Black Capped Chickadee Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is a small North American bird that is mostly found in the mixed and deciduous forests. It is thought to lower down its temperature when the outside temperature drops. Studies further show that the black-capped chickadee is able to recall things for e.g. she could remember caches where she put her food.

Black Capped Chickadee Facts


  • The head-body length of the black-capped chickadee averages 12–15 cm (4.7–5.9 in) and the tail measures about 58–63 mm (2.3–2.5 in) in length.
  • Chickadees weigh up to 9–14 g (0.32–0.49 oz) along with the 16–21 cm (6.3–8.3 in) wingspan.
  • They have short rounded wings measuring up to 63.5–67.5 mm (2.50–2.66 in).
  • Black-capped chickadees have got 16–17 mm (0.63–0.67 in) long tarsus.
  • The bill averages 8–9.5 mm (0.31–0.37 in) in length.
  • Females are slightly shorter and less heavy than to males.
  • Black-capped chickadees appear to be same as Carolina chickadee.
  • They are songbirds and are often seen singing odd songs.
black-capped chickadee facts
Black-capped Chickadee ©

Distribution & Habitat

  • Black-capped chickadees occur in the northern United States to as far south as James Bay. Their range extends to the southern Alaska, southern Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
  • They are likely to make homes in mixed and deciduous forests. Chickadees prefer to survive in coniferous woods, deciduous woods, suburban areas, and parks.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Black-capped chickadees rely heavily on insects in general and caterpillars in particular. They seem to eat more caterpillars in summer.
  • They search for insects along tree branches and often do they take short flights to capture insects in the air.
  • In winter, black-capped chickadees consume more and more berries and seeds. But they keep on eating insect larvae and eggs.
  • Chickadees will feed on black sunflower oil seeds from bird feeders. They carry seeds in the bill to a safe perch where chickadees break the seed and eat it.
  • Black-capped chickadees’ diet consists of dead leaves, knotholes, bark, and clusters of conifer needles.
  • They may recall the last cache where they put food and the memory lasts nearly a month. Biologists even believe that chickadees remember the quality of food they store in the last 24 hours.


  • In winter, black-capped chickadees will lower down their body temperature to 10 to 12°C. This is common to many bird species. It is called torpor.
  • They are not migratory birds. In extreme cold however chickadees fly south within their range. Sometimes they go little outside their limited range.
  • Chickadees spend winter in flocks but they also forage together.
  • They give a unique call when they come up with a new food source.
  • It prefers to sleep in tree cavities and dense vegetation. Chickadees typically sleep either alone but sometimes they roost in groups.
  • The black-capped chickadee can bathe not only in water and snow but also in the dust.
  • The speed at which the black-capped chickadee flies is 20 km/h (12 mph).
  • They seem to possess complex vocalizations. Studies suggest that the chickadees are able to produce 13 different vocalizations.
  • One of the most common sounds they utter is chick-a-dee-dee-dee.
black-capped chickadee facts
Black-capped Chickadee ©

Reproductive Biology

  • The nest of the black-capped chickadees is 1–7 m (3.3–23.0 ft) above the ground. It is located in a tree-hole.
  • They occasionally use abandoned nests of woodpeckers.
  • The breeding season occurs from April to June. Female alone builds a nest. Materials they use in a nest include bark strips and a moss.
  • A female lays 6–8 white eggs. There are reddish brown spots on the eggs.
  • Black-capped chickadee’s eggs measure about 1.52 cm × 1.22 cm (0.60 in × 0.48 in).
  • Female alone incubates the eggs that last about 11 – 14 days. Young are born blind and naked. They will leave the nest in about 12 – 16 days. However they remain with their parents for many weeks.
  • The maximum lifespan of black-capped chickadees is 12 years.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Express yourself about the animals