Status and distribution Breeds over much of Iberia (except the north and parts of central Spain), in southern France, through much of Italy and on the Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Malta. Further east found on the Adriatic from Slovenia to Greece, on Crete and many other Greek islands, in parts of Bulgaria and in northern & western Turkey. Has recently begun to breed on Cyprus. Also breeds in the Canary Is, across North-West Africa, in parts of coastal Libya and in the Near East from coastal Syria to northern Israel.
Most populations are partially migratory, in winter occurs widely in North Africa, Sinai and southern Turkey out of breeding range. Entirely migratory in the east of range in northern Adriatic and much of Turkey.
Vagrants recorded in Britain, Netherlands and Germany, the Scandinavian countries and Poland, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary, and Kuwait.
British records (c.55) now annual or almost so, mainly recorded in Shetland, on east & south coasts and on Scilly. They have occurred Mar-Nov but there is a distinct peak in late Apr.
Subspecies Nominate melanocephala is found over much of range replaced by variable leucogastra in the Canary Is, generally smaller and darker than nominate but always with less white on outer tail feathers. Race momus from the Middle East is paler and browner than nominate, whiter below with pinkish breast-sides and flanks.
Habitat Typically in maquis and garrigue, open woodland with dense undergrowth and bushy hillsides. Often in vineyards, olive groves, gardens and town parks.