The Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) is a common year round resident in the mountains of West Texas (predominantly the Guadalupe and Davis Mountains) where they live in coniferous forest. There are occasional records for this species in lower elevations, including the desert scrub of the Trans-Pecos regions, predominantly during the winter as well as a few records in the western Panhandle.
The Mountain Chickadee belongs to the Paridae Family which includes titmice and chickadees. It is one of seven species of chickadee in North America and one of two that reside in Texas, the other being the Carolina Chickadee. There is no range overlap between the two Texan species of chickadee.
The Mountain Chickadee is characterized by a white eyebrow, white nape, white cheeks, black cap, black bib, and black eyestripe. small dark bill, and gray-to-buff sides. It is the only North American Chickadee with a distinct eyestripe surrounded by white. When there is a bark beetle or needle miner outbreak in evergreen forests, they go on a feeding frenzy with one Mountain Chickadee found to have 275 caterpillars in its stomach.
They are commonly found in mixed flocks and a good species to be aware of as they will frequently vocalize making it easy to locate the flock. They are very active and acrobatic, often moving about and hanging upside down. Incredibly, they only need to consume about 10 calories a day to survive. They have a bouncing flight pattern and tend to show little fear of people. The song is a two to six whistled note that sounds like fee fee fee or fee bay bay. The call note is a raspy sound like deedeedee/chickadeedee or a quiet tseet.