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.