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Living with Birds 21 Facts on Whitethroat Tweetapedia

21 Facts

Whitethroat

  1. Unlike most warblers, the male whitethroat is a conspicuous, lively bird, singing his jaunty song from the tops of hedgerows or in a brief song flight.
  2. Whitethroats are curious birds, often investigating disturbances or checking on intruders.
  3. A cock whitethroat is easily identified by his unique combination of three features: a white throat, a pale grey cap and reddish-brown wings.
  4. The female lacks the male’s grey cap but has the white throat and bright rufous wings. She is generally much more retiring than her mate.
  5. The first cock whitethroats arrive back on the breeding grounds in Britain in late March, but the main arrivals take place from the third week of April.
  6. The females usually arrive a couple of weeks after the males, by which time the latter have already established their territories.
  7. The cocks attract the females with their song, aptly beautifully by Lord Grey of Fallodon as “fussy, as if the bird were always in a hurry or slightly provoked”.
  8. Though they do breed in Britain as far north as Shetland, they are most abundant in southern, central and eastern England.
  9. Their favoured habitats included scrub, hedgerows and woodland edge; the nest is built in a low bush or shrub, sometimes in tall grass.
  10. The nest is a deep cup, made from dry grass and roots and lined with finer roots, wool hair or plant-down
  11. Though they usually have only a single brood, some pairs will attempt to rear two.
  12. Both sexes take it in turns to incubate the eggs.
  13. The clutch of 4-5 eggs takes only 11-12 days to hatch, fledging a mere 12 days later.
  14. Once the breeding season is over the birds become inconspicuous and much more difficult to see.
  15. Southward migration starts in late July; most have left by early September.
  16. The main wintering ground for British whitethroats is in the Sahel zone of sub-Saharan Africa.  Birds from other populations go as far south as Zimbabwe.
  17. Severe drought conditions on the birds’ wintering grounds in West Africa in 1968/69 led to a population crash, with around 85% of the population lost.
  18. Though numbers have increased markedly since the crash, the British breeding population still hasn’t recovered fully today.
  19. Numbers have, however, been increasing in recent years, thought to be because of improved environmental conditions on the wintering grounds.
  20. There are many country names for the whitethroat, ranging from nettle creeper to beardie and hay jack.
  21. During the breeding season the diet is made up mainly of insects, but on autumn migration and on the wintering grounds it is chiefly berries.
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