Text Size: A  A  A

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:

The Carolina chickadee grows to about 4.5 inches in length. It has a small, plump body with a short neck and a large head. It has white cheeks, a short, dark bill and a black "cap" and "bib." Its back, wings and tail are a dark gray color, while its belly is whitish, often with buff-colored sides.

Habitat:

The chickadee lives in wooded areas, including forests, riparian areas, swamps, parks, and backyards with large trees. It prefers forests that border a waterway or a clearing. In winter, it 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:

The Carolina chickadee feeds mostly on insects and spiders, but will also eat seeds and berries, especially in winter. It is acrobatic while feeding: chickadees hang upside down and tilt their head and body up to reach insects on leaves and tree bark. They can often be 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:

The chickadee makes a four-note call, see-dee, see-dee, or a buzzy chickadee-dee-dee-dee.

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:




Click tabs to swap between type and habitat.

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved