by Jill Bromley
There is something joyful in the way a chickadee flies from tree to tree and often performs acrobatics on branches and feeders. They are endlessly curious and never stay in the same place for very long. Just like bees, they always seem to be busy. The black-capped chickadee is the official bird of the state of Massachusetts and Maine, demonstrating just how much the chickadee is loved. Maybe its popularity is based on the admirable characteristics it displays, being hardworking, curious, busy, but fun and playful at the same time. Chickadees are endlessly fascinating and endearing little birds. If you’d like to find out more about them and how to attract them to your backyard, please read on.
Chickadees are smaller than a sparrow but with a large head relative to their body size. It has the appearance of a cute fluffy baby bird. The crown of the head and the throat are darker than the rest of the body, and they have longish tails and short bills. For instance, the black-capped chickadee has a distinctive black cap and throat marking. All chickadees like to be in small flocks and prefer wooded or shrubby habitats.
Feeding Chickadees in the Backyard
Chickadees enjoy seeds, nuts, insects and berries in the wild.
In your backyard feeders, they’ll enjoy suet, sunflower of all types, and peanuts.
Here at Valley Farms, we have a curated Chickadee Mix Wild Bird Food consisting of sunflower seeds, assorted tree nuts, and peanuts. It provides plenty of energy-rich natural goodness for these busy little birds. A bonus is that it appeals to nuthatches and titmice too.
Hanging feeders are ideal for chickadees as they can perch sideways and even upside down to feed.
They tend to fly in flocks, and when they come in for feeding, you will probably see individual birds quickly taking seeds and then flying off to allow others to come in to do the same. They don’t tend to congregate together to eat but instead dart in and out.
The chickadees preferred natural habitat is among trees such as willow, alder, and birch. Having these trees in your garden or nearby will help to attract chickadees and maybe encourage them tonest in your backyard too.
Learning about Chickadees from Video
Have you explored any of the wild bird expert videos on YouTube yet? There are some great resources available to watch and learn more about wild birds. “Lesley the Bird Nerd” provides some beautiful short films of wild birds. They are entertaining as well as informative.
To watch chickadeesin action through the eyes of an expert, watch Lesley’s Busy Chickadee video here. Her video inspires much of this article.
The Chickadee in Spring
At this time of year, chickadees are busy with mating and courtship rituals and then preparing for nesting. They like to nest in holes in trees, which they might need to excavate themselves if they can’t find a suitable one made by another bird. The female will then start to collect soft bedding to line the nest, ready for her to lay her precious eggs.
In some areas, chickadees are in decline due to a loss of nesting sites.
If you’d like to provide or build a suitable nest box, you can find everything you need to know at Nest Watch at Cornell Ornithology.
Summer for Chickadees
Once the eggs hatch, the chickadees can have as many as 6 to 12 babies to feed. While the female’s job is mainly in the nest with the young, the male has the enormous task of finding enough food for them all. Once the fledglings emerge, the job is equally demanding, as both parents try to provide enough food for their ever-growing but still dependent young. At this stage, the fledglings can look larger than their parents and follow them about demanding to be fed. The chickadees will work so hard to raise their young, and some years they might even start nesting all over again. It is usual for a breeding pair to mate for life, although sometimes young and inexperienced chickadees may move on after their first season to find new mates.
Autumn for Chickadees
With the family raised, chickadees need to start preparing for the winter. These little birds will begin collecting and storing food. Chickadees will find small holes in trees or under the bark and hoard their precious seeds and insects for later use. You might see them taking seeds such as black oil sunflower from feeders and taking them away to store. Even if they have managed to hoard away enough food to survive the coming winter, they will still visit feeding stations over the colder months.
How Chickadees Survive During Winter
When the weather gets freezing, the only way the chickadee can survive is by utilizing nocturnal hypothermia. In this way, chickadees and some other small birds reduce their body temperature by up to 15 degrees at night to conserve energy.
Chickadees Can Attract Other Wild Birds
Chickadees are known to be intelligent, and other small birds seem to be aware of this.
Birds such as nuthatches, bullfinches, and redpolls will observe where chickadees feed and use them to find the best feeding grounds. It can be a real bonus for backyard wild bird enthusiasts to attract more varieties of wild birds with the help of chickadees.
Hopefully, you’ve learned a little bit more about chickadees and their busy lives. They may be one of the cutest and most popular wild birds, but chickadees are stronger and more hardworking than you might have imagined.
The more we learn about our favorite wild birds, the more we can enjoy them and encourage them to our backyards by providing the right food and environment for their needs.
By observing these fascinating birds, the more your knowledge will grow. Maybe you’ll become something of a bird nerd yourself.
We thank you for your love and continured support of wild birds!
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