What is the State Bird of Maine? (And Why?)

Maine is the 12th smallest state by area and the 9th least populous state in the United States. It is known mainly for its beautiful rocky Atlantic coasts, forests and smoothly contoured mountains. The state animal for Maine is the Moose, but what is the state bird?

The state of Maine chose the black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) as the state bird in 1927. The tiny, black and white bird with an oversized head flits about the state nabbing seeds and hiding them. The chickadee, also known as a black-cap titmouse, enjoy both the deciduous and mixed forests. This chickadee mostly eats insects but also eats plants and enjoys eating poison ivy.

The state bird of Maine, the Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

The state bird of Maine, the Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Why is the black-capped chickadee the state bird for Maine?

The Pine Tree State of Maine chose the wild black-capped chickadee for its state bird. This bird settled down in the state's 17 million acres of forest. These birds adore cottonwood groves, deciduous and mixed forests, open woods, willow thickets, and even parks. The black-capped chickadee approaches everything about life enthusiastically, making it an excellent complement to the state's residents.

When did the black-capped chickadee become the state bird for Maine?

The state of Maine legislature adopted the black-cap chickadee as the state bird on March 21, 1941. Maine shares the black-capped chickadee as a state bird with Massachusetts.

Black-capped Chickadee perched on a tree branch

Black-capped Chickadee perched on a tree branch

What does the state bird of Maine look like?

This songbird entertains from the trees of Massachusetts, seemingly wearing a tuxedo or a sharp suit. with its yellow-breasted feathers. It features some unique characteristics, including a V-shaped band of black. The chickadee has a large, glossy head, short neck, and soulful dark brown eyes.

You can recognize it by its thick body with blended, short feathers. It has an arched, long, and rounded tail of twelve slender feathers. While its feet and claws take on a greyish-blue hue, its beak grows rounded, short, and straight. The whole upper part of the head and the hind neck is pure black, and the bird seems to wear a dressy suit marked by its patch of white on the throat and fore-neck. The chickadee grows to about 5 inches in length.

Its stomach typically appears cream-colored or white, while its back grows in a grayish variation of the same. This bird features a gray and black tail and wings. Both genders grow to about 4.7 to 5.9 inches in length.

Its wingspan ranges from 7.5 to 8.7 inches. These little birds don’t weigh much – only .3175 ounces to .4938 ounces. They have a wingspan of 6.29 to 8.26 inches.

A pair of black-capped chickadees at bird feeder

A pair of black-capped chickadees at bird feeder

How do these birds behave?

The friendly, gregarious black-capped chickadee mates for life. Unlike some birds, they do not exhibit complex mating rituals. The male will chase off encroaching male birds, but scientists haven’t observed a courting dance or song. The birds do participate in the practice of mate feeding. The birds form couples and break off from the flock. They create a nest together, typically in tree cavities. They prefer cavities with partially rotted wood because this provides a softer foundation. The female adds moss and other soft material to the next to ready it for breeding. This takes about a week.

The mother bird lays about six eggs, but the brood can range from a single egg to eleven eggs. She incubates the eggs for 12 days, during which time, the male feeds her. He may call her from the nest for feeding when he locates suitable meals, or she may call him to bring her food. When their babies hatch, the female tends to them while the male hunts and forages for food, bringing it back to the nest to feed the whole family. Both parents feed the children.

Baby black-capped chickadees grow quickly, first venturing from the nest at 16 days. About ten days after this first flight foray, the chicks venture out on their own to find food.

These birds have an average lifespan of two to three years, but the record for this bird’s life span is 11 years and six months. They breed one or two times per season.

Black-capped Chickadee gathering nesting material

Black-capped Chickadee gathering nesting material

Do black-capped chickadees form communities?

Black-capped chickadees form nuclear families. These monogamous birds mate for life. During winter, they do fly with a flock, but they use this flock travel as a means to meet and mate. They choose a partner from the flock. Once coupled, they build a nest together.

These birds willingly nest in birdhouses, so long as you place the birdhouse high enough that the birds can avoid predators – between four to 15 feet in height. To make the birdhouse more attractive, place a few woodchips inside it.

The black-capped chickadee relocates for winter when it searches for a friendly habitat for breeding. Once they build their home, they want to stay there and raise their family. Their nesting period begins in April and lasts only until June.

Their flocks tend to consist of about a dozen or fewer birds. It contains some adult pairs, a few single adults, and some juveniles. The flock forms around a dominant couple to establish a feeding territory and only remain together from August to February. While they fly the territory, they interact with other birds, including the Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpecker, and White-Breasted Nuthatch.

Chickadee feeding on suet from bird feeder

Chickadee feeding on suet from bird feeder

What do black-capped chickadees eat?

Black-capped chickadees love meat, as odd as that may sound for a bird's diet. During winter, about 50 per cent of their diet consists of insects, insect larvae, and egg cases. During summer, that increases to 80 per cent. They are beneficial birds since they dine on caterpillars, cankerworms, and spruce budworms.

Place a suet feeder in your yard to attract them to your bird feeder or birdhouse. You can also attract them with black oil, sunflower seed or peanut butter in your feeders.

The black-capped chickadee has consummate manners. Only one of these birds feeds at a time, so they take turns at the feeder. The alpha or dominant bird feeds first. They won't typically dine there. Instead, the birds will take what they need and fly away with it. They hide food and revisit their hiding places when hungry.

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