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Often described by birdwatchers as elusive, the Boreal Chickadee is a quiet and somewhat secretive bird that thrives in Canada’s Boreal forest. As birdwatchers venture out to catch a glimpse of this cute and inconspicuous bird, they must be prepared to endure the cold and wet temperatures. This bird’s reputation for being elusive is also a convenient excuse to stay warm and cozy by a fire.
But if you’re an adventure seeker like me, I hope this article will bring you closer to catching a glimpse of this beautiful and tiny bird. I have not been lucky enough to travel to the part of the world the Boreal Chickadee calls home, but I cannot wait for the chance to explore snowy-covered evergreen forests. I vow to my fellow birdwatchers that I will try my hardest to find this cutie pie when the opportunity to explore the Boreal forest presents itself.
TLDR: Okay, I get it. You’re a busy birdwatcher looking for a quick explanation of the Boreal Chickadee. Ironically, birdwatching requires extreme patience, but I suppose no one said researching birds has to. The Boreal Chickadee lives in Canada, Alaska, and some areas of the northern United States. The coniferous forests of the Boreal forest in Canada are its primary home.
This non-migratory bird has a brown capped head and a black bib. Its body is a dusty gray-brown with rusty brown flanks against buffy underparts. It forages larvae, insects, and seeds along tree limbs and trunks. Not enough information? Keep reading along for the complete profile of this artic-dwelling bird.
The Boreal Chickadee belongs to the Passeriformes order, which encompasses nearly four thousand perching songbirds. It belongs with tits, chickadees, and titmice in the family Paridae. This bird earned the name chickadee in North America due to their “chick-a-dee dee dee” vocalization.
Throughout most other English-speaking countries, birds in the family Paridae are typically referred to as “tits.” It’s okay; you can giggle. There aren’t many times when birdwatching teeters over the line of inappropriateness, and I definitely won’t hold it against you. But how did these cute birds get such an odd and giggle-worthy name?
The name titmouse dates back to Old English from the 14th century and has an innocent origin. Tit referred to something small, and mase was used to refer to a small bird. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century (specifically in the United States) that the term tit carried any improper connotation.
History lesson aside, we’ve got a science class to finish. The Boreal Chickadee is classified within the genus Poecile. The name Poecile is derived from the Ancient Greek poikilidos, referring to an unidentified bird. This genus contains 15 species of tits and chickadees from Europe, Asia, and North America.
Here are the other 14 species that fall within the Poecil genus:
- Black-bibbed Tit (Poecile hypermelaenus)
- Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)
- Grey-headed Chickadee (Poecile cinctus)
- Mash Tit (Poecile palustris)
- Mexican Tit (Poecile palustris)
- Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
- White-browed Tit (Poecile superciliosus)
- Sombre Tit (Poecile lugubris)
- Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
- Caspian Tit (Poecile hyrcanus)
- Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)
- Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)
- Père David’s Tit (Poecile davidi)
- Sichuan Tit (Poecile weigoldicus)
How to Identify a Boreal Chickadee
Chickadees are known for their distinctive calls and their small round bodies. They are considered among the most intelligent birds behind corvids and parrots for their excellent memories. Their signature “chick-a-dee dee dee” call warns nearby flock members that danger is near. As the level of danger increases, so does the number of “dees” at the end of the call.
In the forest, you may notice them as they hop along branches and tree trunks in search of food. These are quintessential chickadee moves.
Size and Shape
The Boreal Chickadee has the classic chickadee shape, a tiny and spherical body with a large head, short bill, and long tail. This bird ranges in size from 4.9 to 5.7 inches long and weighs between 0.25 to 0.44 ounces with a wingspan of 8.25 inches.
The Boreal Chickadee’s brown cap and gray collar set it apart from other chickadees like the Black-capped Chickadee or Mountain Chickadee. Its upper parts are grayish brown, and it has a small black bib directly underneath its short bill. White cheek patches stand out against its gray-brown body. The underparts are whitish with dusty cinnamon flanks.
This cheerful and acrobatic bird is less vocal than other species of chickadees. They are known for hanging from a branch at many angles to ensure no insect goes unnoticed. They have a series of calls that range from squealy and trill to raspy and gargling, depending on what they’re trying to convey.
You’re most likely to hear the familiar “tschick-a-dee-dee” delivered in a rough and lower pitched tone than the Black-capped Chickadee. When confronting potential threats, the Boreal Chickadee will display ruffled feathers and chase the intruder in flight.
Where Does a Boreal Chickadee Live: Habitat
Named after its habitat, the Boreal Chickadee thrives in tundra-like environments of the Boreal forest. In Canada, coniferous forests of Engelman spruce and balsam fir make a suitable home for the bird year-round. In Alaska, you can find this snowbird in mixed and deciduous forests of willow, spruce, and alder. Look for this bird at an elevation of 5,500 feet or above.
Suppose you’re looking for this bird in the United States. In that case, your best chances are Alaska, the northernmost regions of the Pacific Northwest, northern New England, and the portions of the north of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Boreal Chickadee Diet and Feeding
Boreal Chickadees are omnivores that consume a variety of seeds and insects through means of foraging and gleaning. They explore the branches and needles of conifers by clinging onto the unit and inspecting it at every angle. The bark is probed using its small bill with the hope of finding insects and larvae. Seeds are collected from trees and stored in food caches throughout the forest for later retrieval. When food caches were studied, it was observed that the majority of their stores were larvae and seeds.
