Friday, April 17, 2009

In the backyard... Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed ChickadeeChestnut-backed Chickadee, Timber, Oregon on 28 June 2008 by Greg Gillson.


If one were to describe the typical habitat of the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, it would likely be the dark, cool, foggy, moss-covered coastal forests of ancient western hemlock and Sitka spruce. But these birds are equally at home in residential neighborhoods with conifer cover whether in Seattle or San Francisco.

In the western Cascades, they can be found from lowlands to high elevations. However, the Black-capped Chickadee is more common in the lowland valleys until the oaks and maples give way to solid Douglas-fir. Likewise, the Mountain Chickadee is the more expected species in the lodgepole pine and silver fir forest at the summit of the Cascades. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is more common between them in the western Hemlock and Douglas-fir forest.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees are found from coastal Alaska south to coastal central California, west of the Cascades and northern Sierra-Nevada Mountains. They also occur in a limited area of the Rocky Mountains in northeastern Oregon, eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and southern British Columbia. They are absent in the Great Basin and most of the Central Valley of California.

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is a very small chickadee. The bright chestnut back is an obvious field mark along with the black cap and throat and white side of face. The voice is a soft wheezy "tzick-a-dzee-dzee." Unlike other chickadees in the Pacific Northwest, these birds do not have a whistled song. From San Francisco southward, Chestnut-backed Chickadees lack the broad chestnut sides that birds to the north (as pictured above) show.

Like other chickadees, you can attract these birds to your backyard with black oil sunflower seeds and suet cakes. They will also use nest boxes.