Chiffchaff – ringing recoveries

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor

Since 2009,  2157 chiffchaffs have been ringed at various sites on the Pembrokeshire mainland.   Another 2000 or so were ringed on Skokholm in that period.

These days, ringing is primarily for monitoring bird populations – their survival, reproductive rates, and so on.  It is a very important tool in understanding how and when bird populations change. 

A good proportion of the chiffchaffs ringed on the mainland are part of Constant Effort Site ringing, which is designed for population monitoring.  Many of the birds ringed will be breeding, or will have hatched on that site.  They will often be retrapped on the same site, in the same or subsequent years. These birds are not included in the map.

Chiffchaffs ringed on Skokholm are on migration.  They may be heading north in spring, and south in winter, although occasionally a bird seems to be going in the wrong direction as it overshoots its destination.  An example is a bird that was ringed on Skokholm in spring, but subsequently settled to breed in Cornwall that summer.

This map shows where birds ringed in Pembrokeshire went to, or where birds ringed elsewhere came from.

Ringing has been undertaken on Skokholm and elsewhere in Pembrokeshire for many decades, but the earlier data isn’t currently easily available. 

The apparently low number of birds that have left mainland Pembrokeshire reflect the fact that a large proportion are ringed as fledgelings and  juveniles, which are very vulnerable to predation.  Birds that have made it as far as Skokholm before being ringed are a bit older, and so have a much better chance of survival.

Meanwhile, that chiffchaff from Keeston is the oldest, and the furthest-travelled, chiff-chaff from Pembrokeshire in the last decade at least.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)

Data from Mike and Theresa Sherman of the Pembrokeshire Ringing Group, from the Skokholm Island Annual Reports, and from the BTO website.

More about the Chiffchaff in Pembrokeshire

Chiffchaff – 2003-07 breeding

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed131101
Breeding probable239319
Breeding possible108
No of tetrads occupied380 (of 478)428 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads79.5%87.3%

The repetitive song which gives the Chiffchaff its name is a familiar sound in the summer time. It favours deciduous rather than coniferous trees but is widespread in the county. The domed nest is usually well concealed and placed low down in the available vegetation.

Chiffchaff numbers have been increasing across Europe since about 1980. The first estimate of the Pembrokeshire breeding population was made following the results of the 1984-88 survey. At an average density of 15 pairs per occupied tetrad, a total of 6,000 pairs was suggested.

By the end of the 2003-07 survey a 13% spread in distribution had been plotted in Pembrokeshire and the BBS noted a 42% increase in Wales between 1994 and 2007. Using these figures an estimate of 8,500 pairs breeding in the county by 2007 emerged.

More about the Chiffchaff in Pembrokeshire

Chiffchaff – 1994

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor

Map produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre
1984-88
Breeding confirmed131
Breeding probable239
Breeding possible10
No of tetrads occupied380 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads79.5%

“This tiny bird is by far the most numerous of our summer visitors” said Mathew (1894) of the Chiffchaff, and it remains a widespread breeding species in Pembrokeshire. Lloyd (in his diaries for 1921-1934) and Lockley et al. (1949) considered it outnumbered the Willow Warbler in the breeding season, with Lloyd estimating a ratio of at least 2:1 in favour of the Chiffchaff. Lockley (1957) later modified his view, stating the Chiffchaff was “probably” more abundant than Willow Warbler. Using data from census work on Dyfed Wildlife Trust reserves at Rosemoor, Old Mill Grounds and Pengelli Forest an estimate for average breeding density of about 15 pairs per tetrad was obtained, suggesting a total county population of around 6,000 pairs; the estimate for the Willow Warbler is seven times this amount.

Overwintering birds obscure the validity of early and late dates of migrants. However, they do not winter on the islands, so passage dates quoted here are based on islands data only. The first Chiffchaffs usually arrive in the middle of March, but sometimes from 3 March stragglers to the end of the month, peaking in the islands in the autumn between July and 9 November, with one at Skomer from 17 to 30 November 1987.

Birds resembling the grey northern race P. c. abietinus and paler eastern race P. c. tristis have been noted on both spring and autumn passage.

The Chiffchaffs which regularly winter in Pembrokeshire, mainly in woodland, including Slebech and Bosherston, and willow carr, such as Castle Pill, are not necessarily birds which have bred locally.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

LOCKLEY, R.M. 1957. Pembrokeshire. London, Robert Hale.

