Key facts

Scientific name: Phylloscopus collybita

Status: Breeding summer visitor

Breeding pairs: 1,200,000 territories

Wintering birds: 500 – 1,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 11 – 12 cm

Wingspan: 15 – 21 cm

Weight: 6 – 10 g


Chiffchaffs are medium sized birds with olive-green and brown upperparts. Their flight feathers and tails are brown with olive-green fringes.

Chiffchaffs’ underparts are white or very pale yellow and their flanks and breasts are yellow. The head is olive-brown and they have a white eye-ring and a dark brown eye stripe. Their eyes are dark brown and their legs and feet are black.

Both sexes look similar although the female is slightly smaller than the male. Juvenile chiffchaffs have grey-brown upperparts and pale yellow underparts.

Chiffchaffs can be identified by their distinctive “chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff” call which distinguishes them from the very similar looking willow warbler.


Chiffchaffs breed from April to early August. Females build their nests on the ground or just above it hidden in dense vegetation. The nests are ball-shaped and made of dry grasses, leaves, moss and feathers.

They lay 5-6 smooth, glossy white eggs with purple markings, which are incubated for 13-15 days.

The chicks are mainly fed by the female and will fledge the nest after 2 weeks, becoming fully independent after another 10-20 days.


Chiffchaffs mainly eat insects, caterpillars, aphids and moths. They will also feed from the sap of trees and in autumn and winter will supplement their diet with seeds and berries.


Where to see them

Chiffchaffs can be seen all over the UK except the far north of Scotland. Most of them arrive in March and have departed by September.

You will find them in lowland woodlands, parks and gardens.


David Bissett/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Chiffchaffs will only sing in trees that are more than 5 m high.

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