The Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) has possibly introduced more people to the love of birding than any other. Intolerably cute, bold and friendly, plentiful and easy to attract to feeders (or your hand), it’s hard to believe anyone has not seen at least one.
Similar, yet different
K-Country features all three of the most common Chickadee species in Alberta. It’s not that hard to tell them apart. Mountain Chickadees have a white eyebrow. Boreal Chickadees have a cinnamon brown colour to their tummies, instead of the lighter gray and buff of the Black-Caps.
All three travel in flocks of 3 to more than a dozen birds, sometimes even of multiple species. All three eat seeds and insects. None of the three migrate. All are little bundles of energy.
Unique and complex calls
Most people can identify the call of a chickadee, which indeed sounds like its name: “chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee”. But did you know that individual flocks adopt a specific number of “dees”? This helps them identify their brethren. The call is actually made up of 4 distinct units (A through D). Calls have been studied for decades, trying to understand what each unit means. The D unit indicates information about predators, and the C about food sources. The various patterns of calls can get quite complex.
And they make more than just the “chick-a-dee” sound, too. Black-Caps in particular have up to 12 vocalization patterns other than the “chick-a-dee” forms. This includes the familiar 2-note “fee-bee” sound, made only by males.
A wide range
You can find Black-Caps from coast to coast, as far south as Wyoming, and as far north as the Yukon. It’s the state bird of Maine and Massachusetts, and the provincial bird of New Brunswick. It’s even in the running as the official bird of the City of Calgary. It was the official bird of the city of Vancouver for 2015.
Female Black-Caps do most of the nesting work. While both may work at finding or making a nest cavity or hole, the female builds the nest alone. The female does all the sitting on the eggs, and is fed by the male while doing so. The female does all the feeding of the chicks, though most of the food is collected by the male, then fed to the female, who then feeds the chicks.
Meet more of the fun critters of K-Country here!