Description 4 3/4 - 5 3/4" Males and females
both have a black cap and throat, white cheeks,
gray back, dull white underparts. Wing feathers
narrowly and indistinctly edged with white.
Habitat Deciduous and mixed forests and open
woodlands; suburban areas in winter.
Nesting Black-capped Chickadees are
monogamous and form long-term pair bonds.
They usually prepare their own nesting hole in soft,
rotting tree stumps. Both sexes help with nest
Enticing them into breeding boxes is difficult
unless the boxes are filled with sawdust, which
deceives the chickadees; they carry the sawdust
out bit by bit, as if to excavate, and accept the box
The female lays 6-8 brown-speckled white eggs in
a cup of grass, fur, plant down, feathers, and
moss. The nest cup is molded in fur and then
plugged with looser fur. The male brings food
while the female incubates. The un-incubated
eggs are covered with the fur plug while the female
is not in the nest. Incubation takes 11-13 days.
Both sexes tend the young..Young leave the nest
after 14-18 days. Fledglings stay with parents
about 3 weeks then leave their home territories.
The young birds settle in a new area by late
summer, and usually remain in that spot all their
Diet Insects, spiders, berries, and seeds
(especially sunflower seeds at feeders) make up
the majority of their diet. They readily come to seed
and suet feeders. Black-capped chickadees cache
food in fall and retrieve it up to a month later.
In winter, vegetable matter, including seeds and
fruit, insects, spiders, and the eggs of both are
common. During the summer, caterpillars become
increasingly important. Black-capped Chickadees
have also been seen scavenging fat from carrion.
Range Largely resident from Alaska east
across Canada to Newfoundland, south to
northern California, northern New Mexico, Missouri,
and northern New Jersey.
Regarding migration, Black-capped Chickadees
are considered permanent residents, but some
may wander in the fall because of food shortages.
Some northern populations undertake more
regular migrations, triggered by these shortages.
Flocks of this tame and inquisitive bird spend the
winter making the rounds of feeders in a
neighborhood, often appearing at each feeder with
striking regularity. Flocks of up to 12 include a few
young low-ranked birds that lack pair bonds and
often switch flocks.
Voice Sings a two note song; a buzzy
chick-a-dee-dee-dee or a clear, whistled fee-bee,
the second note lower and often doubled.
Discussion These birds are constantly active
-- hopping, often feeding upside down, clinging to
the underside of twigs and branches in their
search for insect eggs and larvae.
Chickadees form the nucleus of mixed flocks of
woodpeckers, nuthatches, creepers, and kinglets
that move through the winter woods. In spring,
chickadees disband into the woods to nest.
These friendly birds are year-round residents
in the pine trees above the feeders.
Sitting in the sun, the bucket fountain
became the "Chickadee Hot Tub"
Since becoming such regular
visitors to the fountain, I couldn't
resist adding the handpainted sign.
|The State Bird of
Maine and Massachusetts