The Black-Capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus, captures hearts as it calls “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee.” Since chickadees fly and move quickly, I often hear their call before I see them. Thus, the beginner birder can aim to use the chickadee as an easier bird to begin listening to bird calls and hone their skills in spotting smaller birds.
When I do spot the Black-Capped Chickadee, their distinct coloring shines through. The top of the chickadee’s head indeed has a black top. Moving down the chickadee, I next notice a white band that encircles the neck. The white band coupled with the black cap are the two features I identify first and foremost.
Sometimes, however, I find the chickadee hard to see despite their classic call and black cap. Since their coloring remains in blacks, whites, and grays, they often blend into willows, shrubs, tree branches, and other natural environments. When I have seen the Black-Capped Chickadee in late March and early April on my daily quarantine walks, I often hear them first, then I stop moving while looking in the direction of the call until I finally see movement. The movement allows me to focus into an area and see the chickadee.
Let’s look into more of the basics!
- Black on the top of the head resembling a hat
- White on the sides of the face and back of the neck
- Black patch on the front of neck
- Gray wings and back
- White to off-white chest
The Black-Capped Chickadee resides mostly in wooded areas or near wooded areas flying in and out of suburban neighborhoods. They frequently inhabit stream sides full of willows as well.
While the Black-Capped Chickadee mostly does not migrate, they inhabit vast swaths of the northern half of the United States into Canada and Alaska.
The Black-Capped Chickadee is in the Paridae Family.
The Black-Capped Chickadee & the Journal:
As a first spread on the Black-Capped Chickadee, I kept it to the basics. Thus, I used the typical categories of general characteristics, habitat, range, field notes, and family. These become important as I travel because I may one day see a member of the species outside their normal range. As our climate changes, so do the habitats and habits of the natural world, including birds.
I became a little ambitious with my sketching in this spread and sketched the Black-Capped Chickadee both standing and in flight. This had a two-fold reasoning: first, due to the small and fast nature of the chickadee, photographing them proved extremely difficult; and second, I feel that the more I sketch, the more comfortable I will become in the practice. You don’t need to be a hugely successful artist to sketch a bird — you just need to try. Check out my post on the basics of nature journaling here!
On my daily walks, I have only found the Black-Capped Chickadee as solo individuals in late March. I am curious to see if this will change in other seasons. Likewise, I want to see if they become easier to spot when the deciduous trees begin to leaf or not. We’ll have to wait and see!