A project of

Boreal Chickadee

The hivernant

Boreal Chickadees are one of the few hardy songbirds that reside year-round in the boreal forest. Many elements of their natural history - storing food, for example - reflect the attributes needed to survive through the harsh winters in this forest biome.

The State of Boreal Chickadee

Regionally: Slightly increasing

In our region, sizable populations of Boreal Chickadees only occur in Maine, New Hampshire, and the Adirondacks of New York. Mountain Birdwatch data suggest that Boreal Chickadee populations in the northeastern United States have been gradually increasing since 2011 at a mean annual rate of 1.24% (95% Bayesian credible interval [BCI] = -1.99% to 4.38%).  The North American Breeding Bird Survey results also support these trends over the last decade, but Boreal Chickadee numbers have overall declined by >50% since the 1970s in our Northern Atlantic Forest bird conservation region. The relatively low density of Boreal Chickadees is reflected in amount of uncertainty for their annual trend estimates in Maine (mean = 5.09%, 95%  BCI = =1.36% to 11.95%), New Hampshire (mean = -2.73%, 95%  BCI = =-7.03% to 1.73%), and the Adirondacks of New York (mean = 2.84%, 95%  BCI = =-1.11% to 7.07%).

The mean (thick, dark orange line) annual estimate of the Boreal Chickadee local population size within ~110 meters of ~750 Mountain Birdwatch sampling stations. The vertical orange bars present the 95% Bayesian credible interval (a measure of uncertainty) surrounding those mean annual estimates.

Globally: Declines compared to the 1970s, but recently more stable

Boreal Chickadee annual population index (y-axis) from the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The black line is the annual estimate of relative abundance; higher numbers mean more Boreal Chickadees were counted in that year. Red lines above and below indicate the uncertainty around estimates of relative abundance. Figure provided by the United States Geological Survey.

Because they occupy remote areas without road access, and because they tend to be quiet and secretive during the breeding season, Boreal Chickadees are not well-monitored by the Breeding Bird Survey. Available data, though, suggest that populations of Boreal Chickadees have broadly declined, since the late 1960s, across most of the United States and Canada with the exception of Alaska and northwest Canada.


Opportunities for Conservation

The relative abundance (y-axis and dark line) of Boreal Chickadees within the Mountain Birdwatch study area and the uncertainty of those estimates (i.e., the 95% Bayesian credible interval, represented by thin lines). Boreal Chickadees are relatively abundant at low (especially in Maine) and mid-elevations (in New York and New Hampshire) [upper right panel], areas of high canopy coverage (upper right panel), and high latitudes (lower left panel). The longitude panel (lower right) nicely illustrates how Boreal Chickadees are absent from Vermont, but present in New Hampshire, Maine, and the Adirondacks of New York.

Boreal Chickadee habitat is at risk of disappearance due to climate change. Recent climate modeling by Audubon, predicts that >50% of the current range of Boreal Chickadees’ will be lost over the next 100 years as temperatures increase. By the end of this century, it is probable that Boreal Chickadees will no longer occur in the lower 48 states. As with many species, long-term conservation of Boreal Chickadees depends on addressing the climate change caused by our activities. This means supporting government policies – and making individual choices – that lead to a reduction in greenhouse-gas concentrations.

State of Mountain Birds