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Common Whitethroat Male Whitethroat Male
White throat, grey crown, grey-brown upperparts, pinkish breast and white belly.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Sylvia communis
Length: 14 cm  (4½")
Wing Span: 18-23 cm  (7-9")
Weight: 12-18 g  (½ oz) Female Whitethroat Female
Like the male but has brown crown instead of grey.
Breeding Pairs: 600 000
Present: Summer
Status: Amber
Description   Voice   Feeding   Nesting   Movements   Conservation   My Garden  
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The Whitethroat is larger than the Lesser Whitethroat and is about the same size as a Great Tit.

Both sexes have chestnut brown wings (like a House Sparrow), a grey-brown mantle, pinkish-buff breast, white belly and, of course, a distinctive white throat. The tail is bordered with white.

Where the male has a grey crown, nape and ear coverts, the female is brown.

The bill is greyish-brown and the legs are pale brown. The eye is pale brown with a white eye ring.


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The Whitethroat's scratchy song has a jolty rhythm, which it usually sings from a prominent perch.

Whitethroats normally skulk in bushes and hedges, but when it is sunny they will often perch at the top of a bush and sing with gusto. They are also very inquisitive and will perch at the top of the bush to investigate, before scolding the intruder with a rapid churring call.

The Lesser Whitethroat sings less often and rarely perches out in the open.


In the breeding season they eat mainly insects, especially beetles, caterpillars and bugs. Towards the end of the summer and into the autumn they turn increasingly to berries.


Grass and roots are used by the male bird to build a deep cup-shaped nest. The female then chooses a nest and lines it with hair, down and wool. The nest is wedged in shrubs.

The duties of incubating the eggs are performed by both parents. The eggs are about 18 mm by 14 mm, smooth and glossy, pale blue or green with olive-grey speckles. Both adults feed the young birds.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
early May 1-2 3-7 11-13 10-12


The Whitethroat is a summer visitor (May to August) to woodland, heath and scrub. They migrate to Africa, south of the Sahara, for the winter.


The Whitethroat population crashed by about 70% between the 1968 and 1969 breeding seasons owing to droughts in the Whitethroat's wintering grounds in the western Sahel (a region of savannah south of the Sahara, stretching across the continent). Since then their numbers have been slowly recovering but are still only a fraction of their pre-crash level.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

The appearance of a Whitethroat in the garden one Sunday morning in May was a splendid surprise. There are quite a number of pairs of Whitethroats in the local woods and scrub (see local patch), but they have not ventured into the garden before.

Last revision: 01 Jul 2010
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2014.
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