Of all the birds that turn up at birdfeeders, chickadees are favorites. And they’re instantly recognizable. Yet sometimes we have to ask ourselves: “Which chickadee is it?” In the eastern and central states, there are two species: Black-capped Chickadees in the north, and Carolina Chickadees in the south. But in some places, they overlap. And while the two look nearly identical, their voices give them away!
Which Chickadee: Black-capped or Carolina?
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
[Song of Black-capped Chickadee]
Of all the birds that turn up at birdfeeders, chickadees—ever perky, smartly dressed in black and white—are favorites. And they’re instantly recognizable as chickadees.
Yet sometimes we have to ask ourselves: “Which chickadee is it?” In the eastern and central states, for example, there are two species. Mostly, they seem to divide up by latitude: Black-capped Chickadees pervade the northern half of the region, and Carolina Chickadees, the southern half.
But in some places they overlap. And while the two look nearly identical, their voices give them away. Black-capped Chickadees sing a sweet, whistled two to three notes the first a bit higher [song of Black-capped Chickadee]. In contrast, Carolina Chickadees usually sing more notes and all at different or alternating pitches, such as [song of Carolina Chickadee]. Here they are again: the sweet Black-capped song [song of Black-capped Chickadee; now the Carolina Chickadee song [song of Carolina Chickadee].
With a little listening practice, you’ll find that the birds’ contact calls sound different, too. Black-capped Chickadees actually seem to say “chickadee" [Black-capped Chickadee call], while Carolinas blurt their name much faster and at higher pitch. [Carolina Chickadee call].
So while you watch those feeders, keep your ears tuned! [song of Black-capped Chickadee followed by song of Carolina Chickadee]
Today’s show was made possible by The Bobolink Foundation. For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of Black-capped Chickadee  recorded by M. Medler; song of Carolina Chickadee  by W.L. Hershberger; call of Black-capped Chickadee  by R.S. Little; call of Carolina Chickadee  by G.A. Keller.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org April 2014/2016/2019 Narrator: Mary McCann