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Black-Capped ChickadeeBlack-capped Chickadee

Chickadees will visit your yard if you have feeders and water.

Identification - PicturesBlack-capped Chickadee and Videos

Black-capped Chickadees (Classification:  Parus atricapillus)

These are small fluffy round birds 4 to 5 ½ inches.  They have a black cap, and bib with white cheeks. Their upper parts are gray with lighter under parts under parts, which may have a bit of yellow.  The sides are a buff color with white feathers on the wings.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D and a 70 to 300 zoom lens.

Some say this bird is fun to watch because of its acrobatic nature actions as it hangs upside down or forages through branches. 

Determining male from female is hard as indicated in this poem by a Wisconsin bird bander.


"Here’s to the little chickadee;
The sexes are alike, you see.
It’s hard to tell the she from he;
But he can tell … and so can she!
Harold Wilson

Range and Habitat

There are 10 chickadee species in North America and Black- capped chickadees are the most familiar in our backyards. They can be found throughout the northern U.S., Canada, and Alaska.  They like open woods, willow thickets, groves, parks with shade trees, farmlands, and backyards with trees, and shrubs.  Chickadees may be seen in your yard all year long.  In winter they will form in foraging flocks with nuthatches, titmice, and even woodpeckers.  In late winter as the males become territorial these flocks will break up.

Breeding and Nesting

Breeding season is early April to mid May depending on the area.  During courtship chickadees do what is called mate feeding, females will solicit this behavior.  The male will fly to the female with an insect or seed.  With a high call, and quivering wings she will take the offering.

They breed in forests, and open areas with scattered trees. Both birds will excavate a nest cavity in a stump or tree. The cavity will be around 9 inches deep, and have moss or plant down in the base.  They sometimes use an old woodpecker hole or a nest box.  If you have birdhouses in your yard there is a good chance these entertaining little birds will move it.

The female alone will incubate usually 6 to 8 eggs.  Eggs are smooth, white or creamy with fine purplish or reddish-brown speckles.  Both parents tend the young birds for around two weeks, when they can leave the nest.  The young will remain with the parents for 3 to 4 weeks.

Song and Call

When chickadees are around there is a constant chatter of clear chick-a-dee-dee-dee, this is often given during flocking.  The male's song of fee-bee-bee is a clear whistle that sounds like feed me feed me to many people.  Researchers at the University of Montana have discovered that chickadees have one of the most sophisticated systems of communication of any land animal.  They use a soft high-pitched seeet call to warn of something like a flying bird of prey.  For a stationary predator they use variations of chick-a dee dee dee. The number of dee dees indicate the size or type of predator. The calls are used to warn and to recruit other birds to harass, or mob, the predator and chase it away.  Recent studies  at the Universities of Washington and Montana show that nuthatches understand the warning calls of chickadees and will join with them to surround, and mob the predator. 

Chickadee sound 1

Chickadee sound 2

Food and Feedingchickadee with seed

Natural foods are insects, seeds and berries.  Most foraging is done by hoping from branch to branch, often hanging upside down to feed on the underside of a branch.  They will come to both suet, and feeders with sunflower, and other seeds.  They are a very curious, and trusting little bird, and will often be quite tame.  Many people get them to eat out of their hands.

Photo by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

chickadee with seedChickadees like to grab a sunflower seed from a feeder and fly to a nearby tree to crack it open and eat it.  They hold the seed with their feet while cracking it open with a few quick thrusts of their bill. It can be fun to watch them flying back and forth from tree to feeder, and back again.


View video of Chickadee eating seeds below.  For other bird videos please visit our Youtube channel and subscribe or like our videos.

What is the favorite window  bird feeder of Chickadees and Nuthatches? 

 See demo of filling with sunflower seeds video below:


You can get this window bird feeder here  

Most videos on my site were taken with the Canon HG10 camcorder.

Just like all birds chickadees love water.  
Here is great selection of bird baths and garden fountains.

Hand Feeding

Many people are surprised to find out that birds such as chickadees will eat out of your hand.  If chickadees are visiting your feeder, it often does not take much to entice them to eat out of your hand.  Let them get used to seeing you stand by the feeder.  Soon they will take seeds from the feeder when you are there.  Now put some seeds in your hand and hold it out.  Make sure you stand still.  After a while they will start landing on your hand to grab the seeds.

Other birds that will eat from your hand are nuthatches, Downy woodpeckers, and hummingbirds will eat out of a small dish of sugar water held in your hand.

Watch video of hand feeding chickadees and Downy woodpeckers. 

For more on food and feeding click here.
For more on feeders click here.

Chickadee pictures Get Chickadee posters

To learn about other favorite birds click here.

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