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Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A bird almost universally considered “cute” thanks to its oversized round head, tiny body, and curiosity about everything, including humans. The chickadee’s black cap and bib; white cheeks; gray back, wings, and tail; and whitish underside with buffy sides are distinctive. Its habit of investigating people and everything else in its home territory, and quickness to discover bird feeders, make it one of the first birds most people learn.

Backyard Tips

Chickadees are one of the easiest birds to attract to feeders, for suet, sunflower, and peanuts. They don’t mind using tiny hanging feeders that swing in the wind, and also readily visit window feeders. Planting willow, alder, and birch trees provides future nesting habitat for chickadees. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

Feeders and nest boxes are often used by chickadees; 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. Black-capped Chickadees are especially attracted to a box when it is filled with sawdust or wood shavings. To keep wrens out of boxes you want chickadees to nest in, place nest boxes at least 60 feet into a wooded area. The compass orientation of the entrance hole probably does not matter at all, but chickadees do seem to prefer an unobstructed path to the entrance hole, without branches and leaves in the way. Setting a nest box farther back from other trees and branches can help deter squirrels and mice from jumping to the box and eating chickadee eggs and nestlings. 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.

Bird-friendly Winter Gardens, Birdsleuth, 2016.

Find This Bird

Within their range, Black-capped chickadees are easily seen at many feeding stations, and in virtually any area with trees. They are often heard before they’re seen. They’re frequently attracted to investigate birders making pishing sounds. Once you’ve learned this bird’s calls, listen for them and then look for the flocks they travel in. 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.

Get Involved

Keep track of the Black-capped Chickadees at your feeder with Project FeederWatch.

Look for Black-capped Chickadee nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch.

You Asked For It: How To Make A Chickadee Nest Tube: Chickadees prefer nest tubes filled with wood shavings more than nest boxes

You Might Also Like

The View from Sapsucker Woods A surprising insight about chickadees at feeders by Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick, Birdscope, Winter 2004.

Project FeederWatch: Tricky Bird IDs: Black-capped and Carolina chickadees

Why sing the wrong song? The puzzle of bilingual chickadees, Living Bird, Spring 2008.

The Case of the Bizarre Beaks, Living Bird, Winter 2011.

Black and White and UV All Over, Birdscope, Spring 2010.

Risk Management for Chickadees, Living Bird, Autumn 2013.

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

Research Surprise: Many Birds Exposed to Eye Disease, but Only Finches Get Sick, All About Birds, August 25, 2014.

Here’s What to Feed Your Summer Bird Feeder Visitors, All About Birds, July 11, 2014.

Like Chasing Tornadoes: The Fun And Challenge Of Mixed Species Flocks, Living Bird, Autumn 2014.

Power Struggles Are Playing Out at Your Feeder—Here’s What to Look For, All About Birds, March 11, 2015.

A dominant species in many arenas: the 12 gram Black-capped Chickadee, Project FeederWatch, April 20, 2015.

Understanding the Pecking Order at a Backyard Bird Feeder [video]

Look out! The Backyard Bird Alarm Call Network, Living Bird, Winter 2016.

Where Is That Bird Going With That Seed? It’s Caching Food For Later, All About Birds, April 13, 2016.

Is it a Black-capped or Carolina Chickadee?, Great Backyard Bird Count ID tips.

Chickadee Study Shows Climate Change Affecting Distribution [video]

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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