Poecile rufescens
(Chestnut-backed Chickadee)

Order: Passeriformes
Order Description: Passerines
Family: Paridae
Family Description: Chickadees and Titmice

Physical Description:
4 1/2-5" (11-13 cm). Brown crownClick word for definition, black eye-stripe, white below eye and on cheeks, black thin moustache, and brown chin. Chestnut back, shoulders, and flanksClick word for definition; black wings and tail.

Similar Species- Other chickadees

A faster, shriller chick-a-dee-dee; often just zhee-zhee.

Resident from portions of Alaska, east to western Alberta, and south to southern California and northwestern Montana. Wanders irregularly inland after breeding season.

Found in coniferousClick word for definition and mixed forests, primarily in humid regions, less frequently in pine forests, oak woodlands, pine-oak associations, and thickets. Strongly associated with Douglas-fir in most areas. Northern Idaho study conducted in hemlock-grand fir suggested these birds were associated with older forest stands.

Eats mainly insects, but will also eat spiders, some fruits, and conifer seeds.

Nests in natural or excavated cavity in standing snag or live tree. May nest in loose colonies. Forages in foliage. Forms flocks of 4-20 individuals during nonbreeding season, often in loose association with other species (juncos, kinglets, nuthatches, etc.). Recent range expansion in Sierra Nevada was not accompanied by declines in Mountain Chickadee numbers.


clutchClick word for definition size varies from 5-9 eggs, but is commonly 6-7. Young are tended by both parents.

Element Code: ABPAW01070
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

Important State References:
Peterson, S.R. 1982. A preliminary survey of forest bird communities in northern Idaho. Northwest Sci. 56:287-298.

Photo by C. S. Robbins, ©2002.
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.