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Bird Habitat Conservation Toolkit

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With browner plumage than the black-capped chickadee, the boreal chickadee’s squawking “TISK-a-day” or “FITZ-brew” song is commonly heard in older spruce forests.

Boreal Chickadee

(Poecile hudsonicus)
British ColumbiaYellow
Primary Habitat
Old coniferous/mixedwood
Nest Type
Cavity (secondary)
Territory Size
>5 ha
Nest Reuse
Breeding Window
Large (>5 ha) patches containing large-diameter cavity trees
Old coniferous or mixed forest; black spruce peatlands may also be of value

Habitat Ecology

  • Boreal Chickadees are found in conifer forests (mainly spruce and sometimes balsam fir) and mixedwoods. In northern BC, they are found across a range of habitats including open forests.1
  • In Alberta, they are found mainly in older (>80 years) forests.2
  • In BC spruce-fir forests, they are also found in 31–75 year-old burns containing residual trees.3
  • Lowland black spruce or tamarack forest may represent valuable habitat.4
  • This species excavates nest cavities in snags with very soft heartwood or reuses cavities excavated by small woodpeckers.1
  • The Boreal Chickadee is a year-round resident that prefers mature stands in the winter.5

Response to Forest Management

  • Boreal Chickadees avoid young and regenerating harvested stands, and they are expected to decline where old conifer forests are reduced (landscape-level) and potential nest trees/snags are removed (stand-level).6,7
  • Boreal Chickadees were unlikely to be present in regenerating clearcuts (i.e. no planned retention) up to 33 years postharvest.8
  • Some winter use of regenerating stands (4–7 m tall balsam fir/white spruce) has been observed, however chickadees mainly used habitats at edges between cutblocks and mature (>7 m tall) forests.9
  • They were more than twice as abundant in un-thinned lodgepole pine stands than stands that were thinned seven years earlier.10

Stand-level Recommendations

  • Retention at levels of up to 22% and patches up to 5 ha do not appear to benefit this species in the short term.11,12
  • Longer-term benefits of retention include large-diameter residual trees contributing to potential nest trees as they are excavated by woodpeckers or become soft enough for chickadees to excavate.13
  • Large-diameter aspen (>35 cm dbh) with conks or other damage, plus large-diameter spruce, are recommended for inclusion in retention patches.

Landscape-level Recommendations

  • Boreal Chickadees are not considered sensitive to fragmentation,9 however their absence from patches ≤5 ha in one study suggests larger blocks of older coniferous or mixedwood forest are valuable.12
  • Networks of older spruce and/or mixedwood stands will be important for maintaining this species, and near-rotation age spruce and mixed stands may also contribute to habitat on the landscape.
  • Old and/or lowland black spruce and tamarack stands may support high densities, suggesting this component of the passive landbase (e.g., wet, unmerchantable, or off-target species) likely contributes to habitat for the Boreal Chickadee.4,14


  1. Ficken, M. S., McLaren, M. A. & Hailman, J. P. 1996. Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus), version 2.0. in The Birds of North America (Rodewald, P. G., ed.) Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.
  2. Hannon, S. J., Cotterill, S. E. & Schmiegelow, F. K. A. 2004. Identifying rare species of songbirds in managed forests: Application of an ecoregional template to a boreal mixedwood system. Forest Ecology and Management 191: 157–170.
  3. Schieck, J. & Song, S. J. 2006. Changes in bird communities throughout succession following fire and harvest in boreal forests of western North America: literature review and meta-analyses. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36: 1299–1318. Available online:
  4. Zlonis, E. J., Panci, H. G., Bednar, J. D., Hamady, M. & Niemi, G. J. 2017. Habitats and landscapes associated with bird species in a lowland conifer-dominated ecosystem. Avian Conservation & Ecology 12: 7.
  5. NCASI. 2006. Synthesis of large-scale bird conservation plans in Canada: A resource for forest managers. Special Report No. 06-05. Research Triangle Park, N.C.: National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc.
  6. Thompson, I. D., Kirk, D. A. & Jastrebski, C. 2013. Does postharvest silviculture improve convergence of avian communities in managed and old-growth boreal forests? Canada Journal of Forest Research 43: 1050–1062. Available online:
  7. Hadley, A. & Desrochers, A. 2008. Response of wintering Boreal Chickadees (Poecile hudsonica) to forest edges: does weather matter? The Auk 125: 30–38. Available online:
  8. Leston, L., Bayne, E. & Schmiegelow, F. 2018. Long-term changes in boreal forest occupancy within regenerating harvest units. Forest Ecology and Management 421: 40–53. Available online:
  9. Hadley, A. & Desrochers, A. 2008. Winter habitat use by boreal chickadee flocks in a managed forest. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 120: 139–145.
  10. Bayne, E. M. & Nielsen, B. 2011. Temporal trends in bird abundance in response to thinning of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). Canadian Journal of Forest Research 41: 1917–1927. Available online:
  11. Mahon, C. L., Steventon, J. D. & Martin, K. 2008. Cavity and bark nesting bird response to partial cutting in northern conifer forests. Forest Ecology and Management 256: 2145–2153. Available online:
  12. Lance, A. N. & Phinney, M. 2001. Bird responses to partial retention timber harvesting in central interior British Columbia. Forest Ecology and Management 142: 267–280.
  13. Environment Canada. 2013. Bird Conservation Strategy for Bird Conservation Region 4 in Canada: Northwestern Interior Forest. Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Whitehorse, Yukon. 138 pp. + appendices.
  14. ABMI. 2017. Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus). ABMI Species Website, version 4.1

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