2 minute read

Titmice and Chickadees: Paridae

Black-capped Chickadee (poecile Atricapilla): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Black-capped chickadees have white outer tail feathers (longer than other chickadees), light gray on the upperparts, white under parts, white cheeks, deep brownish buff sides and flanks, rather large, round heads with black caps (patch on top of head) and bibs (chest). They also have strong feet and claws that are blackish gray, as well as short black bills. Males and females are similar in physical features. They are 4.8 to 5.7 inches (12.3 to 14.6 centimeters) long and weigh between 0.3 and 0.5 ounces (10 to 14 grams).

Geographic range: They range throughout the northern part of the United States and throughout the southern parts of Canada, up to the northwestern part of Canada and the south and central parts of Alaska.

Habitat: Black-capped chickadees are found in deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woodlands, including open areas such as gardens and parks, willow and cottonwood thickets, and small groves of trees and suburban gardens.

Diet: Black-capped chickadees eat a great number of different invertebrates such as insects and their larvae (LAR-vee), caterpillars, spiders, beetles, ants, sawflies, millipedes, snails, and small amphibians (land animals that breed in water), along with wild fruits, seeds (such as of conifers and bayberries), and bark during winter months. They forage throughout the tree canopy, but prefer low branches and rarely go to the ground. They often hold large seeds between their feet on a perch and pound the seed coat open with their beak. They store food in preparation for winter.

Behavior and reproduction: Black-capped chickadees fly slowly but can be quick-moving around pine cones, twigs, and branches. They do not generally migrate except for the ones that live in mountainous regions, where they move to lower elevations during colder months. Outside of the breeding season, the birds form groups of several bird species. During breeding season, they are territorial. Their song is a simple, high "fee-bee" with the second note lower than the first, or "fee-bee-be." They have a variety of calls, including a loud "chick-a-dee-dee-dee."

The chickadees nest in the cavities of rotted birch or pine trees that are usually 1 to 10 feet (0.3 to 3.0 meters) off the ground, often with both males and females digging their own hole but sometimes using natural holes or abandoned woodpecker holes. Nests are cup-shaped consisting of plant fibers, feathers, and hairs that are set on top of a moss base. Females lay white eggs that are dotted with brown from mid-April to late May (sometimes into July). Usually a single clutch of five to thirteen (but usually six to eight) eggs is laid each year. Incubation period is eleven to thirteen days, and brooding period is from twelve to eighteen days.

Black-capped chickadees and people: Black-capped chickadees are attracted to gardens in which sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet is available. There is no other special significance to humans.

Conservation status: Black-capped chickadees are not threatened, being common and very widespread with around 0.6 pairs per acre (0.25 pairs per hectacre). ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsTitmice and Chickadees: Paridae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Black-capped Chickadee (poecile Atricapilla): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, CHICKADEES TITMICE AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS