South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 8 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Black cap and bib, white cheeks, gray back, buff wash on sides.

Black-capped Chickadee - Poecile atricapillusBlack-capped Chickadees are a very common permanent resident across South Dakota, and across most of the northern United States.  They often associate in winter flocks with an assortment of White-breasted Nuthatches, kinglets, and Brown Creepers. These hardy little birds may sometimes be one of the few signs of bird life in otherwise barren forests in the winter.  

Habitat: Forest and woodlands, groves, shade trees, residential areas, parks.  Primarily found in deciduous or mixed forest, not pure conifer stands.

Diet: Mostly insects, seeds, and berries.  Mostly insects in the summer.

Behavior: Forages by hopping from branch to branch, sometimes hanging upside down as it scours surfaces for food items.  They will sometimes cache food for later retrieval and consumption.

Nesting: Late April through mid-July.  The nest is in a cavity in a tree, either a natural cavity, or a cavity previously excavated by a woodpecker.  They have also learned to use nest boxes for breeding.  The female lays between 6 and 8 eggs, and she alone incubates the eggs, with the male bringing her food during the incubation period.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed and raise the young.  The young leave the nest after about 2 weeks.

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Click to listen to Black-capped Chickadee Song, also Black-capped Chickadee Call

Migration: Considered a permanent resident throughout their range.

Similar Species: Carolina Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Conservation Status: Numbers are generally thought to be stable, and Black-capped Chickadees are found over a very wide geographic area.  In recent years, there are some indications that West Nile virus has taken a heavy toll on Black-capped Chickadee populations in some regions.  However, populations are not currently threatened, and the IUCN lists the Black-capped Chickadee as a species of "Least Concern".

Feeders: Nuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter.

Birdhouses: Will nest in birdhouses designed for Chickadees.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Black-capped Chickadee

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Black-capped Chickadee"

3) Black-capped Chickadee

Photo Information: March 21st, 2010 - Perry Nature Area, Minnehaha County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Black-capped Chickadee photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Black-capped Chickadee - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common permanent resident throughout the state.