Bird Database

Boreal Chickadee

(Poecile hudsonicus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Habitat loss and fragmentation, Climate change

Conservation Actions

More data are needed on population trends and magnitudes of threats

Boreal Chickadee

(Poecile hudsonicus)

The Boreal Chickadee is the Black-capped’s secretive northern cousin. Although it can be common in spruce-fir habitat in the White Mountains and North Country, it occurs at lower densities, doesn’t vocalize as frequently, and is far less inquisitive when birders try to attract it. Sometimes all an observer gets is one or two raspy “chick-a-dee-dee” calls before the bird disappears into the woods without ever being seen. Boreal Chickadees don’t even have a true song, instead uttering song-like garbled calls that, unlike song, are not learned and don’t seem to have a role in territory defense or mate attraction.

Although widespread across from Alaska to Newfoundland, the Boreal Chickadee’s relative rarity, secrecy, and lack of a song make it difficult to detect. As a result, it is hard to measure population trends for the species. Available data from the Breeding Bird Survey suggest recent declines in the extreme southeastern corner of this broad range (Maine, parts of Nova Scotia), while Alaska and western Canada show increases. Another way to assess this species’ status is through Breeding Bird Atlases, and those in the eastern part of the range suggest that the distribution has not changed significantly since the 1980s. One exception is Vermont, where the Boreal Chickadee now occupies a significantly smaller portion of the state’s “Northeast Kingdom” than it did in the 1980s. This could be a warning about factors such as climate change operating at the southern edge of the species’ range.

Like the Black-capped Chickadee, the Boreal is largely non-migratory but sometimes moves south in response to low food availability. These “irruptions” are relatively rare, but when they occur it’s possible to find Boreal Chickadees well south of their usual haunts from the White Mountains north. Most wayward birds appear in October or November, when they gravitate to spruce-fir habitat such as on isolated mountaintops. They can show up almost anywhere however, and in rare cases may even spend the winter visiting a bird feeder before departing back to the north in April or May.

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.

Boreal 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