The Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecile rufescens (formerly Parus rufescens) is commonly found from southern Alaska, the Pacific Northwest of the United States and western Canada (the nominate form P. r. rufescens) to southwestern California. It is a permanent resident within its range, but birds sometimes fly short distances in winter when their food supply gets low.
Small even for a chickadee at 11.5–12.5 cm long with a weight of 8.5–12.6 g, the head is dark blackish-brown with white cheeks, the mantle is bright rufous-brown, the wing feathers are dark gray with paler fringes. The underparts are white to pale grayish-white, with rufous or pale gray (the southernmost form P. r. barlowi) flanks.
These birds were photographed in February in Vancouver’s beautiful Stanley park, where they are easy to find (especially wherever there are people giving out seeds or nuts) and are well-habituated to visitors. Typically Chestnut-backed Chickadees are found in mixed flocks and these birds were feeding with Black-capped Chickadees P. atricillus, ‘Sooty’ Fox Sparrows Passerella (iliaca) unalaschcensis, Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis oreganus and Spotted Towhees Pipilo maculatus – which for a UK-based birder (even one who travels a great deal) is an exciting assemblage!
All photos copyright Charlie Moores 2009