AskDefine | Define chiffchaff

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative forms

  • chiff-chaff


chiffchaff (plural chiffchaffs)
  1. A small, common warbler, Phylloscopus collybita, with yellowish-green plumage that breeds throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia.


Extensive Definition

The Common Chiffchaff or simply Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita, is a common and widespread leaf warbler, named for its distinctive onomatopoeic song, which breeds in open woodlands throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia.
It is a migratory passerine which winters in southern and western Europe, southern Asia and north Africa. Greenish-brown above and off-white below, it is named for its simple chiff-chaff song. It has a number of subspecies, some of which are now treated as full species. The female builds a domed nest on or near the ground, and assumes most of the responsibility for brooding and feeding the chicks, whilst the male has little involvement in nesting, but defends his territory against rivals, and attacks potential predators.
A small insectivorous bird, it is subject to predation by mammals, such as cats and mustelids, and birds, particularly hawks of the genus Accipiter. It may also acquire external or internal parasites. Its large range and population mean that its status is secure, although one subspecies is probably extinct.


The British naturalist Gilbert White was one of the first people to separate the similar-looking Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Wood Warbler by their songs, as detailed in 1789 in The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, but the Chiffchaff was first formally described as Sylvia collybita by French ornithologist Louis Vieillot in 1817 in his Nouvelle Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle.
Described by German zoologist Heinrich Boie in 1826, the genus Phylloscopus contains about 50 species of small insectivorous Old World woodland warblers which are either greenish or brown above and yellowish, white or buff below. The genus was formerly part of the Old World Warbler family Sylvidae, but has now been split off as a separate family Phylloscopidae. The Chiffchaff's closest relatives, other than former subspecies, are a group of leaf warblers which similarly lack crown stripes, a yellow rump or obvious wing bars; they include the Willow, Bonelli's, Wood and Plain Leaf Warblers.


  • P. c. collybita, the nominate form, breeds in Europe east to Poland and Bulgaria, and is described below. It mainly winters in the south of its breeding range around the Mediterranean and in North Africa. It has been expanding its range northwards into Scandinavia since 1970 and close to the southern edge of the range of P. c. abietinus.
  • P. c. abietinus occurs in Scandinavia and northern Russia, and winters from southeastern Europe and northeastern Africa east to Iraq and western Iran. It is intermediate in appearance between P. c. tristis and P. c. collybita, being grey-washed olive-green above with a pale yellow supercilium, and underparts whiter than in P. c. collybita, Nominate P. c. collybita and P. c. tristis do not recognize each other's songs. Pending resolution of the status of P. (c.) fulvescens, which is found where the ranges of P. c. abietinus and P. c. tristis connect and may or may not This species is found in Portugal and Spain, west of a line stretching roughly from the western Pyrenees via the mountains of central Spain to the Mediterranean; the Iberian and Common Chiffchaffs co-occur in a narrow band along this line. Apart from the northernmost section, the precise course of the contact zone is not well-documented. A long-distance migrant, this species winters in western Africa. It differs from P. c. collybita in vocalisations, and mtDNA sequences. and hybrids apparently show much decreased fitness; Regarding the latter aspect, it is interesting to note that the Iberian Chiffchaff apparently is the oldest lineage of chiffchaffs and quite distinct from the Common Chiffchaff.
  • P. sindianus, the Mountain Chiffchaff, is found in the Caucasus (P. s. lorenzii) and Himalayas (P. s. sindianus), and is an altitudinal migrant, moving to lower levels in winter. The nominate subspecies is similar to P. c. tristis, but with a finer darker bill, browner upperparts and buff flanks; its song is almost identical to P. collybita, but the call is a weak psew. P. s. lorenzii is warmer and darker brown than the nominate race; external morphology, and mtDNA sequences. There are similar names in some other European languages, such as German Zilpzalp and Welsh siff-saff. The binomial name is of Greek origin; Phylloscopus comes from phyllon/φυλλον, "leaf", and skopeo/σκοπεω, "to look at" or "to see", since this genus comprises species that spend much of their time feeding in trees, while collybita is a corruption of kollubistes, "money changer", the song being likened to the jingling of coins.
The song differs from that of the Iberian Chiffchaff, which has a shorter djup djup djup wheep wheep chittichittichiittichitta. However, mixed singers occur in the hybridisation zone and elsewhere, and can be difficult to allocate to species. In winter, the Chiffchaff uses a wider range of habitats including scrub, and is not so dependent on trees. It is often found near water, unlike the Willow Warbler which tolerates drier habitats. There is an increasing tendency to winter in western Europe well north of the traditional areas, especially in coastal southern England and the mild urban microclimate of London.
Beyond the core territory, there is a larger feeding range which is variable in size, but typically ten or more times the area of the breeding territory. It is believed that the female has a larger feeding range than the male. but it recognises and rejects non-mimetic eggs and is therefore only rarely successfully brood-parasitised. Like other passerine birds, the Chiffchaff can also acquire intestinal nematode parasites and external ticks.
The main effect of humans on this species is indirect, through woodland clearance which affects the habitat, predation by cats, and collisions with windows, buildings and cars. Only the first of these has the potential to seriously affect populations, but given the huge geographical spread of P. c. abietinus and P. c. tristis, and woodland conservation policies in the range of P. c. collybita, the Chiffchaff's future seems assured.


External links

chiffchaff in Bulgarian: Елов певец
chiffchaff in Czech: Budníček menší
chiffchaff in Welsh: Siff-saff
chiffchaff in Danish: Gransanger
chiffchaff in German: Zilpzalp
chiffchaff in Spanish: Phylloscopus collybita
chiffchaff in Esperanto: Frua filoskopo
chiffchaff in French: Pouillot véloce
chiffchaff in Ido: Chifchafo
chiffchaff in Icelandic: Gransöngvari
chiffchaff in Italian: Phylloscopus collybita
chiffchaff in Lithuanian: Pilkoji pečialinda
chiffchaff in Hungarian: Csilpcsalpfüzike
chiffchaff in Dutch: Tjiftjaf
chiffchaff in Norwegian: Gransanger
chiffchaff in Norwegian Nynorsk: Gransongar
chiffchaff in Polish: Pierwiosnek (ptak)
chiffchaff in Slovak: Kolibkárik čipčavý
chiffchaff in Finnish: Tiltaltti
chiffchaff in Swedish: Gransångare
chiffchaff in Turkish: Bayağı çıvgın
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1