Mountain Chickadee

Poecile gambeli
Range Map

The Mountain Chickadees are birds of the west. They range over most of the western USA and through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Like the rest of their chickadee cousins, science believes they evolved from Eurasian tits and migrated to North America during the Ice Ages (Pleistocene).

I’ve enjoyed meeting these small bundles of energy at elevations as low as 500 feet at my Southern California home. Most of my meetings have been in California, but I’ve also found them in New Mexico and the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas.

What a contrast in vocal dialog with these birds. Their soft and endearing “Hey Sweety” songs are at once peaceful, almost welcoming. But when they switch to their “neighborhood watch” role and begin scolding, you may feel like the interloper you are.

Depending on which study you subscribe to, there are four to 7 subspecies of Mountain Chickadee:

  • P. g. gambeli lives the southern Rocky Mountains from Idaho and Montana south to Arizona and southwestern Texas.
  • P. g. inyoensis lives in the Great Basin from southern Idaho and Oregon, south through east-central California, Nevada, and Utah.
  • P. g. abbreviatus lives in the southern Yukon Territory south through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, east through the Rocky Mountains, including Idaho, Nevada and south into California’s Coast Ranges, and the Sierra Nevada Range.
  • P. g. baileyae lives in mountains of southern California and in Santa Lucia Mountains on the central California coast near Big Sur.
  • P. g. atratus lives in the mountains of northern Baja California.
  • P. g. wasatchensis lives in southern Idaho and Utah.

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