Bird Song (28) – whitethroats

We have two species of ‘whitethroat’ warblers in the UK, the Common Whitethroat and the Lesser Whitethroat. They look rather similar, although there are lots of differences when you look closely, and they live in similar habitats (hedgerows and scrub) but they sound quite different.

Both have now arrived in east Northants, with Lesser Whitethroat on 10 April being the earliest arrival date ever in this county.

Here’s the (Common) Whitethroat;

Whitethroat. Photo: Tim Melling

See the white throat?! And it has a grey head with white underparts and a brownish back with a chestnut panel on the wings. When it is perched you’ll see its orangey legs. The song is often delivered in a dancing flight a few feet above a hedgerow before diving back into the vegetation.

And it sounds like this. Here’s one from central France;

And this is from Belgium:

and here is another from the UK:

Whereas the Lesser Whitethroat;

…has a white throat, grey head and whitish underparts but a greyish brown back without the chestnut wing patch and has blue legs. Quite similar, but at the same time quite different! Lesser Whitethroats never do anything as flamboyant as a song flight, they skulk.

And sound like this, this one is from Poland (with a Hoopoe in the background):

And this from Berlin, Germany:

And here is one from the UK:

The Whitethroat chatters whereas the Lesser Whitethroat rattles.

My impression, I may be wrong, is that Lesser Whitethroats don’t sing anything like as much as do Whitethroats. If you think you’ve heard one, you may have to wait wuite a while for it to sing again whereas the Whitethroat pumps out song at a remarkable rate when it gets back to our farmland from its winter stay on the far side of the Sahara.

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