Family Tits and Chickadees (Paridae)

Least Concern

Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)


French: Mésange de Gambel German: Gebirgsmeise Spanish: Carbonero montañés
Other common names: Gambel's Chickadee

Parus gambeli


, 1886,

“about one day’s journey west of Santa Fe, New Mexico”


Has been suggested as perhaps conspecific with P. superciliosus, but genetic data refute close relationship#R. Phylogenetic analyses reveal two strongly supported clades: in E (Rocky Mts and Great Basin) and W (Sierra Nevada and Cascades)#R. However, geographical variation largely clinal and races intergrade; other proposed races are wasatchensis (Wasatch Mts, in Utah), included in inyoensis, but sometimes in nominate, and grinnelli (Idaho) and abbreviatus (California), merged with baileyae. Birds in Davis Mts (SW Texas) have been proposed as a further race based on small size. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. g. baileyae (Grinnell, 1908) – Pacific slope of Rocky Mts in W Canada and W USA.
  • P. g. inyoensis (Grinnell, 1918) – W USA (SE Oregon and S Idaho S to CE California and NW Arizona).
  • P. g. gambeli (Ridgway, 1886) – WC USA (E Rockies from C Montana S to New Mexico and W Texas).
  • P. g. atratus (Grinnell & Swarth, 1926) – extreme NW Mexico (N Baja California).
  • Descriptive notes

    13·5–15 cm; 8·2–13·5 g. Medium-sized, black-capped chickadee with narrow white supercilium. Nominate race has forehead to crown and nape... read more


    Most frequent call a dry or hoarse “chick-adee-adee-adee”, occasionally varied as a... read more


    Montane conifer forest and woodlands, including open and dense stands of hemlock (Tsuga),... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food mainly small invertebrates, including adult and larval moths (Lepidoptera) and sawflies (Hymenoptera), bugs (Hemiptera), weevils and... read more


    Season Apr–Jul; normally one brood, but in N California occasionally two. Pairs for life. Territorial; territory established in early... read more


    Resident, but with some short-distance altitudinal movement. From early Sept some descend to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common in most of range; fairly common in E areas of range in Canada, but rare in Yukon. During two large-scale outbreaks of western spruce budworm... read more

    Recommended citation

    Gosler, A., Clement, P. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli). 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 24 February 2020).