Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)

General characteristics

Whitethroats are medium-sized warblers, and are known by their Latinate name, Sylvia communis i.e. Communis is Latin for “Common”, separate from the Lesser whitethroat, which has subtle yet different features (see the comparison below to see the difference between Common and Lesser varieties).

You’ll find the Common whitethroat features a distinct and lengthy tail, which is flicked quickly. Its head is grey, the throat is white, and there is a uniform brown back with buff underparts. It is a very lively bird that is renowned for its “scratchy” and jolty song, which can be heard from the tops of hedgerows, a favoured place. They are also known for their curiosity, which is evident by their boldness to investigate disturbances in near surroundings. If there is a threatening intruder, the Whitethroat will usually try to fend it off with an aggressive, rapid churring call. Because the bird appears in a number of areas around the world, it has been given a number of names, including “nettle creeper”, “beardie” and “hay jack”.

You wouldn’t normally discover a Whitethroat in your garden, as they prefer the open country. Yet saying this, there have been reports of Whitethroats entering garden spaces, so there’s every chance you might observe one at some point.

Whitethroat Migration

Whitethroats are passage migrants to the UK, preferring the warmth and comfort of southern climes as their wintering ground, which is, interestingly, the Sahel Region just south of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Sahel Region is a belt of land that spans the 3,360 mile length from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. It was here in the late 1960s that Whitethroats experienced one of their greatest challenges for survival: a severe drought which led to a huge population loss, which, studies reveal, affected as much as 85% of the total Whitethroat population. Although in general Whitethroats have recovered significantly, the British population has never returned to their previous numbers prior to the drought.

Sahel Region, Africa

The Sahel Region, Africa


Whitethroats build their nests primarily out of dry grass and roots, the lining of which is made from wool, finer roots and/or plant down. The nest is usually built in low shrub or brambles and among bushes in the open country. A typical clutch consists of between four and five eggs, with a hatching period of approximately eleven to twelve days. It is the duty of both males and females, which take responsibility in turn, to incubate the eggs and, once hatched, the subsequent fledgling period takes place around twelve days later.


The Whitethroat diet varies throughout the year, depending on circumstance. For instance, during the breeding season they will favour insects, whereas on autumn migration, and while on their African wintering grounds, they prefer to eat berries.

Interactive Whitethroat

What’s the difference between the Common and Lesser whitethroat?

Eyes Tail Legs Underparts
Lesser whitethroat faint white ring Short Dark grey Milky white
Common whitethroat Distinct white ring Long Pale/flesh-coloured Pinkish-buff

Look for these differences between the Common and Lesser whitethroat.

Common whitethroat - Sylvia communis

Common whitethroat – Sylvia communis

Lesser whitethroat - Sylvia curruca

Lesser whitethroat – Sylvia curruca

Recommended Whitethroat food

Dried mealworm

Dried mealworms are the perfect nutritional food for your garden birds. Ideal for attracting species such as Blue tits, Starlings and Blackbirds, dried mealworms can be soaked in water over night for an extra juicy treat for your birds.

Insect Suet Pellets

Containing a mix of real insects, these treats will give your garden birds a hearty meal in the winter months when natural food is scarce. Extremely nutritious, they’re packed with energy, protein, vitamins and minerals which also makes them ideal for feeding during the breeding season.

Mealworm suet pellets

Suitable for year round feeding, these suet pellets have been blended with dried mealworms to create a delicious, high energy treat for your garden birds.

Premium suet balls

Premium Wild Bird Suet Balls

Our premium suet balls each contain over 90g of high grade beef suet, wheat, peanuts and added dried mealworms. We guarantee your garden visitors will love this new recipe.