Photo Credit: Bill Horn
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Poecile carolinensis
DESCRIPTION: Carolina chickadees are small birds four to five inches in length and being mostly gray above and white below. They have very small black bills, a black cap and throat, and white cheeks. Their flanks are a pale buff color. There are no differences in coloration between males and females. Their call is a high pitched and fast Chickadee-dee-dee and their song is a four-note whistle of fee-bee fee-bay.
DISTRIBUTION: Resident from central New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, and Oklahoma south to the Gulf Coast, throughout Florida and into Texas.
HABITAT: Carolina chickadees can be found in a variety of habitat types including deciduous, mixed, and coniferous forests, as well as woodland clearings and edges, gardens, parks, and residential areas.
FEEDING HABITS: Rarely descending to the ground, Carolina chickadees feed primarily in trees and thickets, often acrobatically hanging upside down to pull insects from foliage and tree bark. Their diet consists of seasonal food items such as insects, insect larvae, spiders, seeds, and berries. Carolina chickadees are a common visitor to bird feeders and are usually seen at feeders with other species such as tufted titmouse, blue jays, northern cardinals, and sparrows. During winter, they feed in small flocks of 8 to 12 birds and forage in the woodlands with nuthatches, titmouse, warblers, kinglets, and other small birds.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: While in their winter flocks, Carolina chickadees defend areas against other flocks. Dominant birds in these flocks establish breeding territories during the summer that were part of the winter range. The nest is a loose cup of plant fibers, moss, and feathers at the bottom of a tree cavity or birdhouse one to ten feet above the ground. They generally lay six to eight white eggs with brown speckles. They eggs hatch after 11 to 13 days of incubation and the young leave the nest after 14 to 18 days. The pair bond between a male and female can last several years, although the probability that a pair will remain together seems to vary among populations. If a nest attempt fails, a female may move to a different territory and find a different mate.
Bull, J. and John Farrand, Jr. 1977. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York, NY and Random House of Canada Limited. Toronto, Canada. Pp. 656-657.
Cassidy, James, R.L. Scheffel, G. Ferguson, G. Visalli, D. Palmer, C. Joh, and V. Gardner. 1990. Book of North American Birds. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, New York, P. 228.
National Geographic Society. 1999. Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. P.328.
Peterson, Roger T. 1980. Eastern Birds. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York. P. 210, Map 247.
AUTHOR: Jud Easterwood, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries, November, 2008