The black-capped Chickadee is a non-migratory, North American songbird that lives in deciduous an mixed forests. It is a passerine bird in the tit family PARIDAE. It is the state bird of both Maine and Massachusetts in the US, and the provincial bird of New Brunswick in Canada.
It is almost universally considered ‘cute’ due to its oversized round head, tiny body and curiosity about everything, including humans. At one time, the black-capped chickadee was considered by some to e conspecific with the Willow Tit of Eurasia, due to their similar appearances. It has a black ‘cap’ and ‘bib’ with white sides to the face. Its under-parts are white with rusty brown on the flanks. Its back is grey and the tail is, normally, slate-grey. It has a short dark bill, short rounded wings and a long tail. Its total body length is 12-15cm, wing-span is 16-21cm and body mass is 9-14g. Both sexes look alike, but the males are slightly larger than the females.
The most obvious difference between the black-capped chickadee and the Carolina chickadee is the wing feathers. In the black-capped chickadee, the wing feathers have white edges that are larger and more conspicuous than those of the Carolina chickadee. The black-capped chickadee, generally, has a more ‘ragged’ looking black bib, whereas the bib of the Carolina chickadee has a more smooth-edged look.
The black-capped chickadee is found from coast to coast, from the Northern half of the US in the South, to James Bay, the Southern edge of the Northeast Territories and the Yukon, and the Southern half of Alaska in the North. In winter it may wander outside this range, both to the north and south. Its preferred habitat is deciduous woods or mixed (deciduous/coniferous) woods. Insects, especially caterpillars, form a large part of their diet. Chickadees will take food such as seeds from feeders and trays over to a tree branch to hammer them open. They commonly CACHE food, mostly seeds, in various sites ——- barks, clusters of conifer needles or knotholes. Memory for the location of CACHES can last up to 28days. Within the first 24hrs, the birds can even remember the relative quality of the stored items.
On cold winter nights, they reduce their body temperature by as much as 10-12degrees C (from their normal temperature of about 42 degrees C to conserve energy. Their sleeping posture is with the bill tucked under the scapula (shoulder) feathers. It scratches its head with its foot over the wing. it can bathe in water, dew or snow, young chickadees have been observed dust-bathing.
The vocalizations of the chickadee are highly complex (3 distinct types of vocalizations have been classified). The song of the chickadee is a simple, clear whistle of 2 notes, identical in rhythm, the first roughly a whole-step above the second. Carolina chickadees 4-note call is FEE-BEE FEE-BAY. The lower notes are identical to the black-capped chickadee’s but the higher FEE notes are omitted, making the black-capped chickadee’s song like BEE-BAY. The most familiar call is the CHICK-A-DEE-DEE which gave the bird its name. The song of the lack-capped chickadee acts as a CONTACT CALL, an ALARM CALL, to identify an individual or to indicate recognition of a particular flock ——- a very interesting fact indeed !!!!!