The Black-capped Chickadee Bird is a small, non-migratory songbird that thrives in the North American region. It is usually observed in deciduous and mixed forests. It is popular for its ability to lower its body temperature during cold nights of winter, as well as its good spatial memory, which it uses to relocate the caches for food storage. Moreover, the bird is well known to have adapted to human habitation. Indeed, they would sometimes feed from the hand, illustrating their boldness near humans. Its large round head, small body, and curiosity contribute to its overall ‘cute’ appeal.
The Black-capped Chickadee shows black cap and “bib”, and white parts to the face or cheeks area. The cap runs down beyond the black eyes, which makes the bird’s small eyes tricky to see. Its lower body is mostly white, complemented with rusty brown coloration on the flanks. It has a gray-colored back and a slate-gray tail. It has a short dark bill, short neck, short rounded wings, and a long tail. These features make the bird’s body shape spherical.
The adult bird has a total body length of 4.7 to 5.9 inches, wingspan of 6.3-8.3 inches, and body mass of 0.32-0.49 ounces. The males are a bit larger and longer compared to females, but generally, both sexes have similar physical characteristics.
Carolina Chickadees closely resemble Black-capped Chickadees.
Distribution and Habitat
The preferred habitat locations of Black-capped Chickadee birds are mixed and deciduous woods, willow thickets, groves, parks, cottonwood groves, disturbed areas, and shade trees. They are usually observed in open woods and forest edges, particularly in areas where birches or alders are abundant. They also notably avoid purely coniferous forests.
Diet and Behavior
The diet of Black-capped Chickadee birds primarily consists of insects, seeds, and berries. Their choice of food is highly seasonal, with vegetable matter constituting less than 10 percent of their diet in summer, and only up to 50 percent in winter.
During summer, they would usually eat caterpillars and other insects. They also eat spiders, snails, and other invertebrates. It is during this season that they get more protein supply in their bodies than any other part of the year. On the other hand, their diet is more diverse during winter, made up of insects, seeds, berries, and small fruits. They are also known to eat fats of dead animals.
They capture food while hovering. Sometimes, they would fly-out just to catch insects in flight. They would also approach bird feeders for seeds. One interesting fact about Clack-capped Chickadee birds is their ability to store food and recover it at a later date or time, even if they are hidden in thousand different hiding places.
Black-capped chickadees are active and acrobatic birds. And on top of that, they curiosity and sociability allows them to flock in numbers, and even associate with other species such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, warblers, vireos, and other small species that live in woodlands.
These birds have a slightly undulating flight movement, complemented by rapid beating of its wings. They could fly up to a speed of 12 miles per hour. They forage by hopping among twigs and branches and gleaning food from surface, which they do by hanging upside down.
They are often seen in groups, flying across roads and open areas one at a time in what seems to be a ‘bouncy flight’. They also produce many different calls, each with their own meanings. And some of these calls may have some characteristics of human language.
The female Black-capped Chickadee chooses the nest location, and together with the male, they will dig a cavity in the chosen site. Once the chamber is already hollowed out, the female takes charge of building the cup-shaped nest. She would use moss and other coarse materials for the nest’s foundation, and line it with softer materials such as rabbit fur.
The nest is usually between 1.5 and 7 meters high, and is placed in dead snags or rotten branches. Most of the time, alders or birches are the preferred nest locations.
The average size of the female’s clutch is 1-13 eggs. However, despite a large clutch size range, the bird only has average of 1 brood. The incubation period of the eggs runs about 12-13 days, and the nesting period is between 12-16 days. The young chickadees are naked upon hatching, with their eyes closed. They fledge the nest after a few weeks.
The bird has a stable population. It is quite widespread in its breeding range. As a matter of fact, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, its overall populations have been steadily increasing between 1966 and 2010. Forest clearing for agriculture or development, as well as the presence of people who keep bird feeders, both contribute to this steady rise in the bird’s population.
It has a ‘Least Concern’ status in the IUCN Conservation List. And its estimated global breeding population is 41 million, with 54 percent living in Canada and 46 percent spending some parts of the year in the U.S. The bird has a 6 out of 20 rate on the Continental Concern Score, and is not included in the 2012 Watch List.