The chickadee brain is fascinating. Their brain neurons regenerate each fall in anticipation of food scarcity. This regeneration allows them to store new information to aid their memory of hundreds of seed cache locations over many months. The Boreal Chickadee will seek out these food reserves based on the type of seeds in the cache and the number of calories they need to intake.
Foraging with groups of small birds during the winter is expected. These flocks focus on older black spruce, white spruce, and tamarack trees to reduce competition with chickadees such as the Black-capped Chickadee.
Boreal Chickadee Breeding
The Boreal Chickadee breeding season begins in May and typically ends around August. They remain in the coniferous forests of the northern United States, Alaska, and Canada. Chickadees have a social hierarchy based on most aggressive to least aggressive birds.
This pecking order facilitates the mating pair selection process, meaning the most dominant birds will breed with each other and the least dominant breed with each other when two particularly aggressive birds breed together, their nestling’s chance of survival increases. This is due to having dedicated parents and favorable genes. Mating pairs remain within their range year-round and are often monogamous.
Boreal Chickadee Nesting
Nesting sites are excavated inside dead trees. Commonly chosen trees include balsam fir, black spruce, white spruce, white pine, white birch, tamarack, yellow birch, trembling aspen, balsam poplar, willow, and alder. Nesting cavities are either reused after a woodpecker or excavated by the chickadee from scratch, or with a headstart from nature.
The entrance hole to a nesting site ranges from 1 to 35 feet from the ground. Partners work together to excavate a cavity. However, the nest is built solely by the female. Nests are created from moss, bark, feathers, animal hair, plant materials, and lichen.
Boreal Chickadee Eggs
Once a nest is built, the female’s entire focus is to lay eggs. This process typically takes place between May through July. The female will lay anywhere from five to eight eggs. Eggs are white with tiny reddish brown spots.
The female incubates the eggs for eleven to sixteen days while the male collects food for his hard-working woman. Once the chicks hatch, the female remains with the chicks for an additional eighteen days. Chickadees feed their young six to fourteen per hour. This is extremely taxing for the parents, and diminished health is often a result of this labor of love.
As the birds acquire vital life skills, they stay close to the nest, taking any help mom and dad will give them until they are entirely self-sufficient. Once the young leave the nest for good, they join a small flock of unrelated birds either directly within their range or several miles from home.
Boreal Chickadee Population
Due to the Boreal Chickadees’ remote and northern range, these birds are difficult to monitor accurately. The North American Breeding Survey and Partners in Flight believe the population is stable and estimate a global breeding population of twelve million Boreal Chickadees. They also estimate that between 1970 and 2017, there has been a thirty-eight percent increase in the species numbers. Boreal Chickadees are of low conservation concern and have a 9 out of 20 rating on the Continental Concern Score.
Is Boreal Chickadee Endangered?
While the Boreal Chickadee is not currently endangered, constant population monitoring is essential to understand the effects of deforestation and the logging industry on this species’ existence.
The Boreal Chickadee encounters threats in the nest, usually chipmunks, mice, bears, and rats hoping to eat an egg or hatchling. Small birds have the advantage of being able to escape in a pinch quickly, but it also makes them easy to snatch from a perch or while foraging on the ground. Adult chickadees fall prey to large predatory birds like owls, hawks, a
Boreal Chickadee Lifespan
The oldest Boreal Chickadee known to scientists and conservationists was recorded to be five years and four months old and was a year-round resident of Nova Scotia. The average lifespan for most chickadee species is around two to three years old.
Attract Boreal Chickadees
As mentioned throughout this guide, this bird is often a bit more inaccessible than other types of chickadees. If your backyard is within their range, try placing nesting boxes on the edge of the yard in an area that is likely to remain undisturbed. Nesting boxes should have predator guards to ensure there isn’t any danger come breeding season. Place the boxes a few months before the breeding season, so birds have a chance to scope things out. Put some sawdust or woodshavings in the base of the nesting box.
Once you supply birds with food, especially during the winter season, it is essential to keep feeders full, clean, and dry. If you’ve got the nesting boxes covered, also consider placing multiple bird feeders in different areas throughout the yard. Chickadees prefer suet, black oil, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and peanut butter.
Answer: Boreal Chickadees are elusive birds that are much less vocal than other chickadees. Their range includes the northernmost Pacific Coast of the United States, Alaska, and the Boreal forest in Canada. Some Boreal Chickadees even live in the Arctic Circle. Burrr!
Answer: The Boreal Chickadee is not endangered. They have a 9 out of 20 rating on the Continental Concern Score, classifying them as “least concern.” Their global breeding population is around twelve million.
Answer: A Boreal Chickadee has a brown cap and black bib. They are small with stocky bodies and large round heads. They have gray-brown plumage with buffy bellies and underparts. Note their cinnamon-colored flanks and long tail feathers.
- Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (n.d.). Boreal Chickadee Species Profile. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from www.adfg.alaska.gov website
- Audubon. (2014, November 13). Boreal Chickadee. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from Audubon website
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (n.d.). Boreal Chickadee Overview, All About Birds. Retrieved from www.allaboutbirds.org website
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