Living Bird Magazine
Carolina ChickadeePoecile carolinensis
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Paridae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Carbonero de Carolina (Spanish)
- Mésange de Caroline (French)
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.
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. 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.
- Cool Facts
- 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.