What kinds of chickadees can you find in Massachusetts?
Thanks to their bold and inquisitive personalities, chickadees are one of the most popular birds that visit backyard feeding stations. I love watching them fly in quickly to grab a seed and then immediately fly away to eat in private (or store for later)!
In Massachusetts, you can find 2 different kinds of chickadees.
Below you will learn more about each species AND how to identify them by sight OR sound. Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which chickadees live near you!
#1. Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadees are one of the most beloved birds in Massachusetts, and it’s easy to see why! These birds are often described as “cute,” as they are tiny, with an oversized head that features a black cap and bib.
Black-capped Chickadee Range Map
Naturally, look for Black-capped Chickadees in Massachusetts in open deciduous forests, thickets, and cottonwood groves. They also adapt easily to the presence of people and are common to see in backyards and parks.
Black-capped Chickadees are easy to attract to bird feeders!
Press PLAY above to watch a Black-capped Chickadee on my feeders!
In fact, once you set up a new bird feeder, they will likely be the first birds to visit, as they are curious about anything new in their territory. The best foods to use include sunflower, peanuts, and suet. Their small size and athletic ability mean these birds can use just about any type of feeder!
Another great way to attract chickadees is to install appropriately sized nesting boxes around your yard. These birds are cavity nesters, which means they need an enclosed bird house to raise their young.
Here are some tips to consider before hanging up a chickadee nesting box:
- Make the diameter of the entrance hole 1-1/8 inches. This prevents larger birds, like House Sparrows, from getting inside and displacing your chickadees.
- Place your nest box in or at the very edge of the woods. Chickadees won’t use it if it’s in a field.
- Hang the bird house securely to a tree (don’t let it swing freely) between 5 and 15 feet high.
You can either build a nest box yourself or buy a pre-made chickadee house online.
Try identifying Black-capped Chickadees by their sounds!
These birds are extremely vocal, and you should have no problem hearing one. And luckily, their vocalizations are unique and relatively easy to identify. (Press PLAY below!)
Listen for a song that is a simple 2 or 3 note whistle, which sounds like it’s saying “fee-bee” or “hey sweetie.”
Press PLAY Above!
Black-capped Chickadees also make a distinctive “chickadee-dee-dee” call. And yes, it actually sounds like they are saying their name! Interestingly, they add more “dee” notes onto the end of the call when alarmed.
Lastly, these birds have incredible memories! They hide seeds and other foods in their territory to eat later, which are all hidden separately. Somehow, their brains can remember THOUSANDS of different hiding places!
#2. Boreal Chickadee
The only chickadee in Massachusetts with a brown cap! These birds are incredibly tough, as they live in coniferous forests in the far north all year round.
Boreal Chickadee Range Map
Boreal Chickadees aren’t as numerous or vocal as other chickadee species, which means it can take a bit more patience and time to locate them. But they are commonly attracted to bird feeders, which may be your best shot at seeing one since they adapt well to the presence of people!
To survive the cold and brutal northern winters, Boreal Chickadees have to hide and store A LOT of food. What’s amazing is that they can remember where they hide everything! Their main foods include insect larvae and seeds.
Boreal Chickadees are surprisingly quiet, and they don’t use songs or vocalizations to signal their breeding territory, which can make them hard to find in the forest. If you do hear one, it will be a raspy “tschick-a-dee-dee” call note, which comparatively sounds harsher than a Black-capped Chickadee.
Which chickadees have you seen before in Massachusetts?
Leave a comment below!
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The range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!