This bird has distinct male and female plumages. Both sexes are mainly brown above and buff below, with chestnut fringes to the secondary remiges. The adult male has a grey head and a white throat. The female lacks the grey head, and the throat is duller. The Whitethroat's song is fast and scratchy, with a scolding tone.
This species was believed by some to be closely related to the Lesser Whitethroat, the species having evolved only during the end of the last ice age similar to the Willow Warbler and Chiffchaffs. But researchers learned soon that this is not correct, and now it is known that white throats are unreliable morphological markers for relationships in the genus Sylvia. Chestnut wing patches, like white throats, seem to beplesiomorphic, but indicate phylogeny better. Nonetheless, apart from the Whitethroat not being closely related to the Lesser Whitethroat group, little can be resolved as it seems a fairly basal taxon.
This is a bird of open country and cultivation, with bushes for nesting. The nest is built in low shrub or brambles, and 3-7 eggs are laid. Like most "warblers", it is insectivorous, but will also take berries and other soft fruit.