- 3.9–4.7 in
- 5.9–7.9 in
- 0.3–0.4 oz
- Smaller than a White-breasted Nuthatch
- Carbonero de Carolina or Paro Enmascarado Carolinense (Spanish)
- Mésange minime, Mésange de Caroline (French)
- Where the two species ranges come in contact, the Carolina and Black-capped chickadees occasionally hybridize. Hybrids can sing the songs of either species, or might sing something intermediate.
- In winter, Carolina Chickadees live in flocks of two to eight birds and defend areas against other flocks. Dominant birds in these flocks establish breeding territories in the summer that were part of the winter flock's range.
- The pair bond between a male and female Carolina Chickadee can remain intact for several years. The probability that a pair will remain together seems to vary among populations, with nearly all pairs remaining together in subsequent years in a study in Texas, but only half staying together in a study in Tennessee. If a nest attempt fails, a female may seek out a new male on a different territory.
- Most members of a winter flock stay in the same flock all season, but some birds are “flock switchers.” Some of these belong to one flock and then switch, joining another flock permanently and exclusively for the rest of the season. Other flock switchers regularly move between flocks. These flock-switchers may have different rankings in the hierarchy of each flock.
- The oldest known Carolina Chickadee was at least 10 years, 11 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in West Virginia in 1974. It had been banded in the same state in 1963.
Carolina Chickadees may be found in deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous woodlands, swamps, riparian areas, open woods and parks, and also in suburban and urban areas.
In winter, the Carolina Chickadee’s diet is about half plant, half animal. The rest of the year about 80–90 percent of their diet is animal (mostly insects and spiders). Carolina Chickadees glean insects from foliage and tree bark, often hanging upside down to do so. They hold seeds and insects in their feet, wedged against the branch they’re perched on, to peck into them. They readily use bird feeders.
- Clutch Size
- 3–10 eggs
- Number of Broods
- 1 broods
- Egg Length
- 0.6 in
- Egg Width
- 0.4 in
- Incubation Period
- 12–15 days
- Nestling Period
- 16–19 days
- Egg Description
- White with fine dots to small blotches of reddish brown.
- Condition at Hatching
- Naked except wisps of down on head, wings, and rump.
Both members of a pair excavate a cavity or choose a cavity or nest box. Carolina Chickadees don’t seem to have a preference for nest boxes filled with or without sawdust. The female builds the nest base with moss and sometimes strips of bark. Then she adds a thick lining of hair and/or plant fibers.
Carolina Chickadees excavate or find an unused cavity, usually 2-25 feet up in a tree. When a territory is near a forest edge, half of all cavities used face the nearby clearing.
© René Corado / WFVZ
© René Corado / WFVZ
Carolina Chickadees associate in flocks during winter. Each flock member has a rank; once spring arrives, the highest ranking individuals will nest within the flock’s territory; lower ranking birds must travel farther to successfully claim a territory and many don’t nest that season. Throughout the year, members of pairs, families, and flocks communicate with one another constantly.
Nesting female Carolina Chickadees sleep in the nest cavity while males sleep in a nearby sheltered branch in a tree, vine, or shrub. The rest of the year, birds may sometimes sleep in sheltered branches; usually they sleep in cavities, some which they excavated, others which may be natural or excavated by woodpeckers. Carolina Chickadees sleep individually, but from night to night different members of a flock may sleep in the same cavity. They compete with Downy Woodpeckers, Brown Creepers, and Tufted Titmice for these cavities.
Carolina Chickadees actively defend an individual space, keeping at least 2.2 feet, and sometimes at least 5 feet, between individuals; when two are closer than that, the dominant bird may make gargle calls. At feeders, each bird typically takes a seed and carries it to a branch somewhat isolated from other chickadees to eat.
During migration and winter, other species associate with Carolina Chickadees, which are found with other species about 50 percent of the time. Tufted Titmice, which are dominant over them, are the most common flock associates. Black-capped Chickadees, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets, Red-breasted, White-breasted and Brown-headed nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and Downy and Hairy woodpeckers tend to gravitate to these flocks, which are led by the Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, or both.
Carolina Chickadees are common across their range, but populations declined by 17% between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 12 million, with 100% living in the U.S. The species rates a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Carolina Chickadee is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List.