Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Bird of the Month: Chestnut-backed Chickadee

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Chestnut-backed Chickadee)

PC: Mick Thompson (Chestnut-backed Chickadee)

Parus rufescens

Length 4.5-5 in

AOU Band code CBCH

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee (CBCH) is 4 1/2-5 in. long. Its genus Parus comes from the Latin for titmouse and the species rufescens is from the Latin for "to become reddish". It is the most brightly colored chickadee. Both male and female are alike and resemble the slightly larger Black-capped Chickadee (BCCH), but have a bright chestnut back, rump, sides and flanks with and dusky brown cap. However, birds on the central California coast have pale gray flanks. The black bib and white cheeks are like the BCCH.

The CBCH can be found in coniferous forests and mixed woods in a narrow range along the Pacific coast from SE Alaska to central California. The only inland population occurs in SE British Columbia and NW Montana. They acrobatically cling to branches, searching for insects and seeds. They readily come to feeders for sunflower seeds and suet. The CBCH travels in winter flocks with kinglets, nuthatches, and creepers which move through the woods foraging together.

Its nest is made of moss, hair, feathers and downy material, and is placed in a natural or excavated cavity, or a birdhouse. The male does courtship feeding of the female. The female does all of the incubation. There are 6-7 white eggs with light reddish speckles. The young break out in 11-12 days and then fledge 13-17 days later. Some birds have two broods in one season. The CBCH does not have a song. Its typical call consists of high buzzy notes with lower nasal, husky notes: tsidi-tsidi-tsidi-cheer-cheer or a weaker tsity ti jee jee.