Yvonne D's picture

Unidentified bird - juvenile of some sort perhaps?

Observed: 15th April 2010 By: Yvonne D
S159 Neighbourhood Nature - course complete
Yvonne D’s reputation in BirdsYvonne D’s reputation in Birds
bird 1
bird 2
bird 3
bird 4
bird 5

Seen in a bush in a neighbour's garden. It looks so familiar but I can't place it. Is it a juvenile of some sort? There were two of them - no obvious adult birds present. I thought it might have been a juvenile robin but it didn't appear spotty. There was a 'bar' starting halfway down the breast. Small bird - robin size or smaller. When it flew off it appeared to have the same 'wavy' flight of a blue tit but not as wavy.

Species interactions

No interactions present.

Species with which Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) interacts


Kluut's picture

Female blackcap

There are extremely few juveniles of any species around at the moment - a bit too early yet for the great majority of species.

Norwichnaturalist's picture

1st year bird

last summers juv moulting into adult called 1st winter birds

Colin Jacobs.
Wild Flower Society member

Apus's picture


I am intrigued! If a Blackcap (and the jizz is right for this) then there would be some semblance of cap, whether black for the male or red-brown for the female - juveniles also have this colour. However. it cannot be a juv yet, and last year's fledged birds look like adults now.It is probably a rather dull female Blackcap but it would be good to hear of other opinions.

Urophora's picture

Is it a Garden Warbler? No

Is it a Garden Warbler? No distinctive features is the distinctive feature of GW.

Kluut's picture

Quirk of the photo'

I had assumed that the cap was there but was not picked-up particularly well in the photo'.
They aren't a species that I regularly see, but the picture in my mind says that the depth of colour and definition of the cap in both sexes varies quite a bit.
Garden warbler is definitely possible.

Yvonne D's picture

Blackcap or Garden Warbler...

Thanks for all the comments so far. They are making interesting reading.

I don't remember seeing a distinct cap but I did get the impression of a 'flash' across the eye which doesn't show up in the photos at all. I know they aren't fantastic photographs which is one reason why I posted all 5.

Haven't seen the bird again today but if I do I have another look for a cap.

Alladell's picture


I believe this is Blackcap, in one of the pictures shows a light bar running up to the nape. But let me throw one in here Whitethroat


Kluut's picture


Too little contrast in any of the plumage, too subtle changes between shades of brown (IMO).

Yvonne D's picture


Have to agree there, the breast seemed to be a sort of olive-greenish colour rather than white. I've had a look at pictures elsewhere on the 'net and nothing I've seen shows that bar down the front which isn't a 'trick' of the photograph.

RoyW's picture


Presumably these are all photos of the same individual? (two were stated to be present).

The suggestions so far:
Blackcap; No. Not grey enough IMO, and there is no hint of a cap of any sort.
Garden Warbler; The first photo, in particular, does give a reasonable impression of this species because of the slightly grey neck sides and general chunky appearance. The 2nd to 4th photos also give the impression of a fairly bulky bird, and it is certainly lacking in many obvious features. I'll come back to this species later...
Whitethroat; No. In all plumages Common Whitethroat has obvious rufous colouring in the wings + a white throat. (Lesser Whitethroat also has an obvious white throat).

Now my opinion on the birds ID!:
Chiffchaff; The fifth photo just screams 'phyllosc'. In this photo it looks far less bulky and the bill can clearly be seen to be very fine and pointed. The bill is less clear in other photos but it never looks like the relatively short, fairly thick bill typical of Garden Warbler. The bird is fairly dull for a Chiffchaff, and lacks a prominent pale supercilium over the eye, but it is within normal variation for the species. In addition the primary projection looks to be fairly short which is good for Chiffchaff - not so good for Garden Warbler though which tend to be quite long winged.

If the photos are not all of the same individual I could possibly be persuaded that some of the other photos show a Garden Warbler - but I have no doubt whatsoever that the fifth is a Chiffchaff. I suspect that the bulky appearance in the first photos may be due to the bird being fluffed up, and perhaps partly due to the angle??
Both Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler can occasionally show a dark bar across the breast BTW.

Urophora's picture

I would go with Chiffchaff.

I would go with Chiffchaff. Phylloscopus was my first instinct, but I was put off by the Sylvia-like stance and the lack of eyestripe (and possibly by the suggestion of Blackcap). I put the GW ID in just to force the issue!

sirhandle's picture


I have to agree with Roy. The first thing that entered my head was Chiffchaff. There are lots of these around a campsite on the Wirral that I've just stayed on and I was watching them for some time. These photos just looked identical to what I was watching through the scope. I can't put it any more technical than that, it's just a feeling!

Just go out there and do it!!!

Syrphus's picture

This is a very good example

This is a very good example of the difficulty of ID by photograph. Not one of the contributors, I suspect, would have had a moment of doubt had they seen the beast in the flesh, even if it was not singing. The jizz of the live organism (plants and animals) is often a lot more significant in ID than the characters you will find in field guides and keys.



recording wildlife with The Recorder's Year on www.hbrg.org.uk/TRY.html.

bobthebirder's picture

mystery warbler

I agree entirely with RoyW, the first bird looks like garden warbler and the last bird looks like a chiffchaff. It's also pretty clear that both are the same bird! On reflection the first bird looks a bit like a garden warbler, and the last bird looks very much like a chiffchaff. So, on balance, it's a chiffchaff. I can't see why it doesn't show some sort of eyestripe though.

Finally, the dark bar down the chest is just due to a "parting" in the feathers, so can be discounted.

Bob Ford