Are blackcaps outstaying their welcome?

The blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) is a pretty little bird. It used to be a summer visitor here in Britain, but now its habits are changing. More and more blackcaps are overwintering here. Maybe it’s because of climate change. Maybe it’s because people are putting out food for the birds.

Are blackcaps overloading orchards with mistletoe? Are blackcaps driving away other garden birds?

My fellow blogger Jonathan Briggs at Mistletoe Matters thinks there may be too many mistletoe seedlings for English orchard trees to carry. Jonathan says this might be because of blackcaps speading mistletoe seeds when they’ve eaten the berries.

Michael McCarthy at the Independent calls the blackcap a new bird in our midst and suggests that we get to know it, but with caution. Another of my fellow bloggers, petrel41, calls the blackcap a real angry bird because it’s not always very polite to the bird species which already overwinter here.

What’s really going on? If you’re in Britain, you might want to send observations this month to the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden Blackcap Survey.

[Edit] You might want to follow my link to Mistletoe Matters to see Jonathan Briggs’ conversation with another blogger, Finn Holding of the Naturephile. Apparently the overwintering blackcaps here may not be our summer visitors outstaying their welcome. They may be an influx of new blackcaps, migrating from Eastern Europe.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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4 Responses to Are blackcaps outstaying their welcome?

  1. Tony says:

    Yes, you can regard your wintering Blackcaps as immigrants from places, the like of Holland, Belgium and Germany. More bizarrely during last year, my neighbours and I had summering Blackcaps taking food from our feeders. At least, my year-round feeding proved beneficial to both migrant and non-migrant species in this case.

    • argylesock says:

      It’s good to have another birder reading my blog. As you’ll have noticed, I’m not a real birder but I like reading about birds.

      • Tony says:

        Very good to see. Birds are useful indicators of whether all is well within a particular environment. I am not really a scientist but I am a fledgling who is keen to learn.

  2. Pingback: Blackcaps | Science on the Land

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