Logan et al. -
Here are some thoughts about that chickadee, and identifying chickadees
First -- I think it's a Carolina, or at least that there's not enough
evidence to call it anything else. The first feature that I look at is the
white in the tertials -- *not *just in the secondaries. Secondaries are
bigger, but Carolinas routinely have white in the secondaries, and some in
the tertials. But if you go over to WV or up into PA and look and "real" or
"pure" BCCHs, you'll see that they have lots of white in the tertials and
that it contrasts somewhat with the back color. Comparing your photo
from the checklist you referenced, I don't think there's enough white in
those tertials to call that bird a BCCH.
If you watch Carolinas closely (or check out a tray full of skins in a
museum) you'll see that they have rather variable amounts of white in the
secondaries. The amount varies between individuals and with wear and
season, and its apparent brightness can be affected by light conditions as
well (as with any light colors). Sometimes when there's an invasion year
and people are looking for BCCH in areas where they aren't normally found,
a Carolina with an unusually large amount of white in the wing (overall
white amount, not just tertials) can get misidentified as a BCCH. Since
around here we normally don't have to worry about identifying BCCH we just
call any chickadee a Carolina without looking closely at the wings. So we
do that for months, and then it's winter, and we have them up close at our
feeders, and we are looking for a BCCH because it's an irruption year, and
suddenly there's a bird with lots more white in the wing... and it gets
called a BCCH. But it isn't.
So, using the "white in the wing" character in a too-general sense can lead
to misidentifications. It's the amount and contrast of white in the
tertials and secondaries that matters -- not just presence or absence of
Other characters: I think the rough bib edge that's on the bird you
photographed is caused or enhanced at least partly by the posture of the
bird in the image. I do find that on average, BCCH has more of a "rough
edge" effect when you see them, but it's not a character I trust too much.
As for the white cheeks, the bird seems to have fairly typical white
cheeks. They look brighter in the lower photo -- a good example of how the
processing of the image & a little overexposure causes that bright effect.
But certainly nothing I'd base an identification on.
BTW, I know you didn't mention the voice, but in reviewing chickadees for
eBird I've found that people often say "it sang a two-note song." I never
let that count as evidence for an identification. The two species learn and
sing each others' songs, and a single bird can sing two-, three-, and
four-note songs, and routinely will in areas where the ranges of the two
species meet. And chickadees are one of the biggest messes we have on
eBird. I could spend all my reviewing time on chickadees alone.
Now -- notice that I've written all the above without mentioning the dread
word "hybrid!" Whether a bird is a hybrid, and what kind of hybrid it is,
can be more difficult than people realize to determine. What I try to do is
to use (and encourage other people to use) terminology regarding hybrids
carefully. When we talk about hybrids we often talk about crosses between a
member of one species and a member of another species, such as "Carolina x
Black-capped Chickadee" or "Snow x Ross's Goose." Properly used, this sort
of name (species A x species B) implies that this is a first-generation
hybrid between two full (purebred) members of the respective species. But
in fact, we usually don't know that.
As for a chickadee, for example, unless we saw the bird's parents, we don't
really know what they looked like or whether they were purebred. When
dealing with chickadees, in fact, we know that there are quite a few birds
that look like "normal" Carolinas but have some BCCH genes (say 6%, for
example). That's certainly not enough to call it a "Black-capped x
Carolina" in my view. And assuming there are first-gen. hybrids, what
happens when they breed with a "normal" memebr of one species or another?
You get 25% of one species, 75% of another. Or suppose you have a 6% bird
crossed with a 75/25 bird? And so on. There's no way to tell those apart
So what I think is much preferable in situations like this is to use the
label "Chickadee sp." or, in our area, "Black-capped/Carolina," both of
which are options offered by eBird. We do know it's a chickadee in the
genus *Poecile*, but without some elaborate testing or family history
information (like we have that...) we can't tell that it's a first-gen
hybrid. (Same with some "funny looking" geese -- often "goose sp." is the
best bet, with a photo or verbal description attached).
All that said -- I do think we should be looking for real, slam-dunk BCCHs
around here this winter. I have seen BCCH in Bedford County twice, in 1999
(one date) and in the winter of 2010-2011 when one visited the feeders at
my parents house from late Dec into February. I photographed the latter
bird (the checklists are on eBird but not the images). And we know it's an
irruption year. And if / when that bird shows up, get pictures!
I will assume most or all of you have seen this page, but if not, it's
Notice how much white is in the wing of the bird Sibley calls a Carolina!
As I indicate in my comments above, I might rank the utility of the white
tertials higher than that of the the white cheeks, reversing the order
Sibley gives, but that's getting picky.
On Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 2:39 PM, Logan Anderson <northamericaroks@xxxxxxxxx>
I was looking out the window this morning and found a really weird
chickadee. It had a messy lower bib, white cheeks, and a long tail which
lead me to believe it was a Black-capped Chickadee but it also had dull
wings and a grayish back which pointed me back at Carolina Chickadee. As of
know I believe it to be a hybrid between the two and would love to know you
guys’ thoughts on the bird. I left a link below...