Living Bird Magazine
Mountain ChickadeePoecile gambeli
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Paridae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Carbonero Montañés (Spanish)
- Mésange de Gambel (French)
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.
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. 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.
See the Project FeederWatch guidelines for feeding birds in your yard and more tips on backyard birds.
- Cool Facts
- Energetic models suggest that a half-ounce chickadee needs to eat about 10 calories per day to survive. That’s equivalent to about one-twentieth of an ounce of peanut butter.
- Chickadees will busily store food for later when they find a ready supply, such as your bird feeder. If you offer them sunflower seeds they’ll usually shell the seed first by holding it between their feet and hammering it apart with their beak. Then they'll fly off to stash it.
- The evergreen forests of the Western mountains periodically suffer massive outbreaks of tree-killing insects such as bark beetles and needle miners. When this happens, it’s all-you-can-eat for Mountain Chickadees. During a lodgepole needle miner outbreak in Arizona, one chickadee was found with 275 of the tiny caterpillars in its stomach at one time.
- Mountain Chickadees incubate their eggs almost a full week longer than their near-twins, the Black-capped Chickadees do. Some scientists think this is an evolutionary change that’s been made possible by Mountain Chickadees’ tendency to nest inside harder-walled trees, which are safer from predators.
- The oldest recorded Mountain Chickadee was a male, and at least 10 years, 1 month old when he was identified by his band, alive in the wild in Utah in 1974. He had been banded in the same state in 1965.