2008 Highlights – Blackcap

Blackcap was a new visitor to the garden, with a female appearing on 3 January and staying for a few weeks. This winter we’ve had regular visits from a male blackcap, who enjoys feeding on the birdcake we provide.

Fifty years ago only a few blackcaps ever used to winter in the UK, but over recent decades increasing numbers have appeared in gardens, especially in southern England where 31% of gardens in a BTO study hosted the species in 2003/4.

Intriguingly these birds are from Germany and Austria and have taken to migrating north and west rather than taking their previously traditional migrations southwest to Iberia. This change of behaviour may have been encouraged by the increasingly easy availability of food in our gardens and milder winters.

In spring, UK wintering birds are the first to arrive back in their breeding grounds. Work by Peter Berthold, Stuart Bearhop and others has revealed that these birds tend to breed amongst themselves and are generally more successful than birds returning later from south west Europe. This may explain why we are seeing this migratory behaviour spreading through the population. Ultimately it may lead to speciation, an interesting example of evolution in action over a very short space of time.

See article here for further reading.


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  • About

    In this blog we'll describe the day to day comings and goings of the birds in our Devon garden.
  • About us

    Tony is a naturalist and environmental artist. Laura is a free range creative web and print designer. We've recently moved from the village of Ipplepen to the town of Newton Abbot with our two children Ralph and Oli, our dog Henry, and numerous cats (none of whom would ever dream of eating birds).
  • Species List

    List of species, including only those birds that land in the garden:
    Blue tit
    Carrion Crow
    Chiff chaff
    Coal tit
    Collared dove
    Great spotted woodpecker
    Great tit
    House Sparrow
    Long tailed tit
    Mistle thrush
    Pied wagtail
    Song thrush
    Wood pigeon

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