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Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus

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This is a small songbird common throughout the northern part of North America. It is a passerine (perching) bird identified by three forward and one backward-pointing toes. The bird is easily identified by the black “cap” which covers the top of the head and the back of the neck. The bill and chin are also black. The body is rounded with a white chest and yellow or rust-colored markings along the sides. The back and tail are dark gray.

The bird has several adaptations which allow it to thrive in northern latitudes. Since it is non-migratory, the chickadee can lower its body temperature during cold winter nights thus conserving energy. Its highly developed spatial memory also enables the bird to locate food caches it created months or even years earlier.

The chickadee forages mostly on caterpillars and flying insects during the warm months but will switch to berries and seeds during the winter. Because the bird is curious and not easily frightened, it can often be spotted at back yard bird feeders.

Range and Habitat

The Black-capped Chickadee is found across the breadth of North America, particularly in the northern half of the United States and throughout Canada. It may stray outside this range if food becomes scarce. The bird prefers deciduous forests and woodlands, although it is frequently found in suburban parks or back yards. It is common for them to nest near and associate with woodpeckers, nuthatches and warblers.

Conservation Status

Common.