Black-capped ChickadeePoecile atricapillus

adult, Eastern
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
immature, Eastern
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
fledglings
O.S. Pettingill, Jr. Living Royalty Trus/VIREO
adult, Rocky Mountain
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
adult, Eastern
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult, Eastern
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Black-capped Chickadee

Description

4 3/4-5 3/4" (12-15 cm). Black cap and throat, white cheeks, gray back, dull white underparts. Wing feathers narrowly and indistinctly edged with white. Difficult to separate from Carolina Chickadee. Bolder white edges on secondaries and a mostly white nape.

Voice

A buzzy chick-a-dee-dee-dee or a clear, whistled fee-bee, the second note lower and often doubled. In overlap zone with Carolina Chickadee song may not be helpful for identification as each species can learn the wrong song.

Listen

song (with switch in songtypes)
song
chickadee-dee calls #1
more calls
chickadee-dee calls #2
many additional calls

Habitat

Deciduous and mixed forests and open woodlands; suburban areas in winter.

Range

Largely resident from Alaska east across Canada to Newfoundland, south to northern California, northern New Mexico, Missouri, and northern New Jersey. Winters south to Maryland and Texas.

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. 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. 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. Black-capped Chickadees usually prepare their own nesting hole in soft, rotting tree stumps. 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 and accept the box for nesting.

Nesting

6-8 brown-speckled white eggs in a cup of grass, fur, plant down, feathers, and moss, placed in a hole in a rotten tree stub excavated by the birds, or in a natural cavity or bird box.

Similar Species

adult male, breeding

Black-throated Gray Warbler

4 1/2-5" (11-13 cm). Head striped black and white; black bib on throat; white below, with black stripes on sides; gray back, with black striping; 2 white wing bars and white outer tail feathers.

adult male, breeding

Black-and-white Warbler

5" (13 cm). Black and white stripes, including crown. Male has black throat; female's throat white. Creeps on tree trunks and branches

adult

Gray-headed Chickadee

4.5-5" (11-13 cm). Grayish-brown cap, white cheeks, and black bib; upperparts grayish-brown, showing little contrast with nape and crown; breast and belly whitish, flanks pale buff.

adult

Bridled Titmouse

4 1/2 -5" (11-13 cm). Warbler-sized. Gray above, whitish below, with gray crest bordered with black and a "bridle" joining eye line and throat patch.

adult

Carolina Chickadee

4-5" (10-13 cm). Similar to more northern Black-capped Chickadee, but feathers of folded wing usually show less white edging; lower edge of black bib more sharply defined than that of Black-capped.

adult, fresh plumage

Mountain Chickadee

5-5 3/4" (13-15 cm). Similar to Black-capped Chickadee, but with white eyebrow and pale gray flanks.

adult

Boreal Chickadee

5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). Similar to Black-capped Chickadee, but crown and back brown, flanks rufous.

adult

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

4 1/2 -5" (11-13 cm). Dusky, black-capped, and black-bibbed chickadee, with chestnut flanks and back.

adult

Mexican Chickadee

5" (13 cm). A gray chickadee, with black cap, black bib extending onto upper breast, and gray flanks.

Vireo

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