This chickadee, the most colourful of chickadees, can be found
during the non-breeding season in flocks of other Chestnut-backed
Chickadees and in mixed species flocks of Kinglets, Nuthatches,
Creepers and Titmice. The conspicuous flocks move through the
forest foraging together.
is resident in coastal regions of south-central Alaska southward
along the Pacific Northwest coast and coastal islands to
north-central California. There are inland populations in
areas of B.C., Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and California.
A small and short-tailed Chickadee with distinctive chestnut-brown
back. Length: 12cm. Weight: 9.7g.
The cap from the forehead to hind neck and just below the eyes is
dark brown-black. The chin is black with a narrow white cheek.
The back, rump and flanks are a deep chestnut brown. The sides
and belly are dull grayish. The wings are brownish gray with whitish
edging on the inner secondaries and greater coverts, which are also
tipped with white. The tail is brownish gray with paler gray
edgings. The bill is black, legs and feet are dark grey and
the eyes are dark brown. Adult plumages are similar throughout
Females are slightly smaller but plumage is similar to that of the
Juveniles closely resemble adults.
The chestnut back, rump and flanks as well as its smaller size
distinguishes the Chestnut- backed Chickadee from other chickadees.
This chickadee moves quickly while foraging for insects, berries and
seeds taking them from twigs and branches. It sometimes hovers
while taking food from above or below branches. It probes in
crevices of bark and takes seed and suet from feeders.
Chestnut-backed chickadees often travel in small flocks of four to
This is a bird of moist coniferous forests consisting of spruce,
fir, tamarack, hemlock and cedars. In British Columbia it can also
be found in mixed coniferous deciduous forests. In the southern part
of its range it lives in oak woods, streamside willow groves,
pine-oak woods as well as in redwood forests with an understory of
alders and willows.
Unlike the familiar Black-capped Chickadee the Chestnut-backed lacks
a whistled song.
its very humid coastal belt, in wet forests of hemlock and tamarack
this is the only chickadee present.
is not known to migrate. In B.C. it is considered
non-migratory but there is post- breeding dispersal to higher
elevations in late summer and early autumn.
cavity nester, the nest can be up to 80 feet high but is usually
restricted to between two and 20 feet high. It may utilize
vacant woodpecker cavities, nest boxes or tree cavities. The
nest has foundation of moss, lichens, and feathers, bark fibers,
plant down, lined with soft materials such as animal hair. Six
to seven white eggs with reddish brown dots are laid.
Populations appear stable throughout their range.
Although a year-round resident , the Chestnut-backed
Chickadee can exhibit seasonal movements where during the
summer months, it moves to higher elevations. This, along
with the fact that they prefer dense, wet coniferous forests
make this chickadee a rare visitor to our banding station as
suggested by the capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as
birds captured per 100 net hours) peaking in March/April
then appearing again in September, skipping the summer