Chickadees are small, sprightly birds that are a familiar sight at backyard bird feeders across North America. But did you know that there are different species of birds that look like chickadees?
In this complete guide, we’ll take a look at all 13 species, with photos and ID tips to help you tell them apart. We’ll also include maps showing where they’re found, plus recordings of their songs and calls.
Table of Contents
- 1 Birds That Look Like Chickadees
- 1.1 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
- 1.2 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
- 1.3 American Tree Sparrow
- 1.4 Black-throated sparrow
- 1.5 Tufted Titmouse
- 1.6 White-breasted Nuthatch
- 1.7 Blackpoll Warbler
- 1.8 Chestnut-backed Chickadee
- 1.9 Carolina Chickadee
- 1.10 Black-capped Chickadee
- 1.11 Mountain Chickadee
- 1.12 Gray-headed Chickadee
- 1.13 Boreal Chickadee
Birds That Look Like Chickadees
The Black-tailed Gnatcatcher is a small, non-migratory often mistaken for a chickadee. This bird measures only 5″ inches in length, and can be found year round on both coasts of California and as far north as Washington state; they can also be found all along the West Coast of North America. This Gnatcatcher has a black crown and is bluish-gray throughout, with white underparts, and some black on the tail feathers and wings.
They have a small curved bill that’s dark gray or black in color, and their legs are very short but strong. The Black-tailed Gnatcatcher is most often found near creeks and rivers in dense forest areas where it feeds on insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars. They are seen all year round at elevations below 2000 feet but will migrate to higher altitudes during nesting.
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a small songbird found throughout much of North America. These birds are most often found in open woodlands and forests, but can also be found in other habitats such as scrubland, farmland, and even suburban areas. The diet of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher consists primarily of insects, although they will also eat berries and other small fruits.
They are similar in size and appearance to chickadees, but these birds are easily distinguished from other similar species by their blue-gray plumage and white belly. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a relatively common bird, and its population is thought to be stable.
American Tree Sparrow
The tree sparrow is a small, brown bird with a white breast and two dark bars on its wings. They measure 5.5″ inches in length. The tree sparrow’s call sounds like “chip”. They feed mainly on insects and other invertebrates found under leaves or bark scales. They are mostly found in the Northern Hemisphere where they nest near trees and shrubs; hence their name “tree sparrow.”
It is the most common bird in North America that migrates south for the winter in warmer climates.The tree sparrow migration is unique because they fly further north than any other type of sparrow species and their journey is one of the longest among North American birds. Many people have observed these migrations as they pass through places like Florida or Arkansas on their way to the Southern United States or Central America for winter.
The Black-throated Sparrow is a bird that is native to the southwestern parts of the United States and some parts of Mexico. It prefers dry desert hillsides and scrub, with vegetation such as yucca plants and ocotillo trees. The sparrow’s habitat includes sandy soils of low fertility or rocky outcrops, areas where sagebrush is abundant. These birds are fairly small like just like the chickadee, with adults ranging from 5 to 6 inches long, and weigh between 1.5 to 2 ounces on average.
The black-throated sparrow has a dark head, gray back, white throat, brownish breast with streaking below, pale underparts with heavy barring on flanks and vent. They are often seen hopping around on the ground or pecking at seeds on the ground, because they feed mostly on insects.
Often confused with a chickadee is the Tufted Titmouse is a small songbird tit and chickadee family, measuring between 5 1/2 to 6 inches in length. It has a tufted gray crest, black forehead, white front and gray on top with brownish-orange colored flanks edges. The bird is found mostly in Eastern United States but also Southern Canada, Western Mexico and Central America too.
It spends most of its time in coniferous forests or deciduous woodlands, as well as suburban areas near woods or old fields. They feed on insects, spiders, snails, seeds and berries as well as caterpillars or other small items they can find to eat on the ground.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is a small songbird of the nuthatch family common across milder regions of North America, and often found in woodlands and suburban areas with trees or shrubs. It has a black cap and white throat, with brownish upperparts. This migratory bird is active during winter and travels to warmer climates during the summer months. The white-breasted nuthatch will migrate north for the spring, and south for fall migration.
They feed on insects such as caterpillars, worms, spiders, beetles and grubs as well as seeds from pine cones or nut trees. Nests are found in cavities, including abandoned woodpecker holes and spaces between bark scales on trees or artificial nesting boxes. They will also use nest boxes to breed in, if they are given an entrance hole big enough for them to fit through (typically 3 inches).
