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Identifying The Six North American Chickadees
There are six species of chickadees regularly seen in North America north of Mexico. They all have dark caps and bibs and white cheeks. In general, they are dark on the back, lighter underneath, and all about the same shape and size. So how can you tell them apart? Here are some clues that will help you identify the ones you see.
Each of our chickadees has a different range, so check which ones live in your area. Here is a summary:
| ||Black-capped Chickadee: Northern states and southern Canada from coast to coast.|
| ||Carolina Chickadee: Mostly the southeastern and south-central states.|
| ||Mountain Chickadee: Throughout the mountains of the West.|
| ||Chestnut-backed Chickadee: Mostly the West Coast from central California to southern Alaska.|
| ||Boreal Chickadee: Mostly in Canada from coast to coast and in Alaska.|
| ||Mexican Chickadee: Just over the border in very limited areas of the Southwest.|
Four of the six species have distinctive clues. The differences between the Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees are more subtle; check range and song to help you distinguish them.
| ||Mountain Chickadee: Our only chickadee with a thin white line over the eye. |
| ||Chestnut-backed Chickadee: Our only chickadee with a rich reddish-brown back.|
| ||Boreal Chickadee: Our only chickadee with a brown cap. |
| ||Mexican Chickadee: Our only chickadee with a long bib and gray flanks.|
| ||Black-capped Chickadee: Very similar to Carolina Chickadee but has white edging to its greater wing coverts (when fresh in fall and winter) and a song of two whistled notes, the first higher than the second.|
| ||Carolina Chickadee: Very similar to the Black-capped Chickadee but has gray greater wing coverts and a song of four whistled notes, the first and third higher than the others.|
For more photos and information on chickadees refer to Stokes Field Guide to Birds.