Black-capped Chickadee


Common Name: Black-capped Chickadee

Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Paridae

Genus: Poecile

Species: Poecile atricapilla

Photo: Ivan Andrijevic




Black-capped Chickadees are passeriformes in the family Paridae. This family consists of Tits and Chickadees. The Black-capped Chickadee is a small bird, no bigger than 6 inches, with a small black bill.  It has a pale whitish chest with buffy flanks. Like the other Chickadee’s of the east, it has white cheeks and a black bib. 

Photos: Ivan Andrijevic


The Black-capped Chickadee can be distinguished from all other Chickadees by range alone because they are the only Chickadee found in Western New York.

The Black-capped Chickadee lives year-round in the northern half of the United States and much of Canada. The Black-capped Chickadee has developed incredible adaptations to survive the cold winters in these areas which includes the ability save energy by lowering their body, and hiding food with the capability of finding it later. In the winter months, half of the Black-capped Chickadee’s food is made up of insects, spiders, and other animal material.  The other half of their food at this time is plant material, like seeds and berries that they have saved.  During the summer, around 90% of their diet is made up of mostly caterpillars, but also spiders, snails, slugs, and other insects.  The rest is mostly wild berries, like honeysuckle, blackberries, and blueberries.

Photo: M. Noonan



The Black-capped Chickadee is seldom territorial towards other species and will set up breeding territories with a mate in spring.  Mating pairs usually have territories set 5 to 7 weeks before egg laying begins.  In winter, Black-capped Chickadees form flocks and a dominance hierarchy is developed within each flock.  Males usually rank above females, as older birds rank above younger.  At times, non-breeding flocks can include other species, especially other parids where the range occurs.  Pair bonds between Chickadees will usually last for years before divorce or fatality breaks them. Each breeding season the female will lay 6-8 white eggs and both sexes will participate in incubating them which lasts for 11-13 days. The chicks are born blind, immobile and helpless. Again, both sexes will care for them for 16-18 days after hatching until the young are ready to leave the nest. 

Photo: M. Noonan




Black-capped Chickadees can be found in mixed woodland areas, especially on the edges of these areas all year round in WNY.  They nest in cavities, like old woodpecker holes, and can often be found in snags or rotten branches.  They will also come to feeders to eat suet or sunflower seeds. They can be seen at most parks and in most backyards. Black-capped Chickadees found at Losson Park and Tifft Nature Preserve have been habituated to eat seeds from your hand.


Photo: Skyler Dobert


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.