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2011-12-17
Massachusetts State Bird – Black-capped Chickadee


 The Black-capped Chickadee - Poecile atricapillus - is a small, North American bird in the tit family. It is the state bird of Massachusetts. The black-capped chickadee is found from coast to coast, from the northern half of the United States in the south, to James Bay, the southern edge of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and the southern half of Alaska in the north. In winter it may wander outside of this range, both to the north and south. Its preferred habitat is mixed woods. It is also found in open woods, parks, and suburban areas. On cold winter nights, these birds reduce their body temperature by up to 10–12 °C (from their normal temperature of about 42 °C) to conserve energy.

Description

The Black-capped Chickadee has a black cap and bib with white sides to the face. Its underpants are white with rusty brown on the flanks. Its back is gray and the tail is normally slate-gray. Sexes look alike, but males are slightly larger and longer than females.

Call

The vocalizations of the Black-capped Chickadee are highly complex. Chickadees' complex vocalizations are likely an evolutionary adaptation to their habitat: they live and feed in dense vegetation, and even when the flock is close together, individual birds tend to be out of each others' visual range. The song of the Black-capped is a simple, clear whistle of two notes, identical in rhythm, the first roughly a third above the second. The most familiar call is the familiar chick-a-dee-dee-dee which gave this bird its name.

Food

Insects (especially caterpillars) form a large part of their diet in summer. The birds hop along tree branches searching for food, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering; they may make short flights to catch insects in the air. Seeds and berries become more important in winter, though insect eggs and pupae remain on the menu. Black oil sunflower seeds are readily taken from bird feeders. At bird feeders during the winter many individuals will readily accept seed from a person's hand.

Breeding

The Black-capped Chickadee nests in a hole in a tree, 1–7 m above ground. The pair either excavates the hole together, or uses a natural cavity, or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. This species will also nest in a nesting box. The nesting season is from late April through June. The nest is built by the female only. Eggs are white with fine dots of reddish brown concentrated at the larger end. Clutch size is 6-8 eggs. Incubation lasts 11 to 14 days and is by the female only, who is fed by the male. Young leave the nest 12 to 16 days after hatching. They will still be fed by the parents for several weeks but are capable of catching food on their own within a week after leaving the nest.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

The population is stable or increasing in nearly all regions.

Bird watching

Chickadees may be found in any habitat that has trees or woody shrubs, from forests and woodlots to residential neighborhoods and parks, and sometimes weedy fields and cattail marshes. They frequently nest in birch or alder trees. Within their range, Black-capped chickadees are easily seen at many feeding stations, and in virtually any area with trees. They are often heard before they’re seen. They’re frequently attracted to investigate birders making pishing sounds. Once you’ve learned this bird’s calls, listen for them and then look for the flocks they travel in. Warblers and other migrating songbirds associate with chickadees and by looking through the chickadees you’re more likely to find these other species as well.

Massachusetts Hotspots

Plum Island and Parker River Refuge

Mount Auburn Cemetery

North Monomoy Island and South Beach

Fannie Stebbins Sanctuary

Joppa Flats

Salisbury Beach

Silvia O. Conte NWR

Great Meadows NWR

Berkshires Preserves

Connecticut River Valley

The Islands Preserves

Southeastern Mass. & Cape Cod

Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary


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