We live in a unique area where the territories of the black-capped chickadee (found in the north) and the Carolina chickadee (found in the south) overlap. The similarities of these two birds are so vast it's easy to mix them up, but if you listen closely, you'll hear the difference.
In their songs the Carolina Chickadee has a four point whistle
-one, v two, ^three, -four
where as the black-capped chickadee has a two point whistle (this whistle always reminded me of a rusty swing swaying back and forth)
^one, v two
Their chick-a-dee-dee-dee songs are slightly different as well - the Carolina's song is sung faster than the Black-Capped. An interesting fact about this song is the number of 'dees' sung in succession signify the level of danger that is around.
If you're unable to listen, there are a few visual clues...
Carolina Chickadees have a 'cleaner bib' - the black line is much straighter (I remember this by thinking of state lines) where as the Black-capped can have a bit of a gradient going down its chest.
The Black-capped can also be identified by the more visible white wing bars when its wings are folded, where as the Carolina appears more solid.
Using these clues, what kind of Chickadee is in the photo above?
I suspect it's a Carolina.
The thing is, in this area where the two meet, they have hybridized, so we get appearances of one, the song of another, and any number of combinations. So don't get too caught up in being a stickler about which one it is (life's too short to get upset over birds).
These birds are so highly adaptable it has been found that every autumn the Black-capped allow brain neurons containing old information to die, replacing them with new neurons to they can adapt to changes in their social flocks and environment!
As a totem animal, the Chickadee -and its cap- bring awareness to a higher perception, awakening a higher mind and stimulating the thinking process.
To the Cherokee Indians, the chickadee is the bird of truth. It helps us to pinpoint truth and knowledge. One tale speaks of a witch who terrorized the entire tribe, waiting in hiding then ambushing and killing any passer-by. As the witch was mainly made of stone, she was unstoppable, until one day a chickadee landed on her, showing the tribe warriors exactly where she was vulnerable allowing the tribe to defeat her.
The Chickadee reminds us to live in a truthful manner that adds cheer and joy to your own life and the lives of others (unless you're a stone witch).
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.