Iberian Chiffchaff: Sonograms & Ageing!

Following its discovery just over two weeks ago, the male Iberian Chiffchaff was still holding it’s territory at Thurstaston Common just down the road from my college this afternoon; would have been rude not to make plenty of visits to see this epic & educational bird during its stay given its location. During my visits over the past two weeks one shot I have been wanting to get is an open-wing shot, but why? For those of you who are subscribers to British Birds, then you might recall an article from Vol 8 2017 which educates one on how to age this southern chiffer. If readers aren’t already aware, then despite not being a ringer I have fixation on the ageing, sexing and identification down to subspecies level, on all things birds.

Iberian Chiffchaff full song_edited-1

Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus)

The key to ageing Iberian Chiffchaff is the primaries, which if you’ve got good enough eye-sight, in the image below you’ll note the bird has fresh unworn primaries from P1-P5. Compare that to primaries ascending towards the body from P6 and you’ll notice they’ve got a worn tatty edge to them (most evident in P6 & P7).

When a 1cy Phylloscopus ibericus reaches its wintering grounds, over the winter period it’ll undergo a partial moult which includes the outer primaries. As you can see in the image below, it has retained its 1cy P6-P10 but moulted P1-P5, this meaning we can age the bird as a 1st summer/2cy. Now nailing the age of the bird, I moved onto my next task of collecting sound recordings.

Iberian Chiffchaff how to Age_edited-1

1st summer male Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus)

Annoated diagram of Ib Chiff

Annotated diagram of 1st summer male Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus)

A sonogram is a graph that represents sound, it visualises the distribution of energy at different frequencies and has become an ever increasingly common method of field-craft amongest the British Ornithological community. I myself have even taken up the new technological challege as I love learning and this is just another area I wish to build up my experience in. Given how some species such as Iberian Chiffchaff rely heavily on sound recordings to be accepted to prove the bird isn’t just some odd singing collybita or hybrid, then getting sound recordings are vital. Thankfully, myself and other local Birders such as J. Turner have a great deal of recordings for this putative Iberian Chiffchaff.

I’ll admit, my recordings aren’t the best (to me anyway), but below are three recordings from today of the Iberian Chiffchaff:


Thanks for reading,



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