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Our Backyard Birds: The Carolina Chickadee

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A Carolina Chickadee  (Poecile carolinensis) on a small twig
Cheerful Chickadee

Our Backyard Birds: The Carolina Chickadee

(Poecile Carolinensis)



Although insects form a large part of their diet, Carolina Chickadees frequently visit Backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or good-quality bird seed mix. Or both!


Chickadees prefer hopper, tube, and platform feeders. They will also visit suet feeders that are strategically placed and they will sometimes look for spilled seeds under your hopper and tube feeders.


Carolina Chickadees have a black cap and bib separated by stark white cheeks. The back, wings, and tail are soft gray.

This tiny, approachable bird has a short neck and a large head, giving it a distinctive round body shape. Its tail is long and narrow. Its bill is a bit thicker than a warbler’s but thinner than a finch’s if that helps.

They can be very inquisitive and acrobatic. They often associate with other Carolina Chickadees and a variety of other small species in feeding flocks. Despite being a flocking species, they normally space themselves fairly widely while eating.


Carolina chickadees breed in the United States from New Jersey west to southern Kansas and south to Florida and Texas. They are permanent residents and don’t migrate south even in severe winter weather. These small birds live in mixed or deciduous woods, shrublands, wetlands, and in urban and suburban areas.

Carolina chickadees are social birds and often form flocks of 8-10 birds. Each of the birds in a flock has a rank; while highly ranked birds will remain on the flock's territory for breeding, lower-ranked birds must find new breeding territory. Many other species of birds, including titmice, nuthatches, and warblers are often found foraging with these Chickadees. Chickadees feed by day hopping along tree branches searching for insects, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering; or making short flights to grab insects in the air.

Carolina chickadees usually sleep in cavities or branches. Different members of a flock will sleep in the same cavity from night to night. While females usually sleep in the nest cavity, males will normally sleep on a nearby branch. The most famous call of these birds is the familiar ‘chick-a-dee-dee-dee’ which gave them their name.

If your feeders are getting attention from these amazing little birds, try adding nesting boxes. Carolina Chickadees nest in nest tubes or nest boxes. They do not seem to care one way or the other whether the boxes or tubes are stuffed with sawdust or wood shavings. Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. And, as always, make sure you have fresh water available.

A Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) perched on a small limb.
Springtime Chickadee

I hope you found the information about the Carolina Chickadee and attracting them to your backyard helpful. If you are new to my website or blog, welcome, and thank you for joining us. To stay updated on future Backyard Birding blog posts and receive occasional discounts and newsletters, please subscribe here. Remember to always follow the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them. If you know anyone who loves birds, bird photography, or backyard birding, please share this post with them.

Until next time, keep the sun behind you and the birds in view.


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