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Boreal Chickadee, Catherine Jardine
Photo © Catherine Jardine

Photo: Catherine Jardine
Breeding evidence - Boreal Chickadee
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Boreal Chickadee
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Boreal Chickadee
Elevation plot

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Boreal Chickadee
Poecile hudsonicus
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
213 - 2033 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
6
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
93 82 412 245
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1974 - 2012 2.55 (-3.96 - 8.38)Low
Canada1970 - 2012 1.35 (-0.631 - 3.47)Low

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.180.04 0.050.07  
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.180.06 0.03  0.08
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.070.04 0.05   

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
0.070.06  
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
  0.080.09
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.0 0.04 
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce
 0.130.020.08

Characteristics and Range As implied by its name, the Boreal Chickadee is essentially restricted to North America's Boreal Forest, and subalpine coniferous forests extending south to the Cascade and Columbia mountains of southern British Columbia and the northern United States. Boreal Chickadees are non-migratory and have several adaptations which permit them to withstand some of the harshest conditions (extreme cold and short days) endured by any North American passerine (Ficken et al. 1996). They are easily distinguished from other chickadees by having a brown cap, bright rufous flanks, brown back, and a rather nasal and wheezy call.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Boreal Chickadee is widespread across northern British Columbia and at higher elevations east of the Coast Mountains in the central and southern interior of the province. The Atlas period distribution more-or-less corresponds with that known when The Birds of British Columbia was published in 1997.

Atlas Probability of Observation and point count data also agree with The Birds of British Columbia, highlighting the centres of abundance in the Northern Boreal Mountains Ecoprovince, in the Cassiar mountains and on the Stikine and Yukon plateaus, extending south through the Omineca Mountains into the Sub-Boreal Interior Ecoprovince. Overall, abundance declines and distribution becomes more discontinuous (isolated to high elevation mountain ranges) at lower latitudes in British Columbia. Boreal Chickadees tend to occur at higher elevations than the other chickadee species with highest local abundance from 1,750-2,000 m in southern parts pf the province.

These chickadees inhabit young and mature coniferous forest with a strong preference for spruce (Picea) species and sometimes fir (Abies) stands (Ficken et al. 1996). In the extensive spruce forests of central British Columbia, this species is replaced by the Black-capped Chickadee (Campbell et al. 1997) which is perhaps surprising from an ecological perspective.

Conservation and Recommendations The Boreal Chickadee has undergone a large, long-term decrease in the southern boreal regions of eastern North America (Environment Canada 2011), but Breeding Bird Survey trend precision is low in British Columbia and other western portions of the range. Given its preference for older forests that have commercial value (Hadley and Desrochers 2008) and the serious threat large-scale logging poses to birds using the entire Boreal Forest ecosystem (Imbeau et al. 2001), there are reasons to be concerned about the long-term integrity of Boreal Chickadee populations.

Kenneth G. Wright

Recommended citation: Wright, K.G. 2015. Boreal Chickadee in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=BOCH&lang=en [13 Dec 2018]

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