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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Chestnut-backed Chickadee - Poecile rufescens

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
USFWS: MBTA
USFS:
BLM:
PIF: 3


 

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Copyright by: The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, all rights reserved.
State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Species is apparently secure and not at risk of extirpation or facing significant threats in all or most of its range.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 12/22/2011
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    ScoreU - Unknown

    CommentUnknown.

    Range Extent

    ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 km squared (about 8,000-80,000 square miles)

    Comment66,589 square kilometers based on Natural Heritage Program range maps that appear on the Montana Field Guide

    Area of Occupancy

    ScoreU - Unknown

    CommentUnknown.

    Long-term Trend

    ScoreD - Moderate Decline (decline of 25-50%)

    CommentCedar and Grand Fir forests have been heavily impacted in Western Montana with probably greater than 50% decline in these habitats since European arrival.

    Short-term Trend

    ScoreF - Increasing. Increase of >10% in population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences

    CommentBBS data shows an insignificant increase of +13.7% per year or 361% increase per decade, but these data are classified as least credible. Idaho has moderate credibility with a significant increase of +4.3% per year or 52% increase per decade. Data from the Northern Rockies has moderate credibility and nonsignificant trend of +3.5% increase per year or 41% per decade.

    Threats

    ScoreE - Localized substantial threat. Threat is moderate to severe for a small but significant proportion of the population or area.

    CommentDrying of mesic forest types as a result of climate change and the potential for fire and disease to result as a consequence are probably the greatest threats to this species.

    SeverityModerate - Major reduction of species population or long-term degradation or reduction of habitat in Montana, requiring 50-100 years for recovery.

    CommentMature cedar and grand fir forests take more than 50 years to regenerate.

    ScopeLow - 5-20% of total population or area affected

    CommentLikely not to lose up to 20% of remaining cedar/grand fir forests in the next couple of decades

    ImmediacyLow - Threat is likely to be operational within 5-20 years.

    CommentThreat is not fully operational now, but could be accelerating in coming years.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    ScoreC - Not Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance; or species has high dispersal capability such that extirpated populations soon become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans).

    CommentNot Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has a high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance. Species has good dispersal capabilities such that extirpated populations generally become reestablished through natural recolonization.

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreB - Narrow. Specialist. Specific habitat(s) or other abiotic and/or biotic factors (see above) are used or required by the Element, but these key requirements are common and within the generalized range of the species within the area of interest.

    CommentNarrow Specialist. Species uses dense conifer forests across its range and Western Red-Cedar and Grand Fir Forests in Montana.

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 3.5 + 0.0 (geographic distribution) + 0.0 (environmental specificity) + 0.25 (short-term trend) + 0.0 (threats) = 3.75

 
General Description
Smallest and relatively shortest-tailed of North American chickadees. Males: 105.0 mm to 120.5 mm. FeMales: 100.0 mm to 114.0 mm. Average mass for all 8.5 to 12.6. Cap, from forehead to hindneck extending to just below eyes, dark brown with slight grayish tinge becoming blackish through eyes bordered below by white cheek patch. Back to rump deep rufous-chestnut. A dark blackish-brown bib extends across malar region, chin, throat, and upper breast. Readily distinguished from other North American chickadees by the chestnut back and rump. Lacks a whistled song; rarely uses the Gargle call; has a particularly robust "chick-a-dee" call (Dahlsten et al. 2002).

For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.

Species Range
Montana Range

Year-round

Western Hemisphere Range

 


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1099

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

Breeding
(direct evidence "B")


Breeding
(indirect evidence "b")


No evidence of Breeding
(transient "t")


Overwintering
(regular observations "W")


Overwintering
(at least one obs. "w")



 

(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)



Habitat
Found in humid coastal and interior forests from southeastern Alaska to southern California. Year-round resident throughout its range. Occurs within the densest coniferous forests, or along edges, where temperature is even and there is considerable shade (Dahlsten et al. 2002).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Insects and arthropods make up approximately 65% of the Chestnut-backed Chickadee's diet. Seeds and plant material make up the rest. During the winter, they forage in mixed-species flocks with other chickadees (Dahlsten et al. 2002).

Reproductive Characteristics
Nests in tree cavities and readily colonizes available nest boxes. Eggs are ovate to short-ovate to long-ovate with great variation even within the same clutch. Smooth, white in color with few to many reddish to light-brown spots. Clutch size ranges 1 to 9 eggs (Dahlsten et al. 2002). Incubation has been observed June 5 and feeding of young on July 16. Egg dates are probably similar to those in Washington: April 7 to June 10.

References
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Citation for data on this website:
Chestnut-backed Chickadee — Poecile rufescens.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from