The Black-capped Chickadee is confined to North America, ranging through most of Canada and the upper two-thirds of the United States.
Black-capped chickadees prefer deciduous woodlands, open woods and parks, cottonwood groves, and willow thickets. They are most commonly seen near edges of wooded areas.
The Black-capped Chickadee is easily recognized by its short plump body, solid black cap and bib, and white cheeks. Its back and wings are dark greenish-gray, with some streaks of white and black.
Pair formation occurs in the fall, with eggs being laid some time between April and early July (depending on the geographic location). The female builds the nest alone, as well as incubating the eggs exclusively. The eggs are left unattended for short periods (about 7 minutes). The male brings food to the female.
Black-capped chickadees have been recorded living up to 11 years and 2 months in the wild. (U.S. Geological Survey, 2011)
Black-capped Chickadees hop on trees ( occasionally on the ground), rather than "walking." Pairs have set territories, ranging from 1.5 to 5.3 ha. Most pairs persist together for several years. The black-capped chickadee social system has two extremes, one shown by territorial pairs during the bredding season, and the other consisting of nonbreeding flocks. These flocks are often mixed species flocks, including in them nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, creepers, warblers, and vireos.
Black-capped chickadees feed on both animals and plants (the overall consumption has been measured to be about 70% animal and 30% plant). Animal foods consist mainly of insects and spiders. Caterpillars are preferred in the breeding season. Chickadees have been observed eating deer or skunk fat and fish. Plant materials eaten by the chickadee include honeysuckle and blackberries, seeds from hemlocks, and wax-covered berries such as those of poison ivy and bayberry.
Black-capped chickadees give sharp "zeet" alarm calls when they see a predator. Predators are often mobbed by groups of chickadees in order to scare it away. Predators near nests often evoke a distraction display, where the chickadee lands near the predator, leans towards it with the tail feathers fully spread, and raises and lowers its wings. (Smith, 1993)
Adult black-capped chickadees are preyed on primarily by small hawks, owls, and shrikes, including sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus), northern shrikes (Lanius excubitor), eastern screech owls (Otus asio), and saw whet owls (Aegolius acadicus). Eggs and nestlings are preyed on by mammalian nest predators such as raccoons (Procyon lotor), squirrels (Sciurus and Tamiasciurus), opossums (Didelphis virginianus), and weasels (Mustela). House wrens (Troglodytes aedon) sometimes destroy eggs in order to take over the nesting cavity. (Smith, 1993)
Black-capped chickadees help control populations of insect species that may be harmful to agriculture and silviculture.
While the clearing of forests for agriculture has led to more forest edge, which is favorable to black-capped chickadees, too much cutting can cause lack of natural nest sites. Due to feeders and nestboxes, however, the black-capped chickadee has little current threat to its population. (Smith, 1993)
Jennifer Roof (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.
uses sight to communicate
Smith, Susan M. 1991. The Black-capped Chickadee: Behavioral Ecology and Natural History. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY.
Smith, S. 1993. "Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)" (On-line). Birds of North America Online. Accessed July 09, 2008 at http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/039.
U.S. Geological Survey, 2011. "Bird Banding Laboratory" (On-line). Accessed October 25, 2011 at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/longevity/longevity_main.cfm.