Native Birds of Wisconsin: Black-Capped Chickadee

by Jason Lee, age 15, Original Artwork by Annie Shao, age 17

One bird you might see while traveling around Wisconsin is the black-capped chickadee. Black-capped chickadees are mid-sized and stocky. They have white under parts and stripes of olive color on their sides. They also have a patch of feathers atop their head that resembles a black cap. Their wings are dark with broad white marks on the edges of their feathers. 

Black-capped chickadees live in many places in the United States and Canada. They travel over long distances, ranging from Alaska to Newfoundland and across California. They also fly in Northern New Mexico, Missouri, and Northern New Jersey. A group of black-capped chickadees is called a banditry or a dissimulation.

Black-capped chickadees eat suet and sunflower seeds. They forage for insects, insect eggs, conifer seeds, bay berries, and other fruits. They make nests out of vegetation, moss, feathers, hair, and insect cocoons. In their nests they lay 2-6 eggs per gestation, which are incubated for 11-13 days. Their eggs are white with red-brown markings.

The blacked capped-chickadee is the state bird of Massachusetts and Maine. They are well known for their distinctive song, which is one of the most complex calls of animals. Their song is a drawn out chick-a-dee-dee-dee, while their call is a fluted fee-bee-be or a fee-bee. Their call can be used as a contact call, an alarm call, to identify one another, or to recognize a certain flock.