Carolina Chickadee
Parus carolinensis

by Ana M. Castro

Carolina Chickadees are very friendly birds. They are known to eat right out of the palm of your hand. In fact, last winter I fed a piece of a cinnamon bun to a chickadee right on my back porch near our birdfeeder! They are wonderful birds to have around.

Parus carolinensis is the scientific name of the Carolina Chickadee. It is in the kingdom Animalia, the phylum Chordata, the class Aves (birds), the order Passeriformes (the perching birds), and the family Paridae. It mostly lives in forests and woodlands near the Blue-Ridge Mountains, but can also be seen near swamps of the southeast coastal plain. The Carolina Chickadee can be seen and heard near trees, shrubs, and birdfeeders here in Radford, Virginia.

The Carolina Chickadee can be identified by its black and white face with white cheeks and pale gray upper parts. It has a black crown and throat and gray-white underparts. Its length is about 4.25 inches. Both the male and the female look similar. The Carolina Chickadee sings a four note song that is very rapid and high pitched. However, they do not sing much outside of breeding season.

The Carolina Chickadee feeds mostly on small insects, but also eats seeds and fruit. Half of their annual food consists of moths, worms, and stink bugs. Their favorite seeds are mulberry and they also like redbud, pine and ragweed. One interesting thing about the Carolina Chickadee is that they love to eat doughnuts at birdfeeders!

The nesting period of the Carolina Chickadee usually begins in early February. They build their nests in a natural cavity or in an abandoned woodpecker hole. They also enjoy building nests in birdhouses and even iron pipes. Padded milkweed is commonly used to build their nests. They usually lay about six eggs that are white with brown dots. When it gets close to the time for the eggs to hatch, you can hear a soft hiss from inside the egg. It resembles the sound of a copperhead snake.

The Carolina Chickadee is an interesting bird that is fun to have around. They are cheerful birds that are usually welcome at neighborhood birdfeeders. They are my favorite birds and I look forward to seeing them eating seeds off my back porch!

Written fall 2000, as a service learning project for Dr. Gary Coté's Biology 102 class at Radford University. Copyright Pathways for Radford.

Home | Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow | Contact Us