The testing kit enables the birder to clearly ID; Common Chiffchaff, Siberian Chiffchaff and Iberian Chiffchaff.

Last Monday I came across two Chiffchaffs feeding in trees along the Brierdene in Whitley Bay. Luckily I had my testing kit with me.

First lets look at the evidence collected at the scene:




The upward inflection of the call is diagnostic of Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) but what I found interesting was the first note is immediately followed by a second at a slightly lower frequency. Checking the Xeno-Canto website showed this to be quite normal - take a look -

Conclusion: Common Chiffchaff

Another ornithological mystery solved.

Now just for fun, can anyone suss out what this is?

'Siberian Chiffchaff' Phylloscopus collybita tristis: discussion and photo gallery.

Identification of vagrant Iberian Chiffchaffs – pointers, pitfalls and problem birds
J. Martin Collinson and Tim Melling pdf

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