People passionate about nature

Black-capped Chickadee

How do I recognize it:

The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is one of our most recognized and beloved passerines.  Up to 15cm long, it sports a jaunty black cap atop its rather large head, has a black throat and white cheeks.  The back is grey.  The underparts are whitish and the sides are buffy.  The wing feathers are narrowly edged with white.

Is it migratory:

Adult Black-capped Chickadees are not migratory.  In years of high reproduction, southward irruptions of young birds can occur.

Where does it live:

Black-capped Chickadees live in deciduous and mixed forests, and suburban areas throughout most of Canada.  In Manitoba, it was known to breed to the Thompson region, but recent nesting records from Tadoule Lake and Cape Tatnum suggest that their range is expanding northward.  Black-capped Chickadees excavate a nest in rotting trees, but will also use woodpecker holes or occasionally even posts.  Nests can be found 1.5 to 10 meters off the ground.  Very rarely, they will nest in a hole in the ground.

Where can I see it:

Their namesake vocalizations (chick-a-dee-dee-dee)  often alert people to their presence.  Look for them in your neighbourhood parks or along streets where bird feeders are prominent.  In forests, you can find them along trails or in open areas where they can be seen foraging, often in association with woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Conservation status:

Being generally common throughout their range, Black-capped Chickadees are under no known conservation threats.  However, the overzealous culling of dead trees can result in a lack of suitable nesting sites.

Did you know?

Black-capped Chickadees store food in the fall to help them get through the winter.  The hippocampus region of the brain, responsible for spatial organization and memory, increases by approximately 30 percent as nerve cells are added.  This helps them to remember where they cached their food -  handy, since they may have thousands of storage sites.  In spring, when food becomes more readily available, the hippocampus shrinks back to its normal size.