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Carolina Chickadee

Poecile carolinensis

The Carolina chickadee is a small, plump songbird with gray wings, a white face, and a black “cap” and “bib.” (Jerry Oldenettel/Flickr)
The Carolina chickadee is a small, plump songbird with gray wings, a white face, and a black “cap” and “bib.” (Jerry Oldenettel/Flickr)

The Carolina chickadee is a small, plump songbird with gray wings, a white face, and a black “cap” and “bib.” It lives in wooded areas, including parks and backyards, throughout the southern half of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Small, plump body with a short neck and a large head
  • White cheeks
  • Black “cap” and “bib”
  • Dark gray back, wings and tail
  • Whitish belly, often with buff-colored sides
  • Short, dark bill
  • Grows to about 4.5 inches long

Habitat:

  • Lives in wooded areas, including forests, riparian areas, swamps, parks, and backyards with large trees
  • Prefers forests that border a waterway or a clearing
  • In winter, lives in small flocks of 2-8 chickadees. These flocks create a feeding territory, defending it from other flocks.

Range:

  • Found year-round throughout the southern half of the Chesapeake Bay watershed (from southern Pennsylvania to Virginia)

Feeding:

  • Feeds mostly on insects and spiders, but will also eat seeds and berries, especially in winter
  • Acrobatic while feeding: chickadees hang upside down and tilt their head and body up to reach insects on leaves and tree bark
  • Often seen at bird feeders in winter

Predators:

  • Wrens, woodpeckers, raccoons, opossums, flying squirrels, rat snakes and domestic cats all prey upon chickadee eggs and young
  • Hawks prey upon adult chickadees

Voice:

  • Makes a four-note call

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Pairing begins in winter. Some pairs may only stay together for a single season, but it appears that most chickadee pairs mate for life.
  • Pairs find or construct a cavity within a dead tree or tree limb. Then the female builds a nest of moss, feathers and plant detritus in the cavity. Chickadees will also nest in bird houses.
  • The female lays 3-10 eggs, which are incubated for about two weeks
  • Young fledge about 16-19 days after hatching, and become independent 2-3 weeks after fledging

Other Facts:

  • The smallest chickadee in North America
  • In winter, when temperatures drop, chickadees survive by holing themselves in a small cavity and lowering their body temperature to the point of hypothermia. They can stay this way for up to 15 hours.

Sources and Additional Information:




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