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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Carolina Chickadee

Poecile carolinensis ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Carolina Chickadee Photo

John James Audubon named this bird while he was in South Carolina. The curious, intelligent Carolina Chickadee looks very much like a Black-capped Chickadee, with a black cap, black bib, gray wings and back, and whitish underside. Carolina and Black-capped chickadees hybridize in the area where their ranges overlap, but the two species probably diverged more than 2.5 million years ago.

Drink Birds & Beans coffee. Save our birds.
Drink Birds & Beans coffee. Save our birds.

Songs

Often a four-note whistle. One pattern is fee-bee-fee-bay with first and third notes higher in pitch, but at least 35 other songs heard.

Calls

The Carolina Chickadee’s version of the chickadee-dee-dee is more rapid than the comparable sound produced by Black-capped Chickadees. Carolina Chickadees also produce a wide variety of gargles and raspy notes. A very high-pitched seee warns of falcons or accipiters flying over.

Other Sounds

Sometimes Carolina Chickadees make an audible wing whir as they fly over a potential predator or a rival chickadee. It’s not clear whether this has a communicative purpose. When an intruder approaches an incubating female on her nest, she will both hiss and bang her head and feathers against the nest and cavity.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Carolina Chickadees visit feeders for sunflower seeds, peanut chips, and suet. Make sure any peanuts you provide stay dry so no mold can form on them.

Sometimes Carolina Chickadees nest in nest tubes or nest boxes. They do not seem to care one way or the other whether the boxes or tubes are stuffed with sawdust or wood shavings. Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

Find This Bird

Learn Carolina Chickadee call notes in order to find them in forested areas. This bird is an especially important one for beginners within its range to learn. When you notice its calls during spring and fall migration, make sure to look through tree branches. Warblers and other migrating songbirds associate with chickadees, and by looking through the chickadees you’re more likely to find these other species as well. At feeders, Carolina Chickadees grab a seed and carry it off to eat on a more secluded branch.

Get Involved

Download instructions for attracting nesting chickadees and building a nest box. Report information about nesting activity to NestWatch.

Keep track of Carolina Chickadees at your feeder with Project FeederWatch

View and sort images of nesting Carolina Chickadees online with CamClickr to help scientists archive data from our NestCams

You Might Also Like

Why Sing the Wrong Song? The puzzle of bilingual chickadees

Visit the NestCams archives for a close-up view of Carolina Chickadees in their nest

Distinguishing Chickadees: Refresh your chickadee identification skills

Project FeederWatch: Tricky Bird IDs

Carolina Chickadee: Kissing cousins (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center)

Audubon at Home Birds to Help: Carolina Chickadee

All About Birds Blog, Warming Temperatures Are Pushing Two Chickadee Species—and Their Hybrids—Northward, March 2014.