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The Birds of Winter: Chickadees

The Birds of Winter: which bird might I see today?


Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped chickadee taking seed in Lake Country

If you have a bird feeder up in winter you are probably visited by chickadees. These endearing little birds are here year round and winter is one of the best times to see them. In our valley we have four species of chickadee: Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Boreal Chickadee.

You will rarely see the brown-capped Boreal Chickadees unless you are up in the high spruce forests, and usually then only fleetingly.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee on red osier dogwood, Philpott Road

Chestnut-backed Chickadees are more common. These birds frequent the wetter fir forests and are, for example, the only chickadee found on Vancouver Island. I usually see them up at Philpott, Three Forks or Greystokes Roads off Highway 33 but one memorable winter three of them came regularly to my feeder in Lake Country, so you never know! They are very pretty little birds, with a rich chestnut tinge to their flanks and back.

Mountain Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee on fir branch, Beaver Lake Road

Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees are abundant. As the name implies Mountain Chickadees tend to prefer conifer woods at higher elevations. They can be distinguished from Black-capped by their white ‘eyebrow’ stripe and paler grey feathers.

Black-capped Chickadee on cattail
Black-capped Chickadee on cattail, Chichester Marsh, Rutland

Black-capped Chickadees have an all-black cap and throat patch, and a warm buff colour on their sides. They are found in all kinds of habitat. If you put out black oil sunflower seeds for them they will enchant you with their ‘dash and grab’ antics as they flit in and out to take seeds. They can be very tame around people and will even take seeds from your hand if you stand very still.

I don’t know how it is, but somehow chickadees always seem cheerful. They can brighten a dull winter’s day with their antics. You will often see them with nuthatches, creepers, kinglets and downy woodpeckers – but that’s a subject for another day!


Editor’s Note: As we begin the second year of Pam Laing’s The Birds of ….. blog posts, I would like to sincerely thank Pam for the wonderful text and photographs that she has provided for the Lake Country Museum’s blog and its readers. We truly appreciate the content and the exceptional beauty of the photographs. Thank you, Pam!


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