Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus)


Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family:    Paridae
Size:    Length: 4.7 to 5.5 inches (12 to 14 cm)  
Weight: 1/3 to 1/2 ounces (9.4 to 14.2 g)
Diet: Insects, plants, berries, seeds, caterpillars and insect eggs 
Distribution: North America
Young:  5 to 8 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Sharp-shinned hawks, northern shrikes, long-tailed weasels and owls
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Up to 12 years in the wild



·     The chickadee is the state bird of Maine and Massachusetts.

·     Its name comes from its cheerful “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call.

·     Chickadees were once called titmice.

·     The species name is Latin, meaning; (ater)=black, (capillus)=hair of the head.

·     The male has a song that sounds like “fee-bee.”



Black-capped chickadees are small birds with a black cap on their head, a black bib, white cheeks and a grey back. The underbelly is a light beige.



Black-capped chickadees can be found throughout most of Canada as well as the upper two-thirds of the United States. They can usually be found in wooded areas or in open areas bordered by forest.


Feeding Habits

Chickadees eat plants, berries and seeds. They also eat insect species that can be harmful to trees and agriculture. 



Chickadees are monogamous and pair up for life. Pairing of young chickadees takes place in the fall. Both birds build a nest of dried grass, moss and small twigs, either in an abandoned woodpecker hole or a birdhouse. They occasionally will hollow out a cavity in an old, decaying tree. The brown-speckled white eggs are laid in the spring, between April and late June, and the female incubates the eggs while the male brings back food for her. The eggs hatch in 12 to 14 days. Both parents care for the young, bringing food to them and teaching them to fly. The chicks are capable of flying two to three weeks after hatching, and one of the parents accompanies them on their first flight. The youngsters do not return to the nest, but will remain nearby for three to four weeks and will continue to be fed for the next week or so. By that time, they will look very much like their parents. Eventually, they leave the area to join winter flocks of mostly unrelated chickadees. They do not reproduce until they are one year of age. 



Chickadees are active, social little birds that often can often be seen in groups, especially during winter. They are extremely friendly and will mix with many other bird species in large flocks. Chickadees sometimes eat while hanging upside down from a branch using their specialized leg muscles. They are also able to hop up and down the trunks of trees. Black-capped chickadees do not migrate south; instead, they store food in various sites for the winter and are capable of lowering their body temperatures in severe cold, entering a state of torpor to save energy.



Forest clearing has destroyed some of their natural habitat, but thanks to feeders and nest boxes put up by bird lovers, the chickadee population of North America is well established. 



Chickadee Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US 

Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (1999)