Bird Quiz: Black-capped Chickadee

Bird Quiz: Black-capped Chickadee

Michele Berger
Published: 02/07/2012

Black-capped chickadee (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

Black-capped chickadees, those adorable, ubiquitous birds, are one of the first species people learn to ID, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds. I happened to catch one this past weekend, as my bird for Day 5 of the Bird-a-Day challenge. (I started Feb. 1, unlike features editor Rene Ebersole, who has been going since the start of 2012. As always, if you’re participating in Bird-a-Day, please let us know on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #birdaday.)

Take our quiz below to determine how much you know about this chickadee species. They may be common birds, but some facts about them may surprise you. Scroll past the picture below for the answers. And as always, check in with The Perch on Friday for a recap of the BAD challenge, too.

1. True or False: The number of dees at the end of the birds’ well-known chick-a-dee-dee-dee call signifies risk level in the area.

2. Why does a black-capped chickadee come to check out the scene when people are nearby?
a. Because it’s inquisitive
b. Because it’s angry/annoyed
c. To claim its territory
d. None of the above

3. How old is the oldest known chickadee? (Forgive us, we’re anthropomorphizing a bit here.)
a. 2 years, 3 months, just a toddler
b. 5 years, 11 months, ready to head off to kindergarten
c. 12 years, 5 months, teenage years here we come
d. 20 years, 9 months, almost of legal drinking age

4. True or False: The range of the black-capped chickadee and the Carolina chickadee—two similar-looking species—don’t overlap much.

5. What do black-capped chickadees eat?
a. Suet
b. Sunflower
c. Peanuts
d. All of the above


Photo: Chris Hatch (from Audubon magazine's Flickr group) 

Answers
1. True or False: The number of dees at the end of the birds’ well-known chick-a-dee-dee-dee call signifies risk level in the area.

True. “Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identity and recognition of other flocks as well as predator alarms and contact calls,” notes the All About Birds species page. “The more dee notes in a chickadee-dee-dee call, the higher the threat level.” The call also acts to keep a large flock together when the birds are on the move and cannot keeps eyes on each other.

2. Why does a black-capped chickadee come to check out the scene when people are nearby?
A, because it’s inquisitive. According to the National Geographic species page, “It is curious, with little or no fear of humans, and it is famous for willingly, after a little ‘training,’ taking seeds and nuts from the hand.” No wonder this species has a reputation for being adorably cute.

3. How old is the oldest known chickadee?
C, 12 years, 5 months.
The nearly 13-year-old bird is the oldest known wild chickadee, according to Cornell’s All About Birds.

4. True or False: The range of the black-capped chickadee and the Carolina chickadee—two similar-looking species—don’t overlap much.
True. In fact, it’s not common to see each species outside of its mapped ranges, according to Project Feeder Watch. There is, however, an ‘overlap zone’ in the eastern U.S. In this area, “birds have been known to learn each other’s vocalizations, and hybrids tend to deliver odd-sounding variations.” By the way, the Carolina chickadee was Rene’s bird of the day for Day 35.

5. What do black-capped chickadees eat?
D, all of the above.
For suet, sunflower, peanuts, and other tasty treats, “they don’t mind using tiny hanging feeders that swing in the wind,” notes Cornell’s All About Birds page, “and also readily visit window feeders.” For additional tips on how to bring birds to your backyard this time of year, check out our Guide to Winter Bird-Feeding.
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Test your skills with some of our other bird quizzes: 

- White-winged crossbill
- Bonaparte’s gull
- Hooded merganser
- Florida scrub jay
- Eastern meadowlark
- Pyrrhuloxia
- Antillean nighthawk