black capped chickadees

Black-capped Prickadee
A lot of people consider this bird cute. Whatever. They are curious and have a habit of energetically investigating everything and everyone that might possibly be a bird feeder. Their black cap and white cheeks are almost as distinctive as their bright, “chick-a-dee dee dee” call. And “Dee Dee Dee Dee!” And also, “DEE DEE DEE DEE DEE DEE DEEE!” Yeah, and I mean non-stop. If you have these little pricks in your yard, you’re getting no peace all summer. 

Dee Facts: The Black-capped chickadee is a non-migratory bird, so you can forget about enjoying fall, winter and spring, too.

8½-year-Old Black-capped Chickadee at Powdermill

Residents of western Pennsylvania are familiar with the small and spunky black-capped chickadees that often visit their birdfeeders. These fearless birds are also frequent visitors at our banding lab at Powdermill Nature Reserve.

Last winter, this chickadee was one of the oldest of his species banded at the lab. It was first banded as a hatch-year bird at the end of August 2007, which means its age was 8½ years! 

This individual has been captured 42 times in its life (so far!), at least twice every year, most often in the winter months. It has shown up in every month of the year except June and July. In 2011, the only year that we saw this bird in May, it had a cloacal protuberance, an enlargement of the cloaca indicating breeding condition in males. So we know it is a male and that his territory is obviously not near our nets. 

We are hoping to see this individual in the future. The oldest known black-capped chickadee was 11½ years old when it was banded in Minnesota in 2002.


Powdermill Nature Reserve’s avian research center is part of Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s biological research station in Rector, Pennsylvania.  The research center operates a bird banding station, conducts bioacoustical research, and performs flight tunnel analysis with the goal of reducing window collisions. 

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A little potpourri from today. Neighbours had a fire, so the Cardinal got some  dramatic fog effects. The Cowbirds have not shown any interest in the Bluebird house (yay!), and the Starlings have become much less because I am not having suet out anymore. They still like visiting the booth though. Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird are around all day, but Mallory has not laid yet. Since today was day two of the nice weather, I expect her to start laying this week :)