Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla heineken (Jardine, 1830)

Order: Passeriformes Family: Sylviidae Status: Breeding in Madeira

Madeira Firecrest
Madeira Firecrest
Blackcap - melanistic form

Recommended birdwatching tours to watch this bird

Full-day birdwatching
Half-day birdwatching

Eurasian Blackcap Field ID Keys

Shape & Size

A medium-sized warbler.

Colour Pattern

Its body is uniformly brown-grey with the upperparts darker than the underparts. Males have a black cap while females have it reddish-brown. Its bill and legs are dark
There is a melanistic variety of this species whose colour is darker with all head with the same colour as the cap, due to a recessive gene. Most of the melanistic birds are males.


This is a rather shy bird, keeping hidden in trees and shrubs, only revealing its presence by song. Blackcap’s flight is short, quite heavy with quick, flicking wingbeats.
Blackcap’s song is louder and more complete during breeding season, in defense of their territory.


Blackcap inhabit relatively dense shrubby areas, mixed woodland and large gardens up to a maximum altitude of 1000 meters, not so commonly found in the Laurel forest.
The Blackcap is a very common bird on the island of Madeira, contrary to the other islands of the Archipelago, where it is considered a migratory bird.

Distinction from similar species

The subspecies S. a. heineken of Blackcap is endemic to Macaronesia, being easily identified by its loud song and non-musical calls, at times not unlike those of the Blackbird

Sylvia atricapilla Biometrics

Wingspan: 20 - 23 cm (Hume, 2002)
Total length: 13 - 14.5 cm (Hume, 2002 & Duivendijk, 2010)
Weight: 14 - 20 g (Hume, 2002)

Other Bird Facts

Seasonality in Madeira: All year
Breeding: Nests are built in shrubs where 4 to 5 eggs in each of the 2 broods between April and July.
Diet: Takes insects from foliage but also feeds on berries and polen.


Madeira local status by Correia-Fagundes et al, 2021: Very common breeding bird
Madeira local status by Romano et al, 2010: Very Common breeding bird
Madeira local status by Zino et al, 1995: Very Common breeding bird
Conservation status by the IUCN Red List Categories, 2013: Least Concern ver 3.1

According to a legend, when a blackcap’s nest had 5 eggs in it, the last egg laid would be of the melanistic variety. This was to explain why the melanistic individuals were much less common than the non-melanistic birds.

Name of this species in other languages

Madeiran: Toutinegra, Cabeça preta
Portuguese: Toutinegra-de-barrette-preto, Toutinegra
German: Madeira M√∂nchsgrassm√ľcke, M√∂nchsgrasm√ľcke
Dutch: Zwartkop
Swedish: Svarthätta
Danish: Munk
Finish: Mustapääkerttu
Norwegian: Munk
Spanish: Curruca Capirotada
French: Fauvette à tête noire
Italian: Capinera di Madeira, Capinera
Polish: Kapturka
Slovak: Penica ńćiernohlav√°
Czech: Pńõnice ńćernohlav√°
English synonyms: European Black-cap

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