Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Judd Patterson
Photo Copyright Judd Patterson

The black-capped chickadee, Poecile atricapillus, is a widespread resident species found in Alaska, Canada, and the northern half of the continental United States. It is found throughout the entire state of Utah. A familiar species in the suburbs, individuals can be found in a variety of habitats, including mixed deciduous/coniferous woodlands, willow thickets, clearings, and parks. During the winter, these chickadees eat a diet comprised of half animal material (primarily insects and spiders) and half plant material (mostly seeds and berries). During the summer breeding season, however, they rely primarily on caterpillars. Most foraging take place in trees.

Pairs generally form in the fall. Black-capped chickadees nest in the cavities of dead trees or branches. Both the male and female excavate several sites before the female makes the final selection. The female then builds the nest using materials such as moss and animal fur. Six to eight eggs are incubated, and the female roosts in the nest for the entire incubation period of eleven to thirteen days. During the nest-building and incubation periods, the male provides food for the female. Hatchlings are born with closed eyes, without any down, and are dependent on both their parents for food. The hatchlings leave the nest after about two weeks, but they continue to stay with their parents for another three weeks, at which time they begin dispersing to new areas.


  • Biological and Conservation Database. 2000. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Association for Biodiversity Information.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Smith, S. M. 1993. Black-capped Chickadee. Birds of North America 39.