The Black Capped Chickadee

Black Capped Chickadee
(Poecile atricapillus)

One of the most commonly seen birds in New York and backyard feeders. This tiny bird is usually no more than 5-6 inches in length with white belly, buff sides, a mixture of black & white on their wings, and their distinct black cap and throat or "bib". Their songs are also very familiar. Even if you didn't know it was a chickadee that you where listening too, you would recognize their very common calls.

What Do They Eat?

They can be found gleaning branches, vegetation and the ground for seeds, insects and spiders. You will often see them in the forest flying from branch to branch in search of food, often even hanging upside down to reach their prey. These engaging birds are very tolerant of humans and can sometimes be coaxed into landing on an extended hand to grab a few sunflower seeds. They are also common visitors to backyard feeders, but seldom remain there long except to grab a seed to eat in another location.

Nesting & Mating

The nest is built by the female only in hollowed out areas of trees and stumps,making them very good candidates for nesting boxes. Base material of the nests consist of mosses and grass with a lining usually made up of animal hair.

The female will lay a clutch of 6-8 white eggs with small reddish dots. Incubation, by the female only, is between 11-14 days. During that time she will be fed by the male. After hatching, the hatchlings are fed by both male and female.. the male will feed the female who in turn will feed the nesting young birds. It takes about 2 weeks before the young birds will leave the nest, still fed by their parents for several more weeks. Chickadees usually only mate once a year unless the first brood is lost.

Chickadee Facts

  • Black-capped chickadees commonly cache food, mostly seeds but sometimes insects. They have a good memory for finding their caches which can last up to four weeks.
  • In the cold winter, these birds can reduce their body temperature to conserve energy.
  • The males usually sing isolated from other chickadees.

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