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Mountain Chickadee

Poecile gambeli ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Mountain Chickadee Photo

The tiny Mountain Chickadee is a busy presence overhead in the dry evergreen forests of the mountainous West. Often the nucleus in mixed flocks of small birds, Mountain Chickadees flit through high branches, hang upside down to pluck insects or seeds from cones, and give their scolding chick-a-dee call seemingly to anyone who will listen.

ML Essential Set
Optics Planet birding kit

Songs

  • Song examples
  • Typical song
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

A sweet whistled song, fee-bee with the second note lower than the first, similar to the whistles of many other chickadees. Mountain Chickadees sometimes sing more than one fee and/or more than one bee notes as well. Though they sound quite similar to Black-capped Chickadees, research has shown that the two species pay little attention to each other’s calls. You’ll mainly hear this song in summer.

Calls

  • Song, call
  • Chicka-dee calls
  • Gargle call
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Chickadees are extremely vocal. The most famous call is the one that gave the birds their name, a lively chick-a-dee used while mobbing predators, chasing rivals, singing, and staying in contact with a flock. They often repeat parts of the call, particularly the dee, and research on Black-capped Chickadees has suggested chickadees do this to emphasize the threat from a predator. Among their other calls is a burbling, half-swallowed gargle exchanged when two individuals face off or between mates.

Other Sounds

Females and large nestlings sometimes hiss and slap the inside of their nest cavity if an animal disturbs them. The display mimics the sound and actions of a snake, and it’s thought to be an attempt to scare off predators.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Mountain Chickadees eagerly come to feeders. Like many feeder birds, they will often disregard millet in bird seed mixes. Feed them black oil sunflower seeds instead. In winter, they’ll also eat suet and peanut butter.

Our guidelines for feeding birds in your yard (and more tips)

Find This Bird

Turn onto a Forest Service road and take it up into the mountains to your favorite trailhead. Within a few minutes of getting out of your car, you'll likely run into a flock of small birds flitting through the treetop. Mountain Chickadees are likely to be among them.

Get Involved

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

Visit our section on how to set up a bird feeder. Watch birds at your feeder in winter and report your counts to Project FeederWatch.

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