Mountain Chickadee
Description  5 - 5 3/4"  Similar to Black-capped Chickadee, but with white
eyebrow and pale gray flanks.  Both sexes and juveniles share similar plumage.

Habitat   Mountain Chickadees are typically found in dry coniferous forests,
especially Ponderosa and lodgepole pines. During the summer they can also be
found in high-elevation aspen forests. In winter, they sometimes inhabit juniper
stands and river bottoms.

Diet   Insects, spiders, the eggs of both, conifer seeds, and berries make up the
majority of these omnivores' diets. During fall and winter, they rely heavily on
conifer seeds. During the breeding season, insects, especially caterpillars,
become more important.

Like many members of its family the Mountain Chickadee hides food to eat later.
It hides seeds and occasionally insects under bark, in pine needle clusters, and
in the ground. An unusual cache site was inside a moth cocoon, where the
seeds forced into it killed the pupae inside.

Nesting  During the breeding season Mountain Chickadees are territorial, but
will join mixed-species flocks in winter. They are monogamous and form
long-term pair bonds,  within the winter flocks.

Like other chickadees, it sometimes excavates a hole in soft, rotten wood.  It may
also accept a natural cavity or woodpecker hole. The nest cup is molded in fur
and then plugged with looser fur. The female lays and incubates 7-9 white eggs,
sometimes with reddish-brown spots.  The un-incubated eggs are covered with
the fur plug while the female is not in the nest.

Juveniles leave their home territories about three weeks after fledging. The young
birds settle in a new area by late summer, and usually remain in that spot all
their lives.

Range   Resident from interior British Columbia south through Rocky Mountain
and Cascade-Sierra chains to southern California and western Texas.

Mountain Chickadees are mostly permanent residents, although food shortages
may induce some (especially juveniles) to move to lower elevations in winter.  
The Mountain Chickadee is the only species to be met in winter in the "silent"
forests,  where temperatures routinely fall below freezing and the trees are often
covered with a layer of impenetrable glazed snow.

Voice   A hoarse chick-a-zee-zee, zee. Spring song is similar to that of the
Black-capped Chickadee, but 3-noted:
fee-bee-bee, the bees at a lower pitch.

Discussion   A constantly moving insect-gleaner of the mountain forest, the
Mountain Chickadee frequently descends into the lowlands in winter. In
November an occasional flock can be found near sea level in desert oases
containing planted conifers, while other flocks forage at 8,500 feet in the
sub-alpine forests of nearby mountains.
These "mountain cousins"  to the black-capped chickadee, are permanent residents in the pine trees
above the feeder.
This is my favorite 'chickadee' picture.  I am not convinced this adorable bird is a mountain chickadee.  
He has the eyebrow marking, but also has the darker red color that favors the chestnut backed.  And this
chestnut color is much darker than the buff of the black capped chickadee.  No matter what his true
lineage is, he is my favorite.  In fact, you can see a mosaic tray I fashioned after his likeness
here.
This little guy wasn't entirely happy with the water-bubbling fish mouth.
October 2004
November 2004
March 2006
July 2006
December 2005
December  2007