A handsome chickadee that matches the rich brown bark of the coastal trees it lives among, the Chestnut-backed Chickadee is the species to look for up and down the West Coast and in the Pacific Northwest. Active, sociable, and noisy as any chickadee, you’ll find these birds at the heart of foraging flocks moving through tall conifers with titmice, nuthatches, and sometimes other chickadee species. Though they’re at home in dark, wet woods, they’ve also readily taken to suburbs and ornamental shrubs of cities like San Francisco. The oldest recorded Chestnut-backed Chickadee was 9 years 6 months old.
Size & Shape
Tiny, large-headed but small-billed, with a rather long, narrow tail and short, rounded wings.
The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is boldly black and white on the head like other chickadees, but the back is a rich chestnut instead of the more typical slaty gray. The flanks can be either rich brown (north of San Francisco) or dull gray (central and southern California).
Active and acrobatic, clinging to small limbs and twigs or hanging upside down from cones. In winter, Chestnut-backed Chickadees flock with kinglets and nuthatches. Flight is generally short and undulating, with flock members setting out to cross openings one at a time.
Chestnut-backed Chickadees are found in dense coniferous and mixed coniferous forests of the Pacific Coast. You can also find them in shrubs, trees, and parks of cities, towns, and suburbs.