Black-capped and Carolina Chickadee Songs

Here in Central West Virginia, I went walking and observed some chickadees. I have known that Black-capped Chickadees generally have two-part songs, Carolina Chickadees have four-part songs and that the hybrids have three-part songs. The one or ones I heard sounded like they were alternating between two and three part songs. Could they be hybrids, or a hybrid and multiple Black-cap’s with it or just a chickadee mimicking different songs? Note: the two part song sounded like a Black-cap’s and the three-part song sounded like the first three notes of a Carolina’s. Also, I found this recording where, in the beginning, the hybrid sings three-part then switches to four-part.


The hybrids don’t necessarily have three part songs - song in the oscine passerines (like chickadees) is learned from their parents and surrounding birds while they are juveniles. So hybrids can end up with songs that sound like either parent, intermediate, or even malformed.

The hybrid zone tends to be pretty narrow, but hybrids are pretty common if you happen to be in it.


Do either of you happen to have adequate references for the hybrid zone? I feel I may lie on this zone and haven’t found a good habitat definition or range map on the topic. @fogartyf @williamharmonlds

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welcome to the forum!

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That’s tricky, because it’s been documented to drift around in space quite a bit over time. Further, it does seem to stay quite narrow, so you can be in the zone and then out of it 10 miles away. Tough to illustrate that fine of a spatial scale on a map, but this article has a general mark-up of the zone:

eBird may be an OK source locally, if you’ve got a local reviewer and birders who are diligent about it.


I’m pretty sure I’m in the zone, but I hardly ever hear two-part songs where I live. I do live in a relativly low and more deciduous forest location.

I’m firmly in Carolina Chickadee territory and I can tell you that quite often they’ll sing a 2 part song. It sounds like they are interrupted. It also seems rare for birds not to have a fair bit of variability. These 2 can be tricky. That’s why pages like this exist.

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