|Black-capped Chickadee Range MapMale, female and juvenile Black-capped Chickadees all have similar plumage. This species has a black crown or "cap," a black chin and throat, and white cheek patches. The back is greenish-gray, and the breast is white. The belly and flanks are buff-colored. The tail is gray, and the wings are gray with white edges.|
Black-capped Chickadees inhabit the northern two-thirds of the United States and much of Canada. They winter throughout their range and do not exhibit any formal, large-scale migration patterns. Occasionally, there are sudden movements, or irruptions, of young birds in the fall and early winter.
Black-capped Chickadees prefer mixed deciduous and coniferous forests. They are found both at forest edges and deep within forests. They are also common in rural and suburban areas containing scattered trees, such as old fields, thickets, and parks.
Black-capped Chickadees glean their prey from foliage and tree bark. Their diet consists of insects, caterpillars, snails, and spiders. In the winter, they eat the berries and seeds that they hid in the crevices of bark and under leaves. This behavior is called caching, and Black-capped Chickadees can remember the location of the stored food for up to a month after they hid it.
Black-capped Chickadees are monogamous, and their pair bonds last for several years. Most birds establish pair bonds in the late fall when winter flocks form. Nevertheless, some birds die during the winter, and many birds must find new mates in the spring. Pairs establish and defend a territory, remaining on or near their territory for the rest of their lives.
Generally, the breeding season begins in early April in the southern portion of the range and in early May in the northern portion. The onset of breeding, however, can be influenced by factors such as weather, food supply, and the condition of the breeding female.
Black-capped Chickadees often nest in cavities they excavate themselves. They also nest in natural cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes, and nest boxes. Excavation of the nest cavity can take 7 to 10 days. Females usually build the nest in 3 to 5 days; however, this may take as long as two weeks. The nest cup is made of moss and lined with rabbit fur, plant down, hair, feathers, and spider webs. Nests are located at various heights but are most commonly found one-and-a-half to seven meters off the ground.
Males feed their mates throughout the nest-building, egg-laying, and incubation periods.
Black-capped Chickadees can lay their eggs anytime between mid-April and early July. Laying begins one to two days after the nest is finished. Females lay one egg per day, in the morning. They cover the eggs with nesting material whenever they leave the nest. A complete clutch contains six to eight eggs. The eggs are small, pinkish-white, and nonglossy, with red, brownish red, or purplish red specks evenly distributed over the egg. Often, there are heavier spots at the larger end of the egg.
Only the female incubates, and she begins on the day the next to last, or penultimate, egg is laid. The incubation period lasts 12 to 13 days.
The female broods the nestlings for a few days after hatching. The amount of time she spends brooding the young gradually decreases but doesn't stop completely until the nestlings are around 12 days old. The male does most of the feeding of the young, but after the female ceases brooding, she and her mate feed equally. At 16 days, the young fledge. They continue to be fed by the parents for two to four weeks after they leave the nest, although they can feed themselves after 10 days.
Black-capped Chickadees have one brood per season. Double broods are rare. Females, however, will attempt a replacement brood if the first nest attempt fails. They do not reuse old nest sites.
Although the species does not exhibit large-scale migration patterns, there are sudden large-scale movements, or "irruptions." These spontaneous movements are apparently a juvenile dispersal mechanism, because individuals moving in irruptions tend to be birds less than a year old. But, much more needs to be learned about juvenile dispersal. What prompts irruptions, how far the young disperse, and whether the sexes disperse differentially are all unknown.
In winter, Black-capped Chickadees form semi-stable flocks composed of breeding birds and unrelated young. Some members stay in the same flock for the entire winter, but others associate with more than one flock and will float among flocks all winter. Black-capped Chickadees may also form mixed-species flocks with Tufted Titmice and White-breasted Nuthatches.
|Carolina Chickadee Range MapLike the Black-capped Chickadee, the Carolina Chickadee has a distinctive black cap and bib and white cheeks. Unlike its counterpart, however, the Carolina Chickadee does not have the conspicuous white area in the wing created by the white feather edges. In summer, the two are best distinguished by locality and voice. Many people find it difficult to distinguish the two species, but luckily there are only a few places where their ranges overlap.|
The Carolina Chickadee inhabits the southeastern United States, breeding in open deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. It is also found in rural woodlands, cultivated areas with scattered trees, swamps, thickets, suburban parks, and residential areas.
Carolina Chickadees glean insects on the bark of trees, feasting on a variety of invertebrates. They also dine on seeds and berries and are frequent visitors to bird feeders.
Carolina Chickadees are quite similar to Black-capped Chickadees in their ecology and breeding biology. Carolina Chickadees are monogamous, and pairs stay together for many years, if not permanently. Pairs remain together throughout the winter on their territory, and they defend their territory year round.
Although the nesting behavior of the Carolina Chickadee is very similar to that of the Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Chickadees tend to rely less on the presence of natural cavities and old woodpecker holes than its northern relative. Rather, it excavates its own cavities in snags, rotting tree trunks, and limbs for nesting purposes. This species also occasionally nests in nest boxes, but not as frequently as the Black-capped Chickadee.