The Blackpoll Warbler is a type of New World warbler that can be found throughout the forests of northern North America. They are predominantly black and white in color, with a noticeable black cap, white patches on each side of the face below the eye, and white wing bars. They have an average weight of 11-16 g (0.38 to 0.57 oz) ounces and are about 5 – 6″ inches long.
These birds eat insects and berries during the summer months, but as winter approaches they will often feed on seeds from coniferous trees such as pine cones or hemlock needles. Blackpoll Warblers have been reported to spend their winters in parts of Central America.
The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is a small bird primarily, found in the Northwest Pacific of the United States and Western parts of Canada. This particular species of chickadee has a range that extends from southern Alaska to northern California, as well as Washington and Oregon. The chestnut-backed chickadee measures about 5 inches long and weighs an average of 12 grams.
This small bird’s name derives from its head, and back feathers which are chestnut colored with black stripes on either side. It has grey underparts and a round head with dark eyes. Their habitat consists of mixed forested areas such as old growth or second growth forests, oak woodlands, shrub lands and even urban parks. It feeds on a variety of food sources including seeds, nuts, fruits, insects and spiders.
Carolina Chickadees are small, brown birds with a black cap and white cheeks. They inhabit mixed or deciduous woods in the United States and can be seen most often from early spring to late fall. They have an average length of 5″ inches, with a weight of 9–12 g (0.32–0.42 oz) These birds are ground feeders, but they will also eat nuts, seeds, tree sap, and even berries on low-hanging branches as well as insects that live under tree bark.
Carolina Chickadees have a very high-pitched song, which is why it’s hard for people to hear them outside their habitat. The Carolina Chickadee has a very small range and population size, making it an endangered species. The reason for this is that they live near areas with lots of predators like owls and hawks that eat them as well as snakes which are poisonous to them.
The Black-capped Chickadee is a small North American songbird, that is nonmigratory, and lives in deciduous and mixed forests. It has a distinctive black cap and bib and bill with white cheeks, throat, and chest. The rest of its plumage can be either gray or brown, depending on the season. It breeds from Alaska east to Newfoundland and south to the northern United States border with Canada.
They measure 5 inches long from beak to tail tip, and weigh 10–15 grams (0.35–0.53 oz). Females are slightly smaller than males, but they both have pointed bills to use for feeding on insects. The Chickadee’s diet consists of mainly insects or fruits during the summer months. During winter months, it feeds on seeds and nuts from trees such as conifers or evergreens like holly or juniper.
Mountain Chickadee is a small songbird which lives in the mountainous regions of the western half United States. It can be found from southern Alaska to California and from New Mexico to Montana in alpine meadows, charparral habitats and coniferous forests, but it’s usually found below 8,000 feet elevation in Arizona or Utah.
Mountain Chickadee are known for their black cap and bib, gray back, and white underparts. They have an average length of 5.5″ inches and weigh 12 grams(0.42 oz). It spends most of its time at high elevations feeding on insects, including caterpillars, spiders, beetles, flies and other invertebrates that live in leaf litter or under bark. They also eat seeds of grasses and sedges as well as berries like blackberries and raspberries.
The Gray-headed Chickadee can be found in most of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Norway, and has been observed as far south as Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Pennsylvania. This bird will make it’s way to North America in late summer or early fall where they are most often found at lower elevations. This small passerine bird measuring 5.5″in (14 cm) in length, and weigh around 13 grams (0.45 oz).
The Gray-headed Chickadee has grayish upper parts and a black bib that extends from its chin to chestnut brown on its lower neck. The bird’s habitat includes deciduous or mixed forests, coniferous forests, woodlands, parks and gardens. They nest in cavities in trees, but are not particular about tree species. They eat insects, seeds, fruit, and berries.
The Boreal Chickadee is a small bird from the tit family that prefers to live in the boreal forests of Canada and the northern United States. They are about 5-5.5″ inches long, with a weight of 7.3–12.75 grams (0.25–0.45 oz) . They are brown on top and white underneath, and have black bars across their chest, resembling the markings on an old-fashioned sailor’s shirt. Boreal Chickadees make nests out of moss or lichen high up in coniferous trees such as spruce or fir.
The chickadees are primarily active during winter when they feed on seeds, insects, fruits, berries and other small creatures that they find on trees or near forest floors. They nest in cavities created by holes left by woodpeckers or squirrels, which can be found in deciduous trees such as birch or poplar.