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The Difference Between Male & Female in Black-Capped Chickadees

By Karen Lawson

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Black-capped chickadees are small birds with black, grey, white and buff plumage. The colors and patterns are typically identical in males and females, but some scientists report that larger black "bibs" are seen on male chickadees; this data is inconclusive and observers must rely on gender-specific behavior and vocalizations for determining gender in black-capped chickadees.

Begging and Territorial Behavior

During breeding season, chickadee pairs engage in a feeding behavior -- the female "begs" for food and the male feeds her. When the pair have chosen a nesting site, the female builds the nest and incubates the eggs. The male chickadee protects the nesting territory by repeatedly singing a short song that warns other chickadees away.

Gender-Specific Vocalization in Black-Capped Chickadees

The male black-capped chickadee's territorial song sounds like "fee-bee" or "fee-bee-bee." The first note of this call is higher than the following note or notes. Both genders have calls that sounds like "chicka-dee-dee." The number of "dee" notes can vary, but scientists have not connected such variances with gender in black-capped chickadees. Black-capped chickadees travel in groups when feeding; this makes it difficult to track the behavior and sounds of a specific bird.

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