Aug 30, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, August 2017

Carolina or Black-capped?

Left: Black-capped chickadee. Right: Carolina chickadee.
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Are the chickadees at your feeder Carolina or black-capped? Carolina and black-capped chickadees are nearly identical. Carolinas are found primarily in the Southeast, while the range of the black-capped extends from northern Alaska to northern New Mexico, across the Great Plains, through the Great Lakes area into New England and eastern Canada. Black-cappeds also dominate in the highest elevations of the Appalachian mountains, while Carolinas are found in lower elevations nearby. Carolinas are slightly smaller than black-cappeds, and have less white on the edges of their wings. In general, black-cappeds appear brighter and fluffier than Carolinas. Unfortunately, where the ranges of the two species meet, hybrids occur and appear intermediate in size and color. If you live safely in the zone of one species or the other, observe your local chickadees carefully. The next time you are in the range of the other species, see if you can see the differences. There are several other chickadee species in North America, including mountain (in the West), chestnut-backed (in the Pacific Northwest), and boreal (in the North), but these are distinct from their cousins.



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