Black-Capped Chickadee

Scientific Name: Poecile atricapillus

Family: Chickadees and Titmice

Description: Little flocks of Black-capped Chickadees enliven the winter woods with their active behavior and their cheery-sounding chick-a-dee callnotes as they fly from tree to tree, often accompanied by an assortment of nuthatches, creepers, kinglets, and other birds. This is a very popular bird across the northern United States and southern Canada, always welcomed at bird feeders, where it may take sunflower seeds one at time and fly away to stuff them into bark crevices.

Habitat: Mixed and deciduous woods; willow thickets, groves, shade trees. Most common in open woods and forest edge, especially where birches or alders grow; avoids purely coniferous forest. Where it overlaps with other chickadee species in the north and west, Black-capped is mostly restricted to deciduous groves. Will live in suburbs as long as nest sites are available.

Feeding Behavior: Forages mostly by hopping among twigs and branches and gleaning food from surface, often hanging upside down to reach underside of branches. Sometimes takes food while hovering, and may fly out to catch insects in mid-air. Readily comes to bird feeders for seeds or suet. Often stores food, recovering it later.

Diet: Mostly insects, seeds, and berries. Diet varies with season; vegetable matter (seeds and fruits) may be no more than 10% of diet in summer, up to 50% in winter. Summer diet is mostly caterpillars and other insects, also some spiders, snails, and other invertebrates; also eats berries. In winter, feeds on insects (especially their eggs and pupae), seeds, berries, small fruits. Will eat fat of dead animals.

Eggs: Usually 6-8, sometimes more or fewer. White, with fine dots of reddish brown often concentrated around larger end. Incubation is by female only, 12-13 days. Female covers eggs with nest material when leaving nest. Male often brings food to female during incubation. Young: Female remains with young most of time at first, while male brings food; later, both parents bring food. Young leave nest at about 16 days. Normally 1 brood per year.

Nesting: Pairs typically form in fall and remain together as part of winter flock. Flocks break up in late winter, and both members of pair help defend nesting territory. Male often feeds female, beginning very early in spring. Nest site is in hole in tree, typically enlargement of small natural cavity in rotten wood, sometimes old woodpecker hole or nesting box; usually 5-20' above the ground. In natural cavity, both sexes help excavate or enlarge the interior. Nest (built by female) has foundation of moss or other matter, lining of softer material such as animal hair.

Young: Female remains with young most of time at first, while male brings food; later, both parents bring food. Young leave nest at about 16 days. Normally 1 brood per year.

Conservation Status: Widespread and common, and numbers apparently stable, possibly increasing in some areas.

Notes: Images captured in my bird feeder.

ATTRIBUTION: All of the bird images in this post are copyrighted and are the exclusive property of Terry B. Kahler. Reproduction without explicit written consent is prohibited. Some of the information contained in this section was taken from the National Audubon Society website and is being used under their terms of use. Redistribution from this site is prohibited.


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