Bird Database

Black-capped Chickadee

(Poecile atricapillus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Predation, Collisions

Conservation Actions

Maintain a bird-friendly yard

Black-capped Chickadee

(Poecile atricapillus)

Black-capped Chickadees are one of the most familiar bird species in the Granite State. They are found statewide (although rarely at the highest elevations), regularly visit bird feeders, and have an easily recognized call. To top it off, they are quite inquisitive and have sometimes become so acclimated to people as to eat out of our hands. It should come as no surprise then that chickadee images adorn all manner of commercial products from mugs and jewelry to cards and Christmas ornaments.

Because they’re such reliable fixtures of people’s yards, the absence of chickadees is regularly a source of concern for feeder watchers, who call organizations like New Hampshire Audubon to express their worries. The good news is that, although chickadee populations may be declining (see below), there are perfectly good explanations for such local variability in numbers. For one thing, while chickadees aren’t truly migratory, they do undertake occasional movements if food supplies are low. At such times observers might notice small flocks moving through atypical habitat (e.g., along the immediate coast), usually in October. These movements can result in higher or lower numbers in a given area depending on how far the chickadees go. Food is the basis for the second explanation as well. If there is abundant natural food (e.g., pine seeds) most birds will be out in the wild consuming it, and not be as drawn to the free buffets that are bird feeders. If there are not chickadees at your feeder, you’ll likely find them simply by taking a walk into the nearby woods and listening.

Although chickadees remain common, there are some indications that populations are declining slightly. This is especially apparent south of New England in the Appalachians and along the coast, where competition with the closely-related Carolina Chickadee may be a factor. The latter species is gradually moving north, is socially dominant over Black-caps where they co-occur, and the two even hybridize. One result is that the range of Black-capped Chickadee is slowly receding north. And even though Carolina Chickadees are still hundreds of miles from New Hampshire, the fact that Black-caps are the more northern of the two could mean they’re more sensitive to climate change. Thus, even in areas where this is the only chickadee, they may be experiencing negatives effects of warming even if Carolina Chickadees aren’t present to interfere.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Black-capped Chickadee
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count