BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)

Black-capped chickadees are year-round residents on PEI, and can be found in small groups. As the English name implies, the bird has a black cap with white sides on the face and a black throat. The back and tail are grey, the under parts white with buff flanks. The sexes are similar. It is a very small song bird, at around 12 cm (5 in.) long. See photos below for a rare leucistic individual, note the lack of pigmentation on the head, the bill and legs..

Aside from the call that gives it its name, a whistling call can be heard in the spring. Black-capped chickadees can eat large seeds – such as sunflower seeds that they love – by holding them between their feet on a branch and hammering at them with their bill. They are very agile and can even walk upside down on branches sometimes. Aside from seeds their diet includes insects.

Black-capped chickadees are easily attracted to bird feeders, and they behave in a ‘civil’ manner. Whereas some species (such as evening grosbeaks) will fight among each other to get the best spot at the feeder, chickadees will come to the feeder one by one, while the others will wait for their turn. There seems to be is a ‘hierarchy’ among those birds.

Black-capped chickadees are comfortable around humans and with a little patience they can even be hand fed (see below). When fed in abundance – which easily happens with bird feeders – chickadees will store seeds in every little nook and cranny they can find, including wooden garden stakes!

Black-capped Chickadee on trail near hospital, Ch'town, PEI - Oct.30, 2014 - © Denise Motard
Black-capped Chickadee on trail near hospital, Ch’town, PEI – Oct.30, 2014 – © Denise Motard
Black-capped chickadee - near O'Leary, PEI - Feb. 9, 2018 - © Jodi Arsenault
Black-capped chickadee – near O’Leary, PEI – Feb. 9, 2018 – © Jodi Arsenault
Black-capped chickadee, leucistic individual, back view - Sept. 2014 - Elmira area, PEI - © Lois Kilburn
Black-capped chickadee, leucistic individual, back view – Sept. 2014 – Elmira area, PEI – © Lois Kilburn
Black-capped Chickadee - Summerside, PEI - Feb. 2017 - © Marie Smith
Black-capped Chickadee – Summerside, PEI – Feb. 2017 – © Marie Smith
Black-capped chickadee, leucistic individual - Sept. 2014 - Elmira area, PEI - © Lois Kilburn
Black-capped chickadee, leucistic individual – Sept. 2014 – Elmira area, PEI – © Lois Kilburn
Black-capped Chickadee feeding in hand - Summerside, PEI - July 2016 - © Marie Smith
Black-capped Chickadee feeding in hand – Summerside, PEI – July 2016 – © Marie Smith
Black-capped chickadees, one leucistic individual - Sept. 2014 - Elmira area, PEI - © Lois Kilburn
Black-capped chickadees, one leucistic individual – Sept. 2014 – Elmira area, PEI – © Lois Kilburn

This video below shows that contrary to many ‘social’ birds, the black-capped chickadees will only feed one by one from a food source, waiting for their ‘turn’. They probably also feel vulnerable on the ground on that trail, as they zip back up in the trees as soon as they find a seed. Taken on the trail along the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.

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