Blackcap

Sylvia atricapilla

SUBFAMILY

Sylviinae

TAXONOMY

Sylvia atricapilla Linnaeus, 1758. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Fauvette à tête noire; German: Mönchsgrasmücke; Spanish: Curraca Capirotada.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

5.5 in (14 cm); 0.5-0.7 oz (15-21 g). Medium-sized, with plumage ranging from slate gray in adult males to olive or brown in females and juveniles. Crown is distinctive (black in adult males, rufous in females and juveniles). Wings are long and pointed, with long primary projection. Bill is black, relatively long, and pointed. Legs long.

DISTRIBUTION

Breeds from British Isles and southern Scandinavia throughout Western and Central Europe to coastal northwest Africa, Mediterranean, Near East, and west to central Russia and northern Iran.

HABITAT

Forest with tall undergrowth, from riparian areas, parks and gardens to boreal forest and alpine forest to treeline.

BEHAVIOR

Arboreal and very active. Males territorial, defending with song, displays, and agonistic behavior. Mimicry of other birds is occasionally incorporated into song. Mixed partial migrant: individuals in northern range migrate south, while individuals in southern range (the Mediterranean area) are residents or partial migrants.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds in trees and shrubs, gleaning insects and other arthropods from leaves and branches. During migration and on wintering grounds, fruits constitute a large part of the diet.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Pairs solitary and territorial, generally monogamous. Site-fidelity is high in migratory populations. Courtship involves construction, by the male, of several loose 'cock nests'. The female completes the final nest, a fine cup typically located in dense vegetation of a tree or shrub above ground. Both parents incubate 2-6 eggs (typically 5) for 10-16 days. Feeding young in the nest (8-14 days) and after fledging (for about two weeks) is also shared.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

A familiar songbird easily recognized by appearance and voice. It is a model system for the study of the physiology and evolution of bird migration, and for the study of avian diet and energetics, especially as related to movement and seasonal food availability. ♦

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