Gray-headed ChickadeePoecile cinctus

Jari Peltomaki/VIREO
Jari Peltomaki/VIREO
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. In northern Europe, species has browner crown, more contrast between nape and back, and brighter buff on flanks. Gray-headed Chickadee appears more robust, long tailed, and fluffy than other American chickadees.


Song not recorded in North America; Eurasian Gray-headed sings rapid set of hoarse cheoow calls. Calls an insistent, nasal cheer or deer, more forceful than Boreal, and a quick, hoarse schik-a-day.


Open coniferous and hardwood forest; in Alaska, often in tracts of willow or low spruce located in river valleys or along mountain bases. In Old World, populations decreasing due to logging pressures.


Subarctic, nearly circumpolar. Rare and local in Alaska and western arctic Canada.


Formerly known as the Siberian Tit, the Gray-headed Chickadee is the only member of its family that occurs in both the Old and New Worlds. Although the rarest of North America's chickadees, many aspects of its biology are better known than other American species because of extensive studies in Scandinavia and in Russia. Closely resembles Boreal Chickadee in morphology, behavior, ecology, and vocalizations.


Uses natural cavities and woodpecker holes; also nest boxes. Nest formed of moss and rabbit fur. Clutch size variable, typically 6-10 eggs (white, marked with speckles or spots, most dense at large end).

Similar Species

adult, Eastern

Black-capped Chickadee

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.


Boreal Chickadee

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


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