Status: Accidental in winter.
Documentation: Description, 16 Dec 1972-21 Jan 1973, Chet Ager NC, Lincoln, Lancaster Co (Bennett 1973).
Taxonomy: Some authors recognize up to five subspecies (Pyle 1997, Gill and Donsker 2017), but Phillips (1986) maintained that there was insufficient fresh material to support this, a position supported by Ficken et al (2020) and followed here.
Winter: There is one record:
- 16 Dec 1972-21 Jan 1973, Chet Ager NC, Lincoln, Lancaster Co (Bennett 1973).
The details provided are that the bird was “observed at least twice a week” at the Nature Center feeders, including one instance by 16 Audubon Nature Club members, and its head color was “dark chestnut brown, with black above the bill”.
Lending credibility to this report were two eastern South Dakota records during the same fall; one in Deuel Co 2-3 Nov 1972 and another which was banded and photographed in Brookings Co 12-18 Nov 1972 (Tallman et al 2002). Hussell (1996) and Goodwin and Rosche (1973) described an amazing irruption of both Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees in Ontario in fall 1972, the same year as the South Dakota and Nebraska records. Some 18-33% of the Ontario chickadees were Boreals, odd in that there had only been a single prior record at that location. During the same fall, Chipman (1973) described an invasion in eastern Michigan, and occurrence in eight Minnesota counties, as did Maley (1973) in Minnesota. Thus, although the massive Ontario irruption weakened westward, the presence of Boreal Chickadees in central Minnesota increases the likelihood that the two South Dakota records and the one from Nebraska were linked to the Ontario event.
There are four reports known to us of aberrant Black-capped Chickadees that resemble Boreal Chickadees, including one in Nebraska. One in Medina Co, Ohio 17 Nov 2018 (Chiapponi, https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50175661) was identified as a Black-capped with a “pigment mutation”. A juvenile in Brown Co, South Dakota molted into normal adult plumage (Tallman 1987). One at a Seneca Co, New York feeder during July 2004 was initially thought to be a Boreal Chickadee, but late re-identified as a brown-capped Black-capped Chickadee (McGowan, https://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/brown-headed%20chickadee.htm). A brown-capped juvenile with normal brood mates was documented in a Papillion, Sarpy Co yard during Jun 2021 (Phil Swanson, pers. comm.; video, photos).
Comments: Documentation of this record was never submitted to the NOURC, and so this species is not on the Official List of the Birds of Nebraska. The minimal but important details provided with the sighting, along with supporting distributional information cited here, led us to accept this sighting.
NC: Nature Center
NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union records Committee
Bennett, E.V. 1973. Boreal Chickadee. NBR 41: 43.
Chipman, I.W. 1973. Western Great Lakes Region. American Birds 27: 617-622.
Ficken, M.S., M.A. McLaren, and J.P. Hailman. 2020. Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.borchi2.01.
Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.
Goodwin, C.E., and R.C. Rosche. 1973. Ontario-Western New York Region. American Birds 27: 608-614.
Hussell, D.J.T. 1996. The influx of Black-capped Chickadees at Long Point, Ontario in the spring of 1962: a 35-year perspective on an unusual event. Journal Field Ornithology 67: 614-622.
Maley, A. 1973. Western Great Lakes Region. American Birds 27: 63-65.
Phillips, A.R. 1986. The known birds of North and Middle America. Part 1. Published by the author, Denver, Colorado, USA.
Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.
Tallman, D.A. 1987. Abnormally colored juvenile Black-capped Chickadee molts to normal basic plumage. Wilson Bulletin 99: 721-722.
Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021. Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Birds of Nebraska – Online
Updated 4 Sep 2021