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Birds of the St. Croix River Valley: Minnesota and Wisconsin



Black-capped Chickadee -- Boreal Chickadee -- Tufted Titmouse

Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus)

Status: Regular permanent resident.

Distribution: Uncommon (locally common) nesting species in the Western Upland, common and more widespread in the Central Plain and Northern Highland. Analysis of BBS data (Table 5) suggests a rapid increase in abundance moving northward from the southern oak forest type of the Western Upland to the mixed deciduous-coniferous forest of the Northern Highland. Goddard (1972) reported a breeding density of 15.1 pairs per 40 ha in mixed habitats along the Kinnickinnic River, Pierce County. Jackson (1943) reported that this species was "only moderately common at most localities" in northwestern Wisconsin. However, he reported it "seemed to be more plentiful . . . at Solon Springs."

Winter: Common and well-distributed winter resident in the Western Upland and Central Plain, uncommon in the Northern Highland. Christmas Bird Count data (Table 4) also suggest that the largest winter densities occur in the southern regions. Mean numbers of black-capped chickadees on the Afton CBC (Western Upland) are nearly three times as large as those on the Solon Springs CBC (Northern Highland). Comparison of CBC and BBS data (Tables 4 and 5) shows that the relative abundance of this species among physiographic regions is reversed between seasons. This is logical considering the periodic influxes of this species into areas south of the breeding range throughout the eastern United States.

Habitat: The black-capped chickadee is rather cosmopolitan in its choice of habitats during the nesting season. Breeding pairs in the Western Upland use Southern Deciduous Forest and Lowland Deciduous Forest most extensively. Habitat use in the Central Plain includes Northern Hardwood Forest, Lowland Deciduous Forest, Black Spruce-Tamarack Bog, and Jack Pine Barren. In the Northern Highland, extensive use is made of Northern Hardwood Forest, primarily stands of medium-aged mixed forest that is dominated by sugar maple, basswood, and scattered white pine. Also important in this region are Lowland Coniferous Forest, Black Spruce-Tamarack Bog, and remnant stands of Upland Coniferous Forest. One important aspect of black-capped chickadee breeding habitat is the presence of natural cavities or dead snags for nest placement. The spread of Dutch Elm disease, primarily in Lowland Deciduous Forest, may benefit this species. Several breeding pairs that I observed in this habitat in the Western Upland were using holes in dead American elm that had been excavated by woodpeckers.

Boreal Chickadee (Parus hudsonicus)

Status: Casual winter resident, one summer record.

Winter: Boreal chickadees have been recorded on several CBC's: Afton-29 December 1966 and 1 January 1972; Suburban St. Paul-1 January 1975; Grantsburg-26 December 1976; and Solon Springs-23 December 1976. A single bird was recorded at St. Croix Falls (Polk County) on 3 January 1950, and one individual in Washington County on 30 September 1972.

Nesting Season Distribution: An adult was seen and heard near Solon Springs, Douglas County, on 27 June 1972. Boreal chickadees are not known to nest in northwestern Wisconsin; Bernard (1967) mentioned only winter records from Douglas County. Green and Janssen (1975) showed that the breeding range of this species in Minnesota extended south to central Carlton County.

The midsummer Douglas County record increases the probability that the boreal chickadee nests rarely in the Valley. An abundance of suitable Lowland Coniferous Forest habitat exists along the St. Croix in southern Douglas County and throughout Pine County. Additional field work in this region during the summer may provide confirmation of nesting.

Habitat: Boreal chickadees observed during the winter are usually found at feeding stations. The June 1972 observation was of a single bird in Lowland Coniferous Forest.

Tufted Titmouse (Parus bicolor)

Status: Regular permanent resident.

Distribution: Rare and local breeding species restricted primarily to the Western Upland. Establishment of this species in the lower Valley has been very recent. Roberts (1932) rarely found this bird in southeastern Minnesota and then primarily only during the winter months. Currently, the major area of abundance appears to be along the St. Croix River and its major tributaries north to Marine-on-St. Croix (Washington County). Confirmed nest records have been obtained from St. Croix and Washington counties. Edgar (1943) observed tufted titmice feeding their young in Washington County on 25 July 1943, thus providing the first confirmed nest record for Minnesota. Occasional records from central Polk and southern Burnett counties (Bauers 1964), suggest another range extension. Young (1967) summarized the distribution of this species in Wisconsin and reported that the tufted titmouse was concentrated south of the Tension Zone in that State.

Habitat: Primarily a species of mature Lowland Deciduous Forest associated with major tributaries of the St. Croix River. Near Afton State Park (Washington County) and along the Kinnickinnic River (Pierce County), tufted titmice also use stands of medium-aged Southern Deciduous Forest.

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