Black Capped Chickadee Facts, Information, and Photos

If you set bird seed out in a feeder in the northern half of the U.S. or Canada, don't be surprised if your first visitor is a cute and curious Black Capped Chickadee.

The black capped chickadee is a small songbird with a distinctive call native to Canada and the northern half of the United States. American Expedition is proud to present interesting chickadee information, facts, habitat information, and photos of the Black-Capped Chickadee.

Black Capped Chickadee Facts, Information, Habitat, and Bird Feeding Tips from American Expedition

Black Capped Chickadee Information

Black capped chickadees are a member of the genus Parus, and are the most common and geographically widespread chickadee. They get their 'black-capped' name from the black streak that runs from their beak to neck over the top of their head. They also have a distinctive black bib on the underside of their neck, with white streaks down the sides of their face. They have gray backs, and their underbellies range in color from white to light rust brown. Black capped chickadees also have white edges on their feathers which are larger than the edges of other chickadees.

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Chickadees may also be distinguished by their distinctive call of 'chick-a-dee-ee-ee', but the calls of other chickadees, like the Carolina chickadee, may be confused with those of the black-capped chickadee by human listeners.

Chickadees are mostly year-long residents of their range, although sometimes they will stay to the southern part of their range in the fall or winter - and in extreme cases, they will move south of their range altogether. During the winter, chickadees often form flocks that will include other birds as well, such as nuthatches, titmice, and warblers. Chickadees often are the glue of these mixed flocks, because their distinctive call alerts other members of the flock when they find good sources of food. During the flocking season, black-capped chickadees have a rigid social hierarchy, with males ranking over females, and older birds having authority over younger ones.

Black Capped Chickadee Facts

  • The call of the chickadee ("chick-a-dee-dee-dee") can be incredibly complex, and can convey information about their flock, mating status, and nearby threats. Chickadees will add more 'dee' sounds to their call when a threat is nearby.
  • Thirteen distinct types of chickadee vocalizations have been classified.
  • Chickadees often like to hide in dense vegetation, so even when they are nearby other chickadees, they often cannot see them. Their calls help them to find each other and regroup.
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  • Males will only sing their songs when they are in relative isolation from other chickadees.
  • Both sexes of chickadees sing a faint version of their calls to their young while feeding them.
  • Chickadees like to sleep in thickets, dense shrubs, and inside cavities of trees where they feel safe when not nesting.
  • When chickadees are nesting (during April-June), they will find a hole in a tree, usually 3 to 21 feet off the ground. The male and female chickadee will dig extra space if the hole is not deep enough to support their nest.
  • Like bluebirds, chickadees will often nest in cavities that were once old woodpecker nests.
  • Chickadees are hoarders of bird seed. They will hide seeds in many different places that only they know about, and can remember thousands of these locations.
  • Chickadees fly at a speed of around 12 to 13 miles per hour.
  • Chickadees usually have one brood of young per year, but may have a second brood if they lose the first.
  • Chickadees begin breeding after their first year of life.
  • The oldest known chickadee lived to be twelve years old.
  • The chickadee is the state bird of Maine and Massachusets, and the provincial bird of New Brunswick in Canada.

Black Capped Chickadee Habitat

Chickadees can be found coast to coast across the northern half of North America. Their range in the north extends to the southern edge of Canada's Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and the southern half of Alaska, and they inhabit the northern Half of the United States.

What Do Chickadees Eat?

During the summer, chickadees primarily eat insects, and will often gorge themselves on caterpillars. They will also catch flying insects in mid-air as they hop from branch to branch in trees and take short, quick flights between shrubs. During the winter months, they will change their diet and primarily eat seeds and berries, and can often be attracted by black oil sunflower seeds. Black capped chickadees are much more tolerant of humans nearby bird feeders than other birds, and will even eat seed from a person's hand if they think the person is not a threat.

Black Capped Chickadee Feeding Tips

  • Setting up a specialized chickadee house can help keep chickadees nearby all year long. The chickadees can then help you get rid of bugs and caterpillars that like to munch on your garden plants.
  • If you are encouraging chickadees to nest, leave out sawdust and wood shavings - chickadees will often use these materials for their nests.
  • Chickadees are especially fond of black-oil sunflower seed.
  • Chickadees are very easy to attract to bird feeders, and will often be the first birds that come once you've filled the feeder. You don't really need to know many tips to attract them, but keep reading anyway :).
  • Try to get a bird feeder that has plenty of perches and can support multiple birds at once.
  • Make sure to clean bird feeders often to avoid spreading disease or having the food become unappealing due to mold and clumping.
  • Chickadees are very trusting birds, and once they have become acquainted with you they may even eat food out of your hand.
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Two chickadees on a branch.

Chickadees begin breeding after their first year of life.

A chickadee with seeds in its mouth.

Chickadees will often hide bird seed, and will go back for it even a month later.

A chickadee on a branch with flowers in the spring.

Chickadees fly at a speed of around 12 to 13 miles per hour.

A chickadee on a branch in the winter.

Chickadees are mostly year round residents of their range, although they may stick to the southern part of their range in winter.

A chickadee on a flowering branch.

Small songbirds in migration will often associate with chickadees, and watching for chickadee flocks in the spring and fall is a good way to spot rare birds in your area.

A chickadee with a black oil sunflower seed

Chickadees are especially fond of black oil sunflower seed.

A chickadee landing on a person's hand.

Chickadees are quite curious and trusting, and will even land on your hand if you have birdseed to offer them.

A chickadee in a pine tree

Chickadees are quite acrobatic, and can hang upside down from trees and bird feeders.