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(Common) Whitethroat

Male Whitethroat
Both sexes: White throat, grey crown, grey-brown upperparts, pinkish breast and white belly.
Female Whitethroat
Both sexes: Like the male but has brown crown instead of grey.

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.

Scientific Name Sylvia communis
Length 14 cm  (4½")
Wing Span 18-23 cm  (7-9")
Weight 12-18 g  (½ oz)
Breeding Pairs 600000
Present Summer
Status Amber

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


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.


© Jean Roché,
Alarm Call

© Jean Roché,


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 Starts Clutches 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.