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Black-capped Chickadees Notecard



Black-capped Chickadees (Parus atricapillus)

The chickadee is an inquisitive, always-on-the-go little bird that inhabits deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. Chickadees flit from branch to branch as they search for their food, primarily insect eggs and larvae; sometimes they hang upside-down, clinging to tiny twigs. They also enjoy seeds of conifers and a variety of wild fruit. They are generally year-round residents of Canada and the northern U.S., but occasionally large numbers do move southward in winter. Chickadees live in small holes in trees. Usually they excavate the holes themselves, both male and female sharing the work; but sometimes they use abandoned woodpecker nests as homes.

In late summer and early fall, chickadees band together in small flocks of 6 to 10 members. These flocks circulate around their territory, feeding at productive spots. Boundary disputes often develop with neighboring flocks. Chickadee flocks are often joined by woodpeckers, nuthatches, brown creepers and kinglets as they course through the winter woods.

Two of the chickadees’ more familiar calls are a buzzy Chick-a-dee-dee-dee, which functions to keep the flock together, and a whistled fee-bee, which the male uses to define their breeding territories. Chickadees often spend time visiting feeders, particularly during winter. They are easily taught to feed from the hand: try peanuts and sunflower seeds.

artwork and text by Steve Sierigk (c) 2000