Identification

The blackcap is a distinctive brown-grey warbler with a rather stocky build. The male has a glossy black cap (crown and forehead) and the female has a chestnut one. The legs and bill are grey and the tail lacks any white colour.

The garden warbler is a similar looking species to both sexes but lacks the black cap. Males can also be confused with marsh tits and willow tits, although the tits both have black bibs.
The blackcap's alarm call is a "tacc" sound, like two pebbles striking one another. It has a delightful fluting song, which has earned it the name ‘northern nightingale’. The songs of the blackcap and the garden warbler are very similar, but the garden warbler's song is often longer lasting with shorter pauses.

Size

The blackcap is a little smaller than a house sparrow. Length is 13-15cm (5-6in).

Distribution

The blackcap is primarily a summer visitor, arriving in April to May and leaving in September to October, although birds from Germany and north-east Europe are increasingly spending the winter in the UK.

Status

There is currently no identified threat to the blackcap’s population status.
It is thriving well, particularly with the milder winters the UK has experienced in recent years.

Habitat preference

Blackcaps are found in woods, parks and gardens with plenty of trees and shrubs.

Where to find them in the garden

Blackcaps readily come into gardens in winter. They are likely to be found where trees and shrubs provide shelter and will sometimes visit bird tables, particularly to feed on suet bars. Blackcaps occasionally make use of shelves in huts and outbuildings to support their nests.

Role in the garden

During the breeding season blackcaps pick insects from shrubs and trees, and at other times, particularly during winter, they feed on fruit such as berries.