The male and female work together to excavate the nest cavity, which takes around two weeks, but only the female builds the nest. The nest has a moss base and a cup made of grass, plant down, and feathers. The female lines the nest with finer materials such as fine grass, fur, and hair.
Female Carolina Chickadees lay one egg per day. The average clutch size is six eggs, but anywhere from five to eight eggs can be present. These smooth, non-glossy eggs are white with reddish brown spots concentrated at the larger end, and they are indistinguishable from Black-capped Chickadee eggs. During the egg-laying phase, the female covers the incomplete clutch with nest material whenever she leaves the nest.
The incubation period is 11 to 14 days and begins the day the next-to-last, or penultimate, egg is laid. The female incubates the eggs, but during this period, the male dutifully brings her food. The female is a tight sitter, that is, she does not flush readily from the nest when disturbed. If forced off the nest, she often makes a hissing sound as she leaves.
After the eggs hatch, the female broods the new nestlings. The male continues to feed her, along with the nestlings, during this time. After a few days, the male and female both tend the young equally. Nestlings fledge when they are 13 to 17 days old but remain dependent upon the parents for food and protection. After two to four weeks, they attain complete independence.
Although the number is uncertain, most pairs probably raise one brood each breeding season. Pairs will produce a replacement brood if a nesting attempt fails.
The Carolina Chickadee is a winter resident. Pairs stay together on their territories over the winter. They forage in mixed-species flocks with nuthatches, titmice, and woodpeckers.
|Mountain Chickadee Range MapMountain Chickadees can be distinguished from other chickadees by their white eyebrow, gray flanks, and gray undertail feathers. Males, females, and juveniles all look alike. Mountain Chickadees are found in the western United States and Canada. They breed at high elevations (5,000 to 11,000 feet) in coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. It is a residential species, but some individuals move to lower elevations in the winter. Mountain Chickadees feed on insects and other invertebrates, seeds, berries, and plant buds. In winter, they often visit bird feeders.|
Mountain Chickadees only excavate nests if other sites are unavailable. This species more readily nests in snags, natural cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes, banks and holes in the ground, under rocks, and in nest boxes. Their nests tend to be low to the ground. Nests are made of moss, bark, fur, plant fibers, and feathers. It is not known which sex builds the nest.
The Mountain Chickadee is a resident from northwestern and central British Columbia, southwestern Alberta, western and south-central Montana, and Colorado south to Baja California, southern Nevada, central and southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and extreme western Texas.The Mountain Chickadee inhabits open coniferous forests from 6,000 to 11,000 feet in elevation. In winter, often ranges downslope to the foothills, frequenting oaks, and cottonwoods and willows along streams.
Female Mountain Chickadees lay one egg per day. Although the average clutch size is 5 to 9 eggs, there may be up to 12 eggs in a nest. The slightly glossy, white eggs are usually unmarked. Occasionally, they have reddish brown specks that may be evenly distributed over the egg or localized at the larger end. The incubation period is 14 days and begins with the laying of the penultimate, or next to last, egg. The male feeds the female as she incubates. Females do not flush easily from their nests, and when disturbed, they often make a hissing sound. The female broods the young for a few days after they hatch. During this time, the male continues to feed the female and begins to feed the nestlings as well. Nestlings fledge after 19 to 21 days. It is unknown whether the young are dependent upon the parents after fledging. The number of broods produced by Mountain Chickadees each breeding season is unknown. If the first nesting attempt fails, pairs do produce replacement broods.
Mountain Chickadees do not migrate. Some individuals move to lower elevations for the winter months.
|Chestnut-backed Chickadee Range MapThe Chestnut-backed Chickadee not only has a chestnut back, it has chestnut sides, flanks, and a chestnut rump as well. It has a grayish brown cap, a black bib, white cheeks, and a white belly. Males, females, and juveniles all look alike.|
The Chestnut-backed Chickadee inhabits coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests of the West Coast from central California through Canada, up to Alaska. They are year-round residents.
Foraging high in trees, Chestnut-backed Chickadees glean a variety of prey from tree bark and foliage. Their diet includes a variety of insects and invertebrates, including wasps, beetles, flies, caterpillars, and spiders. They also eat seeds from the cones of coniferous trees.
The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is a year-round resident from south-central and southeastern Alaska, western British Columbia, northern Idaho, western Alberta, and northwestern Montana south through the coast ranges to southern California and through the Cascades and Sierra Nevadas to central California. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee prefers low-elevation, coastal, mesic coniferous forests of pines, cedar, tamarack, and hemlock. Also inhabits along streams and in adjacent deciduous woodlands.
The breeding season begins anytime from mid-March to early April. Chestnut-backed Chickadees excavate their own nest sites, but they also nest in existing tree cavities and nest boxes. Nest sites are usually low, up to 10 feet above the ground, but rarely much higher when in dead trees. The nest is made of moss, bark, grass, ferns, and feathers, and the cup is lined with milkweed down, fur, and hair. It is not known which sex builds the nest.
The average clutch size is six to seven eggs, but the female can lay anywhere from three to nine eggs. These non-glossy eggs are white or cream in color. Sometimes the eggs are unmarked; sometimes red, reddish brown, and brown specks are distributed all over the egg or wreathed at the large end of the egg.