How to Distinguish a Male & Female Chickadee

••• chickadee image by Bruce MacQueen from

The black-capped chickadee is a cheerful, tiny bird that graces woodlands and bird feeders across North America. You might wonder how to tell a male and female chickadee apart, given their similarities. A few clues help identify chickadee gender.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

A male and female chickadee can be hard to tell apart. There are subtle differences in their bibs, and their behaviors help distinguish their gender.

Facts About Chickadees

Chickadees are social birds that live in small flocks. They also associate with other small bird species such as:

  • kinglets
  • nuthatches
  • creepers
  • vireos
  • warblers
  • titmice
  • various woodpeckers

Common Chickadee Food Sources

Chickadees are omnivores; their food derives from both plant and animal sources. Their high metabolism requires a constant diet of food to withstand the cold of winter. Chickadee food from animals consists of insects and their larvae, snails, spiders, mites, ants and animal fat from carcasses.

Chickadees get food from surfaces. They also hang upside down to reach some sources, and occasionally they even hover to catch insects in the air.

Plant sources of chickadee food include seeds, berries, vegetables and other plant parts. At bird feeders, chickadees enjoy sunflower seeds, suet, peanut butter, peanuts and mealworms. Providing chickadees with a feeder offers them good year-round food sources, while people can enjoy their acrobatic antics.

One interesting behavior chickadees display with their food is their method of caching. Chickadees store food in various locations such as the crevices in bark. Their sharp memories aid them in finding these caches as needed.

Differences Between the Male and Female Chickadee

There are, however, behaviors that can reveal the gender of a chickadee. The female chickadee, for example, is the only one that builds a nest. She may excavate a hole or take over an abandoned cavity from another species. The female chickadee will then construct her cup-shaped nest from found materials such as:

  • feathers
  • bark
  • grasses
  • mosses
  • hair
  • other materials

Providing a Chickadee Bird House

If you enjoy the vibrant little chickadee, you might want to offer a chickadee bird house. This can be made as a nest box to appeal to breeding pairs. Position the chickadee bird house prior to the breeding season.

A chickadee bird house should be lined with sawdust or wood shavings. Place the bird house about 60 feet into a wooded habitat, and put a guard on it to detract predators. The entrance to the bird house should be unobstructed.


About the Author

J. Dianne Dotson is a science writer with a degree in zoology/ecology and evolutionary biology. She spent nine years working in laboratory and clinical research. A lifelong writer, Dianne is also a content manager and science fiction & fantasy novelist. Dianne features science as well as writing topics on her website,

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