Family Tits and Chickadees (Paridae)

Least Concern

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)


French: Mésange à tête noire German: Schwarzkopfmeise Spanish: Carbonero cabecinegro

Parus atricapillus


, 1766,

Quebec City, Canada


Has been considered conspecific with P. montanus, but DNA studies refute close relationship. Hybridizes with P. carolinensis over narrow band in EC USA (S Kansas E to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and W North Carolina); genetic data indicate that reproductive isolation is being maintained#R. Morphologically closest to P. carolinensis, but genetically appears to be sister to P. gambeli#R. Geographical variation clinal, and races intergrade widely; paler-flanked birds in S Canada (NC Ontario) sometimes separated as race anamesus, but better included in nominate. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. a. turneri (Ridgway, 1884) – NW USA (WC & S Alaska) and NW Canada (extreme NW British Columbia).
  • P. a. occidentalis (S. F. Baird, 1858) – coastal SW Canada and W USA (S to NW California).
  • P. a. fortuitus (Dawson#R, 1909) – inland SW Canada and NW USA (S to NW Idaho).
  • P. a. septentrionalis (E. Harris, 1846) – W & C Canada S to C USA.
  • P. a. bartletti (Aldrich & Nutt, 1939) – Newfoundland and Miquelon I.
  • P. a. atricapillus (Linnaeus, 1766) – E Canada S to C USA.
  • P. a. nevadensis (Linsdale, 1938) – SW USA.
  • P. a. garrinus (Behle, 1951) – WC USA.
  • P. a. practicus (Oberholser, 1937) – E USA (Appalachian Mts).
  • Descriptive notes

    13–14·5 cm; 9·2–14 g. Medium-sized to large, black-capped and grey-backed chickadee. Nominate race has forehead to crown (including eye area) and... read more


    Most frequent call “chick-a-dee-dee-dee”, similar to that of P. carolinensis... read more


    Open deciduous and mixed forests and woods. Favours birch (Betula) and alder (Alnus... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food mostly small insects and larvae (principally caterpillars), also spiders (Araneae), small snails and slugs (Gastropoda), centipedes (... read more


    Season late Mar to early Jul; generally one brood. Monogamous, lifelong pair-bond; pair formation takes place throughout year, but... read more


    Largely resident, but descends from higher altitudes short distances to lower levels; also eruptive... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally uncommon; generally widespread. Uncommon in NW (Alaska) and SW (Nevada and California). Population level fluctuates periodically,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Gosler, A. & Clement, P. (2020). Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 February 2020).