Our Wild Neighbors

Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus

A small curious bird, found throughout Canada, even in winter

Image of a Black-capped Chickadee, mounted perched on a branch, seen from an angle with its head to the left.

Description of the animal

  • A charming little bird that measures 12 to 15 cm from bill-tip to tail-tip. Sometimes the Chickadee puffs up its dense, thick feathers and looks like a little ball.
  • Long tail.
  • Black cap and throat patch; white cheek patches.
  • The back and wings are greenish-grey, the tail is dark grey, the chest and flanks are a light brownish buff.
  • A short, robust bill.

Habitat and needs

  • During nesting, feeds on mainly caterpillars, spiders, snails, slugs, and insects.
  • In winter, it eats more grains and fruit. The Chickadee also consumes animal fat found as suet in birdfeeders or from dead animals found under fallen leaves.
  • Stores its food and memorizes where the cache is: the Chickadee plans ahead!
  • Lives with a small flock of about 10 birds, except during breeding. Each bird has a rank based on its degree of aggression in the “pecking order.”
  • Produces at least 15 different calls to communicate with its flock mates and offspring.
  • Is fairly sedentary. Throughout the year, the Chickadee lives where there are evergreens and deciduous trees. Using its bill, it drills a cavity in rotten tree trunks or branches. That’s where it rests and nests. At times, it inhabits an abandoned woodpecker hole.
  • Does not accumulate fat reserves to survive winter, and does not hibernate. At night, the Chickadee enters a controlled hypothermia phase.

Relationship

  • The Black-Capped Chickadee is the most widespread bird species in Canada. A tiny acrobat, it is the incarnation of gaiety and good humour. It is very curious, and thus often comes quite close to people, many of whom give it seeds.
  • The Chickadee is an excellent bird for introducing children to bird-watching, even in winter. It is recognizable by its soft fee-bee or hi sweetie in spring and its chick-a-dee-dee-dee in summer.
  • Feeding stations considerably increase the survival rate of the Chickadee, especially in winter.
  • The Chickadee is useful in controlling insect pests.
  • Incapable of seeing window surfaces, many Chickadees crash into them in mid-flight.

Living with them

  • It is very easy to attract the Chickadee, especially in winter. All you have to do is:
  • Install a birdfeeder containing sunflower seeds.
  • Hang a piece of suet on the bark of a tree.
  • Keep cats indoors.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen