Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla/ atricapillus)

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla/ atricapillus)

“Chicka-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee!”
Did you know that a chickadee that has just made this sound has sent out the alert that he or she perceives a high level of threat? It’s true! Researchers have shown that chickadees communicate levels of threat to each other with the number of “dee’s” in their “chicka-dee” calls.  The more dee’s in the call, the higher the threat.  Listen for this the next time you see a group of chickadees.  Can you find the predator they are warning each other about?
When a group of chickadees encounters a predator, they often engage in mobbing behavior.  This means that they will be aggressive toward or actually attack the enemy.  Why do birds mob? Researchers have several ideas – it may be to warn other birds of a predator in the area, to drive a predator out of the area, or perhaps to distract the predator from their nests.  Birds mob year-round, but the highest amounts of mobbing occur during the breeding season.

This easily tamed bird is attracted to seed and suet, and therefore often found at backyard feeders.  They are often seen with woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Size: 5” to 5.5”

Sexes: similar

Similar species: Boreal Chickadee, Carolina Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Gray-headed Chickadee, Mexican Chickadee, and Mountain Chickadee
– of these, only the Boreal Chickadee can be found in Minnesota; the Minnesota range of the Boreal Chickadee includes far northern Minnesota

Song: Chick-a-dee-dee-dee, a cheerful two-toned fee-bee!

Diet: insects, insect eggs, seeds, fruits

Habitat: open deciduous and deciduous-conifer woodlands, suburbs

Migration: non-migratory

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