March 29th, 2012, 09:54 AM
Chiffchaff's normal 'huit' call restored in spring 2012
In spring 2011 a long thread developed (here) on the fact that a very high proportion of Chiffchaffs were using a so-called ‘alternative call’ i.e. the downward inflected ‘sweeoo’ note. There was some speculation as to whether the 'sweeoo' call would replace the traditional 'huit' call in the longer term, though references were cited indicating that such incidences of a dominant alternative call in spring/summer had been reported previously in various European countries and that they appeared to be intermittent. The reasons why such alterrnative calls become prevalent in some years remain elusive. This year there has already been a good influx of Chiffchaffs and it seems worth putting on record that, at least here in the midlands, the dominant call has reverted to the conventional, rising, 'huit' call. Indeed, it's early days yet, but so far I have not heard any 'sweeoo' calls this spring.
April 1st, 2012, 09:45 PM
The same here in East Norfolk so far this spring - only the traditional 'huit' call though not many birds in as yet. I'll check the site where I made last year's recordings of the downward inflected 'sweeoo' note later in the spring.
April 2nd, 2012, 08:31 AM
Same here (Northumbs) too.
April 2nd, 2012, 06:45 PM
Grahame Walbridge tells me that there has been a good passage of Chiffchaffs at Portland, with 150+ on one day last week. Despite these considerable numbers, he has heard only the normal 'huit' call, in stark contrast to last spring. In the New Passage area of Avon numbers have been much lower but John Martin too has heard only the normal call. Already the indications are that this year the situation is 'normal' and perhaps only any contradictions of that now need to be recorded here. Conversely, I'd suggest that it would be very worthwhile for anyone who logged the exceptional numbers of 'sweeoo' callers last spring to ensure that the fact is noted in their local county bird report. It was surely a notable phenomenon of 2011, as was noted on the net (especially Surfbirds) and yet, as far as I am aware, none of the national bird magazines or journals mentioned it. The treatment on the net was inevitably rather fragmented, as the situation evolved. For future researchers of the topic, some more formal documentation in print would be helpful.
P.S. 1200+ Chiffchaffs recorded at Portland on March 31st (per PBO website & GW)! GW has now heard 3 'sweeoo' callers but as a percentage of the total it's insignificant.
Last edited by ARD; April 3rd, 2012 at 12:02 PM.
Reason: Added a postscript
April 3rd, 2012, 05:12 PM
Probably just 'hinterland info' but just back form Eilat. Daily encounters with 10's of Chiffchaffs (last week of March) and almost none heard calling. Exceptions were one bird singing classic western song and one bird giving almost juv-like piercing 'swee' (essentially first syllable of 'swee-oo' call)- noted as odd by Israeli friend. Last November 10 days on Linosa Island (Italy), where maybe c1000 Chiffchaff per day- only call heard was 'hiut' bar one bird giving sharp 'swee' type call.
June 29th, 2012, 12:55 PM
Just found this thread. I've been noting the calls of Chiffchaffs in NE England for past few years. The following are proportions of birds giving swee-oo calls (and variations), compared to proportions giving huit call:
2009 - 43% (26/60)
2010 - 84% (154/183)
2011 - 51% (62/121)
2012 - 7% (1/15)
…so large numbers of birds giving swee-oo in 2009-11, but big drop this year. Is it the same population switching their calls between years? Or are we receiving different populations of Chiffchaff (each with their own call type), in different years?