Carolina Chickadee or Black-capped Chickadee?

Due to climate change, the range of the Black-capped Chickadee and Carolina Chickadee overlap.

I was uncertain about the identification of this bird, so I uploaded the image to ChatGPT, requesting identification.

Me: Please identify the bird in this photograph. Please describe the scene.
ChatGPT: This is a photograph of a Carolina Chickadee, identifiable by its black cap and bib, white cheeks, and soft grey back, wings, and tail. It is perched on a bare branch amidst a network of similar branches against a pale blue sky, likely in a deciduous woodland during the non-breeding season when trees are leafless.

For verification, I uploaded the same image to the Merlin ID app. Merlin also identified this bird as a Carolina Chickadee. However, after additional reading on All About Birds, I learned that this individual could be a Carolina or Black-capped Chickadee. They are very similar in colouring, and identification can be challenging. The calls of the Black-capped Chickadee are different from the Carolina Chickadee. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the presence of mind to use the Merlin app for an audio identification.

However, Merlin ID mentioned a 2014 study by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Villanova University, and Cornell University that indicates that the hybrid zone between Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees is shifting northward in alignment with rising winter temperatures.

This is the first time I have heard and photographed a Chickadee. I heard this individual's distinctive call when I was outside, about to leave on a short walk. The bird was in a tall tree in the small wooded area between two streets near my home. Despite the challenges of backlighting, I enhanced some of its features using Adobe Lightroom, drawing out the finer details that aided in its accurate identification.

Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) · 30 December 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

In the summertime, the eastern United States comes alive with the melodic calls of the Carolina Wren.

I stepped out into my backyard on an early summertime morning. I noticed movement in the overgrown fence that separated my property from the neighbouring woods. The area beyond the fence is an untamed wooded part of the property next door. This morning it harboured a surprise. A small bird with rich cinnamon-brown plumage and a white eye stripe caught my eye.

Using the Merlin ID app, I identified a Carolina Wren perched on a branch of one of the shrubs growing through the fence. Although this bird is elusive, its powerful teakettle-teakettle song echoes through the nearby woods and vegetated areas on the other side of the fence in my backyard.

As an avid nature enthusiast and photographer, I couldn't resist. Quietly, I reached for my camera, hoping to capture the moment. The wren seemed undisturbed by my presence (I was more than 15 metres away), continuing to sing its heart out as if it were performing just for me. It had found a home amidst the tangled vines, shrubs and wildflowers, turning the backyard into its personal stage for its morning symphony. The Carolina Wren sang with enthusiasm. Its voice seemed to fill the entire backyard.

The wren moved from one branch to another, occasionally tilting its head as if to listen for an echo of its own song. I snapped a few photographs, carefully adjusting my camera settings to capture the plumage. The camera clicked away freezing the moment. With bird photography, one must acknowledge the importance of perseverance in facing challenges and embracing the wild aspects of life.

The wren finished its song, gave me a final, inquisitive look, and flew off into the woods.

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Monday 17 July 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1800 sec, · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR at 600 mm

Unlike other wren species, only the male Carolina Wren sings, creating a unique and vibrant melody.

Carolina Wrens also visit backyard feeders, especially in winter when suet is available. They seek shelter during cold winters in nest boxes filled with dried grasses. I plan to plant a nest box this fall to encourage these birds to return to my backyard. Interestingly, Carolina Wrens have been venturing farther north during the winter in recent years.

The birds are sensitive to cold weather, with northern populations declining after severe winters. However, their range has expanded northward due to gradually increasing winter temperatures over the past century.

To attract Carolina Wrens to my backyard, I hang suet-filled feeders throughout the year, including the winter. They may also take up residence in brush piles. There are none in my backyard, so I expect this specimen lives in the woods on the other side of the fence.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

In late May, I started using Merlin ID to identity photograph the birds in my backyard and the nearby woods.

In late May, I started using Merlin Bird ID to identity photograph the birds in my backyard and the nearby woods. In the past, I’ve used the Merlin ID app to identify bird calls while on forest walks and hikes, but up until now, I’ve never used it as part of my photography experiences.

Various birds frequent the bird feeder I hung in the backyard several years ago. I’ve had fun identifying and photographing the birds that are attracted to the feeder, but the app has also identified birds that I do not see at the feeder.

American Robins are early risers which often come to bird feeders. They has a distinctive orange breast, melodious song, and display foraging behaviour, particularly pulling out earthworms from the ground. I usually see them hopping around in the dirt patches on the lawn. While they are commonly seen in urban areas, they also thrive in natural habitats such as mountain forests and the Alaskan wilderness.

Some of the robins make nests in the spaces between the side of the house and the bends in the downspout of the gutters. It works well, but occasionally, a bird will get stuck inside the downspout. The homeowners association is usually responsive to letting the bird out.