Carolina Chickadees

The Carolina Chickadees were given this name by John James Audubon while he was in South Carolina. These birds, which are curious and intelligent, have a black cap, black bib, gray wings and back, and whitish underside and resembles its cousin (Black-capped Chickadee). The two birds bear a striking resemblance.

The birds are very familiar and approachable. People often confuse them with the Black-capped Chickadee.

Size and Shape

Carolina Chickadees are tiny birds with a short neck and big head. This somewhat gives it a distinctive, round body shape. It has a fairly long and narrow tail and a bill that is slightly thicker than a warbler’s but thinner than a finch’s.

It grows up to 5 in long and has a gray back, black cap and throat, white cheeks and belly.


Carolina Chickadees are curious and acrobatic. They usually associate with a variety of other small species in feeding flocks than roam within a large area, except in the breeding season. The birds are extremely territorial during this season. They normally space themselves rather widely while eating in spite of the fact that they are a flocking species.


Carolina Chickadees dwell in forested areas, fields, marshes, suburban yards or parks with huge trees. They frequently visit gardens and bird feeders.

After mating, they build a nest in a natural cavity, top hollow part of an old dead tree (rotten stub), or an old woodpecker hole. They are also capable of digging out their own hole in a tree that has weakened wood. They are more likely to dig into trees such as American Beech, birches as well as Sugar Maple.

These birds build their nests using grass, fluffy stuff from cattails, milkweed and other plants, feathers, insect cocoons, fur (particularly rabbit fur), and moss. The nest is cup-shaped.

The females normally sit on the eggs for nearly two weeks, and the young ones are ready to leave the nest two weeks after they hatch.

These birds live in Northern Virginia throughout the year. During winter, they move in flocks, feeding alongside other species: Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, and Nuthatches. These birds will roam through the woods scavenging for food. Chickadees can demonstrate exceptional balance while feeding such that they can even eat upside down while clinging to a branch.

The Carolina Chickadees diet consists of insects in all their life stages: eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. This includes aquatic insects that emerge from the water like mayflies and stoneflies. Their other food include ants, bees, beetles, caterpillars, flies, gall flies, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, moths, plant lice, scale insects, spider eggs true bugs and wasps. In addition, they eat fruits and seeds such as blueberries, blackberries goldenrods, pine seeds, Poison Ivy, Black Cherry, Virginia creeper and Yellow poplar, ragweeds, sunflowers.

Climbing snakes, chipmunks, cats, hawks (particularly the Sharp-shinned Hawks) and owls are among the Carolina Chickadees predators. At times Brown headed Cowbirds parasitizes on them, although not so often.

It seems that Carolina Chickadees population has been dwindling in some regions in recent decades, especially in the Gulf Coast states, with its range increasing northward along most of the contact zone with the Black-capped Chickadee. This is particularly in Ohio and Pennsylvania states.

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