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Bird Habitat Conservation Toolkit

Image of Bird
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

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