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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

Chestnut-backed Chickadee -- Parus rufescens

RANGE: Resident from south-central and southeastern Alaska, western British Columbia, northern Idaho, western Alberta, and northwestern Montana south through the coast ranges to southern California and through the Cascades and Sierra Nevadas to central California.

STATUS: Common; has extended its range in California in the past 20 years.

HABITAT: Prefers low-elevation, coastal, mesic coniferous forests of pines, cedar, tamarack, and hemlock. Also inhabits along streams and in adjacent deciduous woodlands.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Available tree cavities or rotted snags suitable for nest excavation.

NEST: Builds nest in natural cavities, or abandoned woodpecker holes, or excavates cavities in soft, rotted tree stubs. Prefers pine, oak, and Douglas-fir snags.

FOOD: Gleans much of its food from tree trunks, but also from rotting logs on the ground. Primarily eats insects but also takes spiders, some fruit pulp, and conifer seeds.

REFERENCES: Beal 1907, Bent 1946, Grinnell and Miller 1944, Root 1964, Terres 1980.

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