More about the Chiffchaff in Pembrokeshire

Chiffchaff – 1980s winter

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor

The BTO winter atlas showed that Chiffchaffs were present in 41% of 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84.

The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents 3 or more birds seen in a day.

However, it should be noted that the figures show a high correlation with the number of recording cards returned (therefore related to recording effort) for each 10km square. 

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

Data collected by volunteers for the BTO. Lack, P. 1986 Atlas of wintering birds in Britain and Ireland. T & A.D. Poyser.

More about the Chiffchaff in Pembrokeshire

Chiffchaff – 1949

Phylloscopus collybita collybita

“By far the most numerous of our summer visitors, and is greatly in excess of the Willow Warbler” – Mathew, who quotes Dix as saying that in the north-east of the county it is “about equal in number to the willow warbler”.  Dix is right; but for the rest of the county the Chiffchaff predominates.  Mathew says a few remain throughout the winter, and this is the case to-day, in mild winters.  On passage through the islands, this species is much less numerous than the Willow-Warblers.  Usually arrives first week in March.

R.M.Lockley, G.C.S.Ingram, H.M.Salmon, 1949, The Birds of Pembrokeshire, The West Wales Field Society

More about the Chiffchaff in Pembrokeshire

Chiffchaff – 1894

Phylloscopus rufus

This tiny bird is by far the most numerous of our summer visitors, and is greatly in excess of the Willow Warbler. In the shrubberies at Stone Hall, in the spring of 1885, we noticed eleven nests of the Chiffchaff, and only one of the Willow Warbler, and this, we think, is an approximation to the relative numbers in which these birds occur.

From our experience in various parts of England, we have come to regard the Chiffchaff as more a bird of the hills, and the Willow Warbler as belonging to the plains. In North Devon, where we once resided, it was moderately hilly, and there the two birds were met with in about equal numbers. Where we are living now, on the Radstock coal measures some 500 feet above the sea-level, the Chiffchaff is very numerous, and the Willow Warbler is seldom seen, just as is the case in North Pembrokeshire. In his north-eastern corner of the county, when he was at the other side of the Precelly Mountains which greatly influence the distribution of the Warblers with us, cutting many species entirely off from our northern and central districts, Mr. Dix had failed to notice this preponderance of the Chiffchaff we have pointed out. He observes of the Willow Warbler: “Much less numerous than in the east of England;” and of the Chiffchaff, “This is about equal in number to the Willow Warbler,” and he considered that the Chiffchaff was more numerous in his neighbourhood in the autumn than it was in the spring. A few Chiffchaffs remain with us for the winter; we have seen one at Stone Hall in the beginning of January.

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Chiffchaff in Pembrokeshire

Chiffchaff

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor

Chiffchaff – 2003-07 breeding

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor Comparison with previous atlas: 1984-88 2003-07 Breeding confirmed 131 101 Breeding probable 239 319 Breeding possible 10 8 No of tetrads occupied 380 (of 478) 428 (of 490) Percentage of tetrads 79.5% 87.3% The repetitive song which gives the Chiffchaff its […]

Chiffchaff – 1994

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor 1984-88 Breeding confirmed 131 Breeding probable 239 Breeding possible 10 No of tetrads occupied 380 (of 478) Percentage of tetrads 79.5% “This tiny bird is by far the most numerous of our summer visitors” said Mathew (1894) of the Chiffchaff, and […]

Chiffchaff – 1980s winter

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor The BTO winter atlas showed that Chiffchaffs were present in 41% of 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents 3 or more […]

Chiffchaff – 1968-72 breeding

Phylloscopus collybita – SIFF-SAFF/SIFF SIAFF – Breeding summer visitor, passage migrant and winter visitor Red = breeding confirmed Orange = breeding probable More about the Chiffchaff in Pembrokeshire

Chiffchaff – 1949

Species account from the Birds of Pembrokeshire, 1949, by Lockley, Ingram and Salmon.

Chiffchaff – 1894

Phylloscopus rufus This tiny bird is by far the most numerous of our summer visitors, and is greatly in excess of the Willow Warbler. In the shrubberies at Stone Hall, in the spring of 1885, we noticed eleven nests of the Chiffchaff, and only one of the Willow Warbler, and this, we think, is an approximation to the relative numbers […]