The bird books tell me the Blackcap is ‘locally quite common from May to August’. I was curious therefore to spot a female Blackcap feeding on ivy berries in the back garden the other day. The male Blackcap has a blacker cap than the female.  Gordon D’Arcy’s book, ‘The Birds of Ireland’ tells me the Blackcap is a ‘shy bird’ and ‘only the patient observer is likely to see it’ as it lives mainly ‘in dense foliage’. In the last two days, this elusive warbler has been flitting about my little garden – are there changes afoot in the behaviour of the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) also known as Caipín dubh?

The spring 2012 edition of ‘Wings‘, the magazine of Birdwatch Ireland provides interesting answers to that question. Reporting on the latest Countryside Bird Survey, Dick Coombes says, ‘the star performer has to be the Blackcap, which has been on an amazing upward trajectory (average increase of 16% per year) since the start of the survey the(now in  the 15th year). It should be noted that breeding Blackcaps are essentially summer visitors, arriving from Africa in spring. The large number of birds that now winter in Ireland are believed to originate in central and eastern Europe – so an interesting “changing of the guard” takes place each spring and autumn.’  There you have it, so next time somebody gives out about the weather, it is worth remembering that European Blackcaps come to Ireland to escape the cold back home!


6 responses to this post.

  1. Blackcaps can winter in Ireland as unlike many warblers they can switch from insects to fruit. Try spearing an apple half on a branch to encourage them to hang around. Glad you’re enjoying the magazine!


    • Dear Birdwatch,
      A Golden Eagle would be proud of your sharp and quick observation of my Blackcap story. I will take on board your apple on a stick trick. Spotted a male this morning, that is three days of Caipíní Dubha in a small garden, very encouraging. Keep up your invaluable work for biodiversity.
      Beir bua is beannacht,
      Trevor Sargent


  2. Posted by Rosemary Charlton on December 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Only just over the last two weeks I’ve been putting apples and water out on my balcony (in the sprawling suburbs of West Dublin) for the blackbirds. A female blackbird found them within a day and she and her mate have become frequent visitors. I was amazed to see a male blackcap out there this morning. In the immediate area it’s mainly small suburban gardens. Not very many trees / shrubs. The river is just over a mile away with the surrounding woods and fields providing much more habitat variety.


    • Posted by Trevor Sargent on December 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Hi Rosermary,

      Glad to hear you are getting blackcaps to visit. Quite an exotic beautiful looking bird. It seems they are becoming more common, but I associate them mainly with areas close to woodland. Trees in backgardens and tree planting in open ground are all an encouragement to these native woodland birds. Another good reason to encourage tree planting whenever possible. I’m putting a picture of a female blackbird in Week 3 of December 2012 posting and may give you a mention. Hope you don’t mind!

      May your Christmas be a peaceful and happy one,



  3. Posted by stuart foster on February 5, 2013 at 11:32 am

    I have noticed ‘a’ Blackcap feeding on the winter fatballs I put out over the past month or so. ( The fatballs go out December time weather dependant). Where there is one there are probably more but to date I have seen what I think is the male bird only. I am on Achill Island, Mayo on an exposed site 7-800 yards from the ocean. The surrounding area is hill bog and well covered with gorse and the occassional tree.


    • Posted by Trevor Sargent on February 6, 2013 at 12:44 am

      Hi Stuart,

      Good to hear about your Blackcap visitor. Another anecdotal indication that Blackcaps are becoming more common and a little more tame when they are visiting bird feeders. Have not seen one in a while in my own garden here in Balbriggan. Glad to see Long-Tailed Tits meanwhile. They brighten up the dreary days when you see their acrobatics at the bird feeder.

      Good gardening,



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