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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Cavity Makers

Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus

Black-capped chickadee foraging pine seeds

Black-capped Chickadees are small passerine birds that breed in deciduous and mixed woodlands in North America, particularly in Canada and the northern United States, from April to July. They are commonly found in forest edges, thickets, and suburban areas, which are characterized by dense underbrush and mature trees where insects and seeds are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage in trees, shrubs, and on the ground for caterpillars, spiders, aphids, beetles, and seeds from birch, alder, and coniferous trees. They may also feed on berries and small fruits.

Black-capped Chickadees have a distinctive foraging behavior that includes hanging upside down to access food, gleaning insects from foliage, and storing seeds for later consumption. Their sharp vision and agile movements enable them to exploit a wide range of food sources.

Courtship involves a series of vocalizations and displays. Males sing to attract females and perform a courtship dance that includes fluttering wings and presenting food to the female. Pair bonding is reinforced through mutual preening and feeding.

Both males and females excavate cavities in dead or decaying trees, often in birch, aspen, or willow trees. The nest is lined with moss, animal hair, and plant fibers. These cavities are typically located between 1 to 6 meters above the ground. They prefer forested areas with a mix of mature and younger trees.

Black-capped Chickadees readily nest in bird houses. Bird houses should have an entrance hole of about 3 cm in diameter and should be mounted on trees or posts at a height of 1.5 to 3 meters in wooded habitats, parks, or suburban areas. See Black-capped Chickadee Bird House Plans

Egg laying occurs in late spring, with the female laying 5 to 10 white eggs with reddish-brown spots. Incubation lasts about 12 to 13 days and is primarily done by the female. Upon hatching, both parents feed the chicks a diet of insects and small seeds.

Chicks learn to forage under the guidance of adults, who demonstrate how to find and extract food. As they grow, chicks practice pecking and gleaning techniques but remain vulnerable to predators and adverse weather conditions.

Chick fledging occurs about 16 to 18 days after hatching. Continued adult guidance is essential as fledglings refine their foraging skills. Their diet gradually expands to include a wider variety of insects and seeds.

Black-capped Chickadees are generally non-migratory, though some northern populations may move slightly southward in harsh winters. They tend to remain within their breeding range year-round.

Wintering habitats include the same deciduous and mixed woodlands, forest edges, and suburban areas as during the breeding season. They forage for insects, seeds, and berries, adapting their diet to the seasonal availability of food resources.