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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Black-capped Chickadee -- Parus atricapillus

RANGE: Resident from western and central Alaska, Saskatchewan, southern Quebec, and Newfoundland south to northwestern California, northeastern Nevada, central New Mexico, northeastern Oklahoma, central Indiana, and northern New Jersey, and in the Appalachians at higher elevations. Wanders irregularly south in winter.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Prefers mixed woodlands but also inhabits deciduous and coniferous forests. Will inhabit dense woodlands to thickets, orchards, and urban areas, wherever suitable nesting cavities exist or can be excavated.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Comparatively open sites near deep woods, and dead standing trees larger than 4 inches dbh for nesting and feeding.

NEST: Usually excavates own nest holes in soft decayed wood of a dead tree or branch stub; will use existing cavities of other birds or bird houses. Prefers to nest in tree species that occur in early seral stages such as aspen, paper birch, yellow birch, willow, basswood, maple, and white ash. Favors trees adjacent to open areas in forest or edge situations for nest sites. Generally roosts in dense foliage rather than cavities.

FOOD: Forages from the ground to the tree tops for a variety of insects, conifer seeds, and fruits.

REFERENCES: Bailey and Niedrach 1965, Bent 1946, Brewer 1961, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Martin et al. 1951, Odum 1941a, 1941b, 1942, Thomas et al. 1979.

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