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Identifying Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee, adult, January in St. Louis County, Minnesota. Photo by Brian E. Small

Widespread in the northern United States and Canada, the Black-capped Chickadee is a familiar backyard bird for millions of people. Over most of its range, it’s among the easiest birds to identify, but in a few areas, it’s among the most challenging.

Most of the seven chickadee species in North America are easy to distinguish. But Carolina Chickadee is extremely similar to Black-capped, and their ranges meet along a boundary that stretches from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Plains.

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Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media