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Boreal Chickadee

Poecile hudsonicus

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 8.25 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Grayish-brown cap, gray nape, brownish flanks, gray wings and tail

Boreal Chickadee - Poecile hudsonicusBoreal Chickadees are mostly birds of Canadian conifer forests, and for the most part are only rarely found south into the United States.  They are only extremely rare visitors to South Dakota.  They are generally quite tame and sociable birds.  They can be identified from other chickadee species by their unique plumage characteristics, typical range, and by their song.


Boreal Chickadees are primarily found in conifer forests.  They are found as far north as the stunted spruces at the treeline in far northern Canada. In some parts of their range that are dominated by trees like willow, birch, or alder, they may utilize habitats with lesser amounts of conifer.


Insects, spiders, and seeds.  Feeds heavily on insect eggs and larvae, especially in the winter.


Boreal Chickadees primarily forage by clambering through dense conifer vegetation, gleaning insects from the foliage and branches.  They will occasionally hover and glean insects, or feed on the ground as well. They will use their small bill to poke through crevices in and under the bark of conifer trees in search of insects and larvae.


May through June. In their breeding range, the nest is a cavity in a tree, either a natural cavity or an old woodpecker hole.  The nesting cavity is lined with strips of bark, moss, lichens, feathers, and plant down.  The female lays between 5 and 8 eggs, and she alone incubates them. When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young leave the nest after 16-20 days.


Boreal Chickadees have a buzzy dee-dee-dee call reminiscent of other Chickadee species. They also a "gargling" call and other short chip notes.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Boreal Chickadee sightings


Boreal Chickadees are considered permanent residents throughout their range. Short-distance movements may occur in the fall as family groups disperse, and/or birds move short distances to maximize foraging opportunties.

Similar Species:

Boreal Chickadees could be confused with multiple other Chickadee species that are found in their range:

Black-capped Chickadee 8 - Poecile atricapilla Mountain Chickadee - Poecile gambeli Chestnut-backed Chickadee - Poecile rufescens Gray-headed Chickadee - Poecile cinctus
Black-capped Chickadee Mountain Chickadee Chestnut-backed Chickadee Gray-headed Chickadee

Conservation Status:

Systematic surveys over the last several decades have shown substantial declines in Boreal Chickadee populations. However, they are still found over a very broad geographic area, are common in parts of their range, and overall populations are currently not deemed to be at any substantial risk. The IUCN considers the Boreal Chickadee to be a species of "Least Concern".


Boreal Chickadees will attend feeder setups for suet, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds.

Further Information:

Photo Information:

December 30th, 2014 - Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Boreal Chickadee photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Boreal Chickadee - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Extremely rare visitor, with only a handful of records in the state.
Additional Boreal Chickadee Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos

Boreal Chickadee 1 - Poecile hudsonicusBoreal Chickadee 2 - Poecile hudsonicusBoreal Chickadee 3 - Poecile hudsonicusBoreal Chickadee 4 - Poecile hudsonicusBoreal Chickadee 5 - Poecile hudsonicusBoreal Chickadee 6 - Poecile hudsonicusBoreal Chickadee 7 - Poecile hudsonicusBoreal Chickadee 8 - Poecile hudsonicus