Key facts

Scientific name: Sylvia atricapilla

Status: Resident breeding species and summer visitor

Breeding birds: 1,200,000 territories

Wintering birds: 3,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 18 cm

Wingspan: 20 – 23 cm

Weight: 16 – 25 g


Blackcaps are large, robust warblers with long wings and a short tail.

Both sexes have grey-brown upperparts, pale grey underparts although the female is browner. Males have a glossy black cap and the female and juveniles have a chestnut brown cap.

Blackcaps look similar to marsh tits and willow tits but can be distinguished from them by the lack of a black bib.


Blackcaps make a cup-shaped nest from vegetation and mud which they build in hedges, bushes, brambles or on branches of trees. The nest is lined with fine grass and hair.

Blackcaps lay 4-6 smooth, glossy pale buff eggs with darker markings. Both adults incubate the eggs for 11-12 days. The young fledge after 10-14 days.


During breeding season blackcaps will eat mainly insects which they pick from leaves and twigs. At other times they will eat fruit and berries. During winter they will venture into gardens to eat from bird tables, in particular suet, fruit and bread.


Where to see them

Blackcaps can be found in woodlands, parks and gardens with plenty of trees and shrubs. Breeding birds arrive in April and May and leave in September and October. Some European blackcaps winter in the UK, mainly in England.


Francesco Sottile/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Blackcaps are sometimes referred to as northern nightingales because of their lovely song.

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