Monday, October 19, 2009

In the mountains... Mountain Chickadee

Mountain ChickadeeMountain Chickadee in a lodgepole pine, Lost Lake, Linn Co., Oregon on 23 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


Several groups of Pacific NW birds show altitudinal habitat preferences. This is most clearly seen on the Cascade Mountains. The chickadees show this, with Black-capped Chickadees most common in lowlands and oak woods west of the Cascades. Higher up the Cascade slope, in the damp Douglas-fir and western hemlock habitat zone is the domain of the Chestnut-backed Chickadee. In the highest forests of lodgepole and over the Cascade crest to the drier east side ponderosa pine forests are found the Mountain Chickadees (sometimes in lower juniper).

Instantly recognized by the white eyebrow stripe, Mountain Chickadees are pale gray, white, and black. They lack the chestnut backs (and sides of all but the San Francisco area populations) of Chestnut-backed Chickadees. They lack the buffy sides of the Black-capped Chickadees west of the Cascades. [In the Rocky Mountains are some rather plain sided Black-capped Chickadees and some rather buffy-sided Mountain Chickadess.]

The common call is a husky chick-dzee-dzee-dzee. The song is similar to Black-capped Chickadee, a whistled descending fee-bee-bay.

These birds are very common in mountain forests. In fact, Farner in 1952 wrote that these birds are the most common resident species at Crater Lake National Park.

Mountain Chickadees nest in old woodpecker holes, nest boxes, or other opportunistic crannies.

Like all chickadees, these birds are attracted to backyard bird feeders in the towns in the pines on the eastern edge of the Cascades and other higher mountains. They also occur in the Klamath Mountains nearer the coast in NW California.