The Carolina Chickadee is a tiny passerine bird that is considered as the smallest North American chickadee. It is very similar to the Black-capped Chickadee, and even replaces the species in the southeastern states. Despite the bird’s infrequent visits to feeders, it comes into suburban yards for sunflower seeds. The two species of chickadees interbreed in their overlap ranges. They also learn to imitate each other’s songs in these contact zones.
The Carolina Chickadee Bird has a short neck and a big head, which makes its body shape distinctly spherical. It has a lengthy, narrow tail, and a bill that is slightly thicker than a warbler’s but thinner than a finch’s.
It has a black cap and bib bordered by stark white cheeks. The back, wings, and tail exhibit a soft gray coloration.
Distribution and Habitat
The preferred habitat locations of Carolina Chickadees are mixed or deciduous woods, swamps, riparian areas, and forested areas of urban and suburban yards, or parks with large trees. In these habitats, they would dig a hole in a tree, using a natural cavity or an old woodpecker nest.
Their breeding range in the U.S. spans from New Jersey to southern Kansas and south to Florida and Texas. However, this range is gapped at the high altitudes of Appalachian Mountains, where their northern relatives, the Black-capped Chickadees, reside. Because of this range overlap, they would sometimes interbreed with Black-capped Chickadees, making identification difficult.
The diet of these birds primarily consists of insects, especially in summer. As a matter of fact, approximately 80-90 percent of their diet is made up of spiders and insects like caterpillar. They would hop along tree branches just to look for insects. Sometimes, they would hang upside down or hover, or take short flights in order to catch insects mid-air.
During winter, seeds and berries become a major part of their diet, constituting up to 50% of their total food intake. Sometimes, they hammer seeds on a tree or shrub in order to open them. They also store seeds in different places, and use them at a later time or date.
Carolina Chickadees assemble in groups because they call out whenever they find an ample supply of food in a certain area. Because of this, other birds could find food easily.
These birds are known to be approachable, inquisitive and acrobatic.
As social animals, they would assemble in groups, including members of other small species, except during the breeding season. However, they maintain a fairly wide space from one another while eating. This formation in groups is most apparent during winter. And their most common flock associates are Tufted Titmice.
Carolina Chickadees may exhibit aggressiveness in defending their individual space, which ranges from 2.2 to 5 feet between individuals. The more powerful bird may make gargle calls if this individual space is intruded. For instance, at feeders, every bird would get a seed and carry it to a branch that is a little distant from other chickadees.
Nesting females sleep in the nest cavity while males sleep in a sheltered branch in a tree, vine, or shrub that is close to the females’ nest cavity. They sleep individually, but may also sleep in the same cavity with the same members of the flock. These cavities are being competed by the Carolina Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, Brown Creepers, and Tufted Titmice.
Both the male and the female participate in digging a hole or choosing a cavity or nest box, which is commonly about 2-25 feet high in a tree. The female constructs the nest with moss and sometimes, bark strips. She then puts a thick lining of hair or plant fibers around the nest.
The female Carolina Chickadee would lay about 3-10 eggs. However, only 1 brood arises from this clutch. With both parents feeding the young, they are able to leave the nest 13-17 days after hatching.
Carolina Chickadees are quite widespread in their breeding range, spanning from common to abundant. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, their populations are stable. The estimated global breeding population of the species is 12 million, with 100 percent as native in the U.S.
They ave a 10 out of 20 rating on the Continental Concern Score and are not included on the 2012 Watch List.