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What Is the State Bird of Maine?

By Sonal Panse
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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People residing in a particular state can select state animals that best represent the natural heritage of their state. Sometimes two or more states may have the same state symbols, as in the case of Maine and Massachusetts, both of which have selected the black-capped chickadee as their state bird. Also known as the black-cap titmouse, dickey-bird, and tomtit, the scientific name of the state bird of Maine and Massachusetts is Parus atricapillus. The proposal for the chickadee as the state bird of Maine came from William D. Hall of Castine in 1927.

Commonly seen throughout Maine in woodlands and suburban areas, the black-capped chickadee is a small bird, about five inches (12.7 cm) in length, with a small, pointed beak and brown eyes. It has a round head with a black cap, black nape, white throat and white cheeks. The tail is longish and arched, and the feet and claws are greyish blue in color. Both sexes are similar in appearance.

The black-capped chickadee is a monogamous bird, and pairs that bond stay together for life. The female titmouse builds the nest, using moss and wood bits to fashion the nest in existing tree cavities. If there are no available cavities, she will excavate a new cavity of her own, or she may use bird boxes and bird houses that have been specially set up. The female incubates the six to eight eggs for 12 days and during this time the male feeds her. Once the chicks have hatched, both parents take turns in feeding them.

The state bird of Maine is named after the characteristic "chickadee" call that it makes to communicate with other birds or to warn them against possible danger. It is a cheerful, sociable bird. Some can get friendly enough to take seeds from a proffered human hand, and may even follow people and peck at the food they are carrying when the opportunity presents itself. The birds can get aggressive on occasion, and have been known to attack, kill and eat smaller or younger birds.

The chickadee mainly feeds on insects and fruits. While it hops around trees, fields, and houses looking for food, it does not usually scavenge for food on the ground, unless it is for fallen fruit or strewn grain. The birds hide or store food in caches in different places and remember where they are stored. The state bird of Maine is not a migratory in nature.

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Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On Feb 14, 2012

@seag47 – I have heard of crows storing food, also. I'm sure that a few others must do this, as well, because how else would they eat in winter?

I have actually seen the black-capped chickadee stowing away some seeds. It tucked a few into the bark of a tree, and it flew to another tree to stuff some more inside a hole in a limb.

That same bird flitted around to dozens of different trees, stuffing any crevice with food. How he will remember where he put it all is a mystery to me, but I have also seen them retrieving their stash in the snow.

By Perdido — On Feb 14, 2012

I have often seen these birds eating ants. I'm glad that I have plenty of them in my yard, because I haven't had any ant problems since they showed up!

I got a birdfeeder and filled it with pumpkins seeds and cornmeal, both of which I had read that chickadees like to eat. It worked, because they have flocked to the feeders and remained in the area.

I once witnessed a couple of them eating a trail of ants that were trying to make their way from the front yard to my carport door. The birds flew right up inside the carport and started pecking away. This is the best and most natural form of pest control!

I will continue to keep the feeder stocked, because I really appreciate what these birds do for me. I have also heard that they eat moths and mites, and this makes me happy, too.

By OeKc05 — On Feb 13, 2012

@seag47 – My brother is an ornithologist in Maine, and he told me a fascinating fact about these birds. Black-capped chickadees have a neat trick for keeping warm on cold winter days. They have the ability to drop their temperature as they are sleeping, so this can help them conserve energy for when they need it.

For some reason, being cold at night does not bother them. I guess it is because they are not moving around out in the snow.

Since they have a limited food supply, any energy they can conserve is good. This will increase their chances of making it through until spring, when they can resume eating bugs, fruit, and seeds.

By seag47 — On Feb 12, 2012

I think that is so cool that these chickadees store food for the freezing months. Do most birds that live in cold climates do that, or is this unique to Maine's state bird?

Since Maine is so far north, I'm sure that everything is covered in snow and frozen for months during the winter. It's good that these birds can tuck away their food and remember where they put it.

I saw a picture of one of these birds on a postcard from Maine. It was so little and fat! It looked like it would be able to generate some body heat and keep insulated in the cold weather.

By John57 — On Feb 11, 2012

If you spend much time in Maine, you will see these birds quite a bit. I am always fascinated with animals that mate for life, and the black-capped chickadees are some that do.

We have a lot of established trees on our property, and every year have families of these birds that raise their young here. I don't know if they return to the same place to nest every year, but do know they have the same mate.

The Maine state flower is the white pine cone and tassel. This makes a lot of sense when you realize that our state tree is the Eastern White Pine. Our rural regions have these birds, flowers and trees in abundance.

By bagley79 — On Feb 11, 2012

It is easy for me to understand why the black-capped chickadee is the Maine state bird. I never get tired of watching and listening to this friendly, cheerful bird. We live in a rural area of Maine, and enjoy these birds all year long.

My husband put up some birdhouses close to our kitchen window, hoping we would get some of these chickadees to nest in them.

It didn't take long before a family chose one of them for their home. These birds gave us hours of enjoyment as we watched the male bringing food to the female when she was sitting on her eggs.

Once the eggs hatched, both male and female were busy all day long bringing food to their young.

You can also hear a distinct difference in their song with they are upset about something or when they are content. If they see our cat walking around close to their home, they really start scolding her and are very loud and vocal about it.

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