Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Size: 5 inches (13 cm)
• Black cap and bib
• White cheeks
• Buffy flanks
• Wing coverts and secondaries edged in white
• Short bill
• Black crown and throat
• White face
• Pale gray upperparts
• White edges to wing coverts
• Grayish-white underparts
• Rusty flanks
• Sexes similar
• Often found in small flocks
The Black-capped Chickadee is very similar to the Carolina Chickadee and where their ranges overlap they can be difficult to separate. In fact, they have trouble telling themselves apart and hybrids occur. The most obvious difference between them is their songs. Black-capped sings a two note song while Carolina sings a four note song. Hybrids sing a three note song. Outsided of the breeding season, when chickadees don't sing much, the Black-capped is slightly larger, has more white edging in the wing and has slower, lower-pitched calls. Boreal and Chestnut-backed Chickadees have more brown in their plumages than the Black-capped.
NESTING & FEEDING:
BREEDING: Deciduous or mixed deciduous-coniferous woodland, riparian woodland, thickets, parks. 1 brood. Mating system is monogamous.
DISPLAYS: Courtship: simple pursuit of female by male.
NEST: Excavate or enlarge cavity 4 to 8 feet above the ground (ocassionally to 40 feet); rarely in coniferous; lined with plant down, moss, feathers, hair, insect cocoons. Require 10- 14 days to excavate and line cavity. Both sexes help with nest construction.
EGGS: 6-8 White, finely marked with reddish-browns. 0.6" (16 mm).
CHICK DEVELOPMENT: Both sexes incubate. Incubation takes 11-13 days. Development is altricial (immobile, downless, eyes closed, fed). Young leave the nest after 14-18 days. Both sexes tend young.
DIET: Insects, conifer seeds, fruit and spiders and their eggs.
CONSERVATION: Winter resident. Rare cowbird host. Will use nest boxes.
NOTES: Excavated material from nest carried from vicinity and scattered. Male feeds female during incubation. If disturbed on nest, female makes explosive snake-like hiss. After cavity is lined and throughout incubation, female roosts in nest. Fledglings stay with parents about 3 weeks then disperse to future breeding areas; extent of spring dispersal may vary regionally. In winter, forage and roost in stable flocks of up to 12; flocks include a few young low-ranked birds that lack pair bonds and often switch flocks. Dense conifers and empty nests used as winter roosts; occasionally join in mixed flocks. Hybridizes with Carolina Chickadee in parts of contact zone between New Jersey and Kansas.
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE. Forest, woods, tall thickets, towns. From w,c Alaska, ec,s Yukon, sw Mackenzie, n Saskatchewan and c Manitoba e across s Canada to s Quebec, Anticosti Island and Newfoundland, s to s Alaska w to Alaskan Pen. and Shumagin and Kodiak islands, s to s Oregon, nw Calif., e Nevada, nw,se Utah, n New Mexico, Kansas, nw Oklahoma, c Missouri and c Illinois e to Pennsylvania, n New Jersey and se New York; in the Appalachians at higher elevations to e Tennessee and w N. Carolina.