Status and distribution Widespread and common over most of range. Breeds in the British Is, France and most of Iberia east to the Urals, reaching about 67°N in Norway and Sweden and the White Sea in Russia. In the south breeds on Corsica, Sardinia the uplands of Italy and north-east Sicily, much of the Balkans and northern Greece, Crete and Cyprus and northern, western & southern parts of Turkey. Also breeds in the southern Crimea and Caucasus, and in North Africa in Morocco, north-east Algeria and north-west Tunisia.
A short-distance migrant in the north and east and also eruptive at times in northern areas. Mainly resident in the west and south. Migrants move towards the south-west and range expands in France and Mediterranean Europe in winter.
Subspecies Nominate race ater with pure white cheeks, slate-grey back and whitish belly with greyish-buff flanks, breeds from France east to Greece and eastern Europe and into Asia. British race britannicus differs in more olive upperparts and browner flanks and Irish hibernicus has white parts of head tinged yellow. Iberian race vieirae and sarda from Corsica and Sardinia are grey above with rufous flanks. Moroccan atlas has greyish-green upperparts, black chin reaching upper breast and smoky-grey flanks, ledouci from Algeria-Tunisia is similar but has white on head and underparts strongly tinged yellow. Cyprus race cypriotes has brown back with strongly rufous flanks and Crimean moltchanovi resembles large and pale nominate race. Caucasian races, michalowskii from northern & eastern Caucasus and Transcaucasia, derjugini from north-east Turkey and the western Caucasus, gaddi from Azerbaijan are large with brownish upperparts and greyish-buff flanks.
Nominate ater occurs rarely in Britain in winter.
Habitat Usually in coniferous woodland and especially spruce where present. Also occurs in deciduous woodland, eg in beechwoods in the Caucasus, and in mixed forests. Frequently occurs in town parks and gardens in Wn Europe, especially in